Skoda Octavia vRS Estate vs Ford Focus ST Estate

17 Dec, 2013 10:55am

The Skoda Octavia vRS has long been the performance estate of choice. Can this latest model see off the challenge of the Ford Focus ST?

Fast estates are nothing new, but they’ve normally been pricey upmarket models. The rapid Skoda Octavia vRS has long bucked that trend, with a versatile estate version available ever since the car debuted back in 2001.

• Skoda Octavia vRS Estate review 

Ford Focus ST Estate review 

The combination of space and pace has clearly been successful for Skoda, because the fast flagship load carrier is now in its third generation. Boasting more power than before, the all-new car is the fastest Skoda ever to wear the vRS badge. Yet it hasn’t forgotten its value roots: prices start at a reasonable £23,790, while the twin-clutch DSG model tested here is £25,180.

However, the Octavia isn’t the only practical family car that’s been given the go-faster treatment – Ford offers an ST version of its Focus estate. Featuring the same 247bhp turbocharged petrol engine, uprated chassis and brash looks as the impressive ST hatchback, the hot Ford promises to be as fast as it is vast. Like the Skoda, it’s decent value – the entry-level model costs £23,095. We tested the generously equipped £24,595 ST-2. So which will take top spot?

Head-to-head

Badge appeal Ford's ST and Skoda’s vRS badges are relative newcomers to the performance market. ST made its debut on the touring car-inspired Mondeo ST24 in 1997, before appearing on hot Fiestas and Focuses. Skoda’s first performance model was the 2001 Octavia vRS, packing the 180bhp turbo engine from the Audi TT. The badge also appeared on the 2003 Fabia vRS, which was only available with a 128bhp 1.9-litre diesel.

Load capacity

The Octavia takes some beating when it comes to practicality. Our measurements show its boot is longer and wider than the Ford’s, plus the load area has useful hooks, a ski flap and remote release lever for the folding rear seats.

On the road

If it’s real-world performance and driving fun you’re after, look no further than the Focus. A combination of higher torque and shorter gear ratios meant the Ford blitzed the Skoda during our in-gear acceleration tests, while its razor-sharp handling always raised a smile. The Octavia is far from slow, but it never feels as eager as the ST, while its engine sounds more muted. And although the Skoda always stays planted and secure, its chassis lacks the Ford’s feedback and adjustability.

Alternatives?

Vauxhall doesn’t offer a hot petrol version of its Astra Sports Tourer, but the 192bhp 2.0-litre CDTi BiTurbo diesel claims 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and has a 500-litre boot. Yet at £25,115, it’s pricey.

Hatchbacks?

Like the Ford, the Skoda is also available as a traditional five-door hatchback. Prices start at £22,990 for the 217bhp petrol and £23,260 for the 181bhp diesel. Both versions can be fitted with a six-speed DSG gearbox for an extra £1,390.

1st place - Focus ST

The Ford’s storming performance and entertaining handling have survived the transformation from hatchback to estate. Few family cars are as much fun to drive. The brash looks won’t be to all tastes and it’s not as roomy as the Skoda, but in this test, driving thrills count for more.

2nd place - Skoda Octavia vRS

A vast boot, roomy interior and relatively low running costs combine to make the Skoda a fine choice. It’s also fast
and composed on the road, while its stealthy looks are unlikely to attract unwanted attention. Yet it’s a bit dull to drive and the manual costs £695 more than the entry-level ST.

