Skoda Octavia vRS review
Skoda's Octavia vRS has many strings to its bow and is well worth a look if you want a fun, sensible family car
Launched in 2013, the Skoda Octavia vRS is Skoda's take on a hot hatchback. True to form for the Czech brand, the fastest Octavia isn't just fast, it's comfortable, spacious, well specced and surprisingly affordable too. With a choice of petrol and diesel versions plus 5-door hatchback or estate bodystyles, the Octavia vRS looks a resoundingly sensible place to spend your money.
Built on the Volkswagen Group's much vaunted MQB platform, the Skoda Octavia vRS is closely related to 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. The 5-door hatchback Octavia is significantly larger than any of those cars though, making it a very appealing prospect for buyers prioritising space and pace. If the hatch won't do the job in terms of carrying capacity, the Octavia vRS Estate almost certainly will.
The petrol powered Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TSI will sprint to 62mph in 6.8s and a top speed of 154mph is enough to gain it the title of 'fastest Skoda ever built'. With the optional DSG twin-clutch gearbox performance and fuel economy are blunted but the difference is very slight. It's a similar story with the 2.0-litre TDi diesel derivatives which are slower (8.1s 0-62mph and 144mph with the six-speed manual gearbox) but usefully more economical.
Our choice: Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TFSI manual
If you're after a performance hatchback that will knock the socks off passers-by with its striking bodywork covered in scoops, skirts and spoilers, the Skoda Octavia vRS isn't it.
The latest Octavia is a handsome but dull-looking car and while the tweaks to the vRS version do help to lift its profile, it's still understated compared to rivals. Of course, that's exactly what many buyers want.
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 but the best way to increase the visual impact of the vRS is to opt for one of the brighter paint colours.
Inside it's more of the same and if anything the vRS tweaks are a bit too limited. You get sports seats, aluminium pedals and a vRS badge on the steering wheel. That's about it.
Both the petrol and diesel engines in the Octavia vRS are shared with the latest Golf GTI and GTD, but because of the Octavia’s extra weight, they 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. The diesel is very smooth and adds an effortless dimension to progress with its thumping mid-range torque.
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 it adds weight.
It’s also not as smooth as the seven-speed DSG for less powerful engines. All Skoda Octavia vRS models get XDS+ which you can really feel braking the inside front and rear wheels to help sharpen cornering. They all get a sound generator too, this pumps a synthesised engine noise into the cabin but can be switched off if you'd prefer to go back to nature.
Generally, grip is very good and the vRS corners with impressive agility for a big car. Refinement is also strong but 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 Leon have 380-litre boots, while the Skoda’s hatchback swings open to reveal a 590-litre load space.
That kind of capacity is closer to cars in the segment above and not far off the previous generation Octavia Estate. 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. Anyone wanting the ultimate in Octavia vRS boot space can go for the estate with its 610 litres of room.
The Octavia vRS is heavier than its Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon relatives and its official mpg figures are less competitive as a result. However, the diesel manual version emits a respectable 119g/km of CO2, increasing its appeal for fleet buyers.
If you drive it gently, the Octavia vRS will cost little more than a regular model to run, although the harder you drive it, the more you’ll need to spend on fuel, not to mention 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. For most drivers, however, it should prove relatively cheap to run.
The Octavia is cheaper than the Golf, but more expensive than the SEAT Leon. It's key selling point being that it offers much more space than both. Insurance should be competitive too and residual values are strong.