Skoda Octavia vRS review
Few cars mix performance and practicality like Skoda Octavia vRS, and latest is the fastest ever built
If you need to mix performance and practicality, the Skoda Octavia vRS is a very sensible place to spend your money. Based on the latest MQB platform, the Skoda is a little bigger and heavier than its close relatives - the VW Golf GTI and SEAT Leon Cupra, or VW Golf GTD or Leon FR TDI, depending on whether you opt for 2.0-litre petrol or diesel power. However, in the case of the petrol model, the 154mph vRS is now the fastest Octavia Skoda has ever built, while both the petrol and diesel models continue to offer much more space than their rivals. As well as the choice of petrol or diesel, the Octavia can be had as a hatchback or estate, and either a six-speed manual or DSG twin-clutch gearbox.
Our choice: Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TFSI manual
The Octavia vRS has always been an exercise in understated design, and this one carries on that trend. The latest Octavia is a handsome, if dull-looking car, but the tweaks to the vRS’ looks really help to lift the car, particularly if you opt for one of the brighter paint finishes. The new front and rear bumpers add sharpness and a bit of extra visual width, while you can now get 19-inch alloys as an option for the first time. There’s a small rear wing and twin-tailpipes, too. Inside, the tweaks are a bit too limited, and stretch to sports seats, aluminium pedals and a vRS badge on the steering wheel.
Both the petrol and diesel engines are shared with the latest Golf GTD, but because of the Octavia’s extra weight, don’t quite perform as well in terms of speed or efficiency. That said, the petrol in particular is very potent, with lots of torque and strong acceleration, while the diesel is very smooth, although neither match their rivals from SEAT or VW. The six-speed manual is the gearbox to go for – the DSG has to be beefed up to cope with the 350Nm and 380Nm of torque that the petrol and diesel engines develop respectively, so adds weight. It’s also not as smooth as the seven-speed DSG for less powerful engines. All Octavia vRS get XDS+ which you can really feel braking the inside front and rear wheels to help sharpen cornering, and all get a sound generator. This pumps a synthesised engine noise into the cabin, and can be switched off. Grip is very good, although the 19-inch rims transmit extra boomy noise into the cabin.
Skoda has been a consistent top performer in our Driver Power survey. Drive the car sensibly and there’s no reason to doubt that the car will offer a dependable ownership experience, backed up by good dealers. Like the regular car, the vRS gets a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and features a host of standard electronic aids. The traction control can’t totally be switched off either, while the car’s excellent levels of grip and strong brakes should mean that you avoid trouble in the first place.
This is where the Octavia differs from its siblings. With the rear seats in place, the Golf and SEAT have 380-litre boots, while the Skoda’s hatchback swings open to reveal a 590-litre load space. That’s closer to cars in the segment above, and not far off the previous generation Octavia Estate for space. Space for passengers in the front and rear of the Skoda is very generous too, and there are plenty of places to store all sorts of general clutter.
As it’s heavier than the Golf and SEAT, the Octavia’s claimed mpg and CO2 figures are less competitive. However, the diesel manual version emits 119g/km of CO2, increasing its appeal for fleet buyers. If you drive it gently, the Octavia will cost little more than a regular model to run, although the harder you drive it, the more you’ll need to spend on wear and tear items. The weight of the car is telling if you take it on track, where its brakes and front tyres in particular take a hammering, but for most drivers, it should prove relatively cheap to run. The Octavia is cheaper than the Golf, but more expensive than the SEAT, and offers much more space than both. Insurance should be competitive too, and residual values strong.