Ford Focus Skoda Octavia
ST-2 Estate vRS Estate
On the road price/total as tested £24,595/£28,195 £25,180/£27,335
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £11,092/45.1% £10,022/39.8%
Depreciation £13,503 £15,158
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £1,213/£2,426 £1,049/£2,099
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £2,329/£3,882 £2,127/£3,545
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost 36/£429/H/£200 29/£385/F/£140
Servicing costs £785 (3yrs/30k) £529 (3yrs/30k)
Length/wheelbase 4,556/2,648mm 4,685/2,686mm
Height/width 1,482/2,010mm 1,452/1,814mm
Engine 4cyl in-line/1,999cc 4cyl in-line/1,984cc
Peak power/revs 247/5,500 bhp/rpm 217/4,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 360/1,750 Nm/rpm 350/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission 6-spd man/fwd 6-spd DSG/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 62 litres/space saver 50 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 476/1,502 litres 610/1,740 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,461/564kg/N/A 1,387/566/1,600kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient 11.0 metres/N/A 10.4 metres/0.32Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers 12,500 miles (1yr)/781 10,000 miles (1yr)/165
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 70th/23rd 6th/2nd
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars 92/82/72/5 93/86/66/5
0-60/30-70mph 6.7/5.7 secs 6.4/5.0 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 2.8/3.3 secs 2.6/3.9 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 4.3/5.5 secs 5.6/7.6 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 154mph/2,500rpm 152mph/2,000rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 50.4/37.8/9.2m* 49.0/30.8/8.4m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 60/43/61/71dB 59/45/63/71dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range 30.5/6.8/416 miles 33.4/7.4/367 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 28.2/50.4/39.2mpg 34.9/52.3/44.1mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 6.3/11.2/8.7mpl 7.8/11.6/9.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 214/169g/km/25% 195/149g/km/21%
Airbags/Isofix/rear parking sensors Six/yes/yes Seven/yes/yes
Automatic box/stability/cruise ctrl No/yes/£250 Yes/yes/£180
Climate control/leather/heated seats Yes/part/no Yes/£800/£200
Metallic paint/xenons/keyless go £525/no/yes £495/yes/£300
Sat-nav/USB connection/Bluetooth £750/yes/yes £550/yes/yes

Disqus - noscript

Prefer the Skoda, as have had 2 Fords in the past and hated them for their unreliability. Prefer the Skodas looks too. Plus the stigma of owning what will soon become a 'chav' barryboys car is another reason i would avoid the Ford.

Only one way to sort this. FIGHT!!
Family of four and dog, On a good mixed road BRISK trip to Scotland West Highlands or North WALES AND back South.
May be a circuit blast.

Perhaps Autoexpress should consider a long term test Octavia vRS, As you did with the Superb.
Should it be Petrol or Diesel?.Hatch or Estate?
So many questions when you buy an Octavia.

You're a little obsessed with Skoda. It's getting annoying.

They are distinctly average cars on the whole.

What do you drive?

Surely we are all allowed our favourite brands.
Considering they are 'distinctly average' cars as you put it, they certainly seem to win nearly every award going, Best Family Car, Best City Car, and of course, all the consumer surveys, and various trade and public magazine awards for best manufacturer etc.
Plus the fact the Octavia was 5th best selling car in Western Europe in November, and that Skoda as a whole take 4% of the European market, were 9th best selling brand in the UK last month, have been outselling Fiat for the past 3 years and have been winning the IRC/ERC and APRC Rally Championships with the Fabia S2000 for the past 4 years, I would say they are definitely astounding, not distinctly average. That accolade goes to anything with a Ford or vauxhall badge.

When you own/drive a vRS, you know you're driving something very special.The sort of car that puts a smile on your face. When you drive a Ford ST, you aren't. No feel good factor. vRS for me everytime.How cheap and nasty that focus looks compared to the timeless quality of the Octavia.

I didn't realise to what extent you loved Skoda's, so I apologise. I don't want to unsettle you.

However

As for awards - it's whether you want to believe the German-biased media in their choice of awards.

As for consumer surveys, I suppose people who are happy to part with around £20k on a bland, soulless and lazily designed box aren't going to have high expectations to begin with.

I'm not a badge snob at all. I would happily buy some Ford, PSA, Kia, Hyundai products etc, but Skoda simply fell lucky being bought by VW as it near-guarantees positive reviews. I, and I believe many others believe Skoda's define the phrase 'dull as ditchwater'.

But of course that is my opinion. That said, I am surprised that anyone thinks they are amazing in any imaginable way.

I would say, but it's quite clear that whatever car I say, unless it is a Skoda (which thankfully it is not) you will slate.

However, I will say that my car is definitely more interesting than a Skoda, is as, if not more reliable and is more fun to drive.

Have the B.... TO NAME IT THEN.If it sooooo gooood.

I didn't realise one had to own a perfect car to label another 'distinctly average'. What if I told you I had the best selling car - a Ford Fiesta? And what if I had a Alfa Romeo Mito? Or what about a Megane Coupé? These cars I would say are all better than a Skoda if you see your car as something more than an A-to-B box.

Are you a politician , why can't you answer a fair question?
Instead of going all around the houses.
It's only a bit of fun.

Because unlike a politician, I can see what's coming!

Any car I say, if it doesn't have a Skoda badge you would slate - which is why those cars I mentioned include a car I own, and two cars which I am considering replacing it with so it gives you a pretty good idea of what cars I think are more interesting, a bit more fun and characterful than any Skoda you could throw too much money at.

Though I'm sure being a Skoda fan and having no valid opinion on cars you will disagree! :-)

So, you don't drive anything Italian then, as they are all unreliable, it can't be Korean, as they are uninteresting to the extreme, it cannot be German, as you seem to be anti-German. Could be a Ford -they are to a degree more fun to drive than most cars, but look godawful with those goppy trout features, but then it's not as reliable as a Skoda. Hmmm. I'm plumping for something French, maybe a Citroen or Peugeot? A Renault maybe? DS3's are nice, if very pensioner, the unreliability is a myth about french cars. I have owned Citroens and peugeots and enjoyed them. Build was rubbish but reliability was good. Renault - best lookers of the French trio - like the looks, dislike the build quality.
Go on, tell us what you drive, dare you!

Shame you spoilt a decent reply , ( you still can't
come clean), by the last paragraph, throwing in your bit of acid.
Civil conversation never hurt a soul.
Bye.

There's some bad sh*thouse replies from you here! The only person doing any slating is you slating Skodas!

I've already narrowed down the pick to three cars! Though I'll respond to the points you made in turn.

Italian cars have never let me down, nor anyone else I know personally. You have to be careful which model you pick with the Italians, though oddly it seems their larger cars are generally unreliable while their small cars are often trouble free. At least comparable to other European rivals. VAG haven't been famed for their reliability for a number of years so you can't compete on this issue.

Korean cars these days are infinitely more interesting than anything Skoda. Have you seen the new Pro_Cee'd (stupid name, I'll admit but not much worse than Yeti or Superb)? Brilliant design inside and out, high quality engineering and a superior range of engines compared to VAG.

I'm absolutely not anti-German! I love a good German car. The Scirocco is a lovely looking car. I think it goes to prove that when they try, they can make a good car. To add further balance, I thought the Passat of around the 2005/06 mark was quite stylish in its era in a restrained sort of way. I like classy German design but it's fair to say many at the moment are bland and not ahead of the game technologically - which they should be given the powerhouse that is VW.

Ford aren't bad. They're not quite as good to drive as the press make out but they do make some good all-rounders. However they let themselves down with the likes of the recently released EcoSport.

I'm glad you agree that French unreliability is largely a myth. I think you may have got mixed up with the C3 and the DS3. The C3 is very pensioner, granted but the DS3 is very stylish and interesting. As for build quality, have you been in the most recent of French cars? Crumbs! They've certainly come a long way and have now surpassed the Germans by proving excellent build quality needn't be dull.

I don't judge by the nationality of a brand, or the badge but by the actual cars themselves and the brand ethos.

True, Ste. But I think it's fairly obvious that these Skoda obsessives were ready to slate any car they wished they had to the imagination to buy and run for usually less money.

I have an ultra-stylish Fabia with an underpowered, noisy, old-tech 1.2 6v engine that is dirty, expensive to tax and unacceptably thirsty on fuel. And I love my Skoda.

Happy now?

Let's see....vRS cheaper, more room, better mpg, cheaper servicing,better stopping distance, has dsg, etc, etc. No brainer for me. Skoda gets my $. Easily a winner in this comparison.

Anyone who thinks a skoda VRS is something special and that French cars are not unreliable needs to get out more! I have driven both the Ford and the Skoda and own neither - AE are right the Ford is the better car.

Reading what CarGeek has to say, I would deduce that he isn't old enough yet to take his driving test, nor even his GCSEs.

I've driven both tthe Ford and the Škoda, and I own neither - AE are wrong (as usual), the Škoda is better for road and family driving by a country mile.

Yes, I'll take the Skoda every time over a Ford chavmobile.

Regardless, it doesn't change the fact it is difficult to argue against the view that non-VRS Skoda's are amongst the least exciting cars on the road.

Unless there was a typo, I believe I have only conveyed my view that Skoda's are rather dull (or restrained if you like?), and they are often the last within the VAG stable to receive new technology. This doesn't make their cars bad, but *to me* makes the range underwhelming to say the least.

I have said that *if you think of your car as more than simply a box to get you from A-B* (like I do) there are definitely better cars out there.

My comments are less referring to absolute facts and figures but more the way a car makes you feel, how fun it is to live with etc. You know, things that you can't measure.

I apologise to all if I haven't made my point clear through my previous comments. Though still not bad for somebody who hasn't even taken their GCSE's... ;-)

Think this is about right. I gather that before the war the term "grey porridge" was used to describe vehicles that did their job but with no flair whatsoever. There was a rather snobbish view that all mass produced vehicles were thus until the "Traction Avant" Citroen and FIAT "Topolino" came along to prove otherwise.
IMHO Skodas are today's "grey porridge" to the extent that when something like the Yeti is made, which is a bit above the gloop, it gets restyled to render it more bland. I suppose some people are comforted by blandness. What a pity

I have done 30k now in my ST-2 Estate. No warranty or reliability issues have come to light and the two services were straight forward and cheap. Still puts a smile on my face every day which is the motivation for getting a performance estate.

I did test drive the previous generation vRS estate but the Focus was a much better opion for me.

Rather the Focus... by far. In all respects!!

Tester ,are you single ,married with family or are you just not giving a well rounded every day end user assessment.
Guts ,quality useable and practical wheels. vRS EVERY TIME.
Get real Autoexpress tester.

You are very biased in your comments, and old-fashioned too. Have you ever visited any of the Skoda tuning sites? They are huge in Europe, and catching on here in the UK now too. Not just new models, but the older Estelle/Rapid, Favorit and felicia models all tuned up to the hilt and so on. Much like the Brits did to Fords in the 70's/80's/90's and still do today. I've had a number of different makes, can afford a new E-Class if i wish, but don't like them, nor do i like BMW's - why pay 10k extra for a badge? I bought my 3rd Skoda Octavia vRS this year, an Estate, new shape, specced it up, £29k. It is by far the best car I've owned, it makes me smile every time i drive it (my previous 2 did aswell), and it's better in every area than the year old Mondeo we have as a pool car.
Just to clarify a few things though, Skoda don't get VW tech last, they get it at the same time, sometimes sooner - see the 2000 Fabia, first to use the floorpan/engines later 2002 Polo was given, current line up of TSi engines are shared around the company. They are priced slightly lower than VW so the badge snobs of Chelsea and the shires can feel better about themselves, are built better because the Czechs are proud of their work, and are great cars to drive. I've had all makes, Pugs, Citroens, Fiats (rotten rotten thing the Stilo was), Lexus IS, Avensis - unreliability reached a new low with that, and a Ford Focus - not what they're hyped up to be.

The views I hold are not old fashioned - I am basing my opinions on the brand as it is now and their current line up.

There doesn't need to be an argument - You like Skoda's, I personally do not. You don't like PSA and Fiat, but I do.

The world would be like a Skoda if we were all the same!

Looking at the acceleration and braking stats the vrs looks to have the edge over the ST in most cases particularly on braking which counts a lot for me. More space, more civilised ride, game over. be happy to have either to be honest but wouldn't relish the ford dealer experience.

Just to observe that no make has a bigger share of "good" or "bad" dealers. For instance I have had experience of a Ford dealer (thankfully not for my own vehicle) which was not very encouraging; likewise for Renault. A Skoda agent managed to mess up an order for a new vehicle by the son of a colleague so he got the wrong specification. On the other hand a Peugeot dealer, long a byword for being far from special, really took itself in hand and became very good. There is no pattern.

Yes I've noticed the pattern too. 'skudfan' aka 'vagfan' is quite obsessed with Skoda. I'm wondering if he works for them...

No, I do not work for Skoda, I like their cars for their honesty. I am not the sort of person who likes overstyled cars that look dated within 2 years, I like cars that perform well, look timeless, are well priced - not cheap, not expensive - and I like cars that have a 'don't dive a damn image'. That's why I like Skodas. They look good 5 years down the line, they are evolutionary which keeps them fresh, and they do exactly what I ask of them, reliably, comfortably and despite the sarky comments, they are fun to drive too. They're obviously doing everything right, otherwise sales wouldn't be through the roof. I've owned a few makes of cars, and drive plenty. For me, a Skoda suits my needs, my kids' needs and my work needs perfectly. The vRS is a hoot to drive at 150 mph on the autobahns. Great fun leaving the 320 BMW's for dead.

You should have bought the Citigo, it's Car of the year 2012, and City COTY 2013 for good reason - best in class.

What if someone wants a fast diesel estate? Ford don't offer a diesel Focus ST, the fastest diesel is the 163hp (21hp and 40NM less than the diesel vRS) in a lower spec.

If I was in the market for a city car, I'd hold out for the new Hyundai i10 which Auto Express have pretty much admitted it's the best in class.

Not only that, but in my opinion it looks more like a proper car inside and out, is higher quality yet still manages to look more cheeky than the Citigo.

I also find it quite amusing that they took the borderline funky up! and actually 'added' blandness!

Sorry, but in the same way you'd never consider an Alfa Romeo (you'd have a bloody heart attack with excitement), I would never consider a Skoda with their current range. Until they start injecting a bit of character and excitement into their (standard) cars, I just couldn't bring myself to own one. Like I've said time and time again - it's not the badge, it's the cars

Cargeek is pretty accurate with his comments. There are certainly some Skoda obsessives here. As a neutral, I just find their design quite bland and prosaic. VWs are just as guilty. Bit boring, not bad, just a bit boring.

I did once consider an Alfa, but it was just too hideous. I know it's shallow disliking a car for its looks, but I felt like I was riding around in Katie price! All fake tan and no substance. Anyway, you're taking up too much of my time now with your trolling, you're as bad as Paul hitch - aka flatus senex, and Miguel (the ford fanboy). Anything with a VW Group badge is belittled/driticized by them, yet sales of the groups cars continue to skyrocket.

Would you drive a car called Focus STD.......

They sell because people are made nervous by things which are not boring and are bombarded with expensive propaganda. If you want a VW group vehicle which is not boring (they do exist) you have to pay an excessive amount for it. I was quite happy to give Skoda the benefit of the doubt until I made several journeys in the (former model) Octavia, which seemed surprisingly uncomfortable for a supposed family vehicle.
My thoughts don't have to be agreed with but they were not arrived at without experience.

lol

There certainly are a lot of Skoda obsessives - as many anti as pro.

Right okay, so... Anyone who 'belittles/criticises' (counters the view of a clear Skoda obsessive on a public forum where it's users are not prohibited from expressing their relevant views politely) a VW group vehicle is 'troll'?

In my understanding of 'trolling', you most closely fit the bill due to your obsession and commenting wherever you can about how incredible VAG cars are.

I, and many others comment subjectively and individually on the actual article/brand/vehicle/model.

I'm glad to put an end to this anyway. You have your views, I have mine now grow up and move on!

Skoda have come on leaps and bounds over the years, would go with the better build quality of the Skoda myself personally.

Skoda seem to win all the IRC Rally Championships.
Lots of manufacturers enter the IRC including Ford who are not much cop their cars are crap. Ford marketing department are all mouth and trousers, will tell you how good it is and it wins absolutely nothing. Skoda trophy cabinet is full with IRC Rally winners trophies 3 years on a trot, JD Power Auto Express customer satisfaction survey winner trophies. Focus ST cabinet is empty.

Focus is useless can't even beat a guy called Loeb in a Citroen or VW Polo in WRC it's hopeless, if only the Focus handled cars was as bull stools that comes out of Ford marketing department. Citroen & VW cars win WRC in a quite understated way.

I would just buy the Skoda on build quality alone.

When it comes to rallying off road Ford go head to head with Skoda in IRC. Ford is crap finishes last, Skoda won IRC manufacturers title 3 times on a trot. LOL so much for the Ford handling it's a loser.

Focus ST is an has-been car, for has-beens, last time made a decent rally car that handled well in its day was 3-4 decades ago.

Lets be honest, if you want a car based on Golf mechanicals, buy the Seat Leon.

I agree with you.
That pair have blinkers on.

Do you work for Skoda/AE?

Sainsburys by VW.

Audi: Taste the Difference range
VW: Boggo range.
Skoda: Very dull value range.
Seat: Kids range.

(All contain the same product)

I had the choice of either the Focus ST or the vRS estate. I was totally unbiased and didn't have any preconceptions before I walked into either show room. I based my comparison on the following priorities:-

- Boot Space
- Interior Space
- Interior fit and finish
- Instrument layout
- Performance
- Handling
- Looks

This is how I see it:-

Boot Space
---------------
Octavia is bigger. 1/0 Skoda

Interior Space
--------------

Octavia had a lot more interior room, especially leg room. I have two small children and I'd rather them not be kicking me in the back. In the focus it felt very cramped, to best honest it felt like we were in a small car with a slightly bigger boot 2/0 Skoda

Interior Quality
------------------

Materials in both were good, however the Octavia's attention to detail was better. Difficult to put my finger on it but I felt Skoda did a better job overall. 3/0 Skoda

Instrument Layout
----------------------

The one thing that I didn't like prior to looking at the cars was the god awful tacky Sony media unit they have installed... my opinion is that it doesn't fit in with the car and they really should have put more thought into making it look like it belonged in the car. 4/0 Skoda

Performance
----------------

Obviously the ford has more power but not enough for it to make that much of an impact in my decision making process

4/1 Skoda

Handling
-----------

I don't think there is any difference that can be exposed even on B roads in the UK. However, if stretched to the limits I guess there is a good chance the ford might have a slight edge.

4/2 Skoda

Looks
--------

I like the rear end of the Ford, the front and wheel arches I can take or leave. The Skoda is pretty straightforward looking and won't offend anyone but again isn't inspiring. If push came to shove I'd probably pick the Ford over the Skoda for looks.

4/3 Skoda.

Winner is the Skoda and although a 4/3 score is close I think the weighting of importance is higher on the space/interior/quality aspects. I take delivery of my Skoda in the next few days and I'm still happy with my choice. It will be my first Skoda so I'll see what it's like when I get it.

That said, the wife will have the Skoda from next year as I'll be sorting myself with a new Honda Civic Type R for fun.

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