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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%|
|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)|
|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|
|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|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||30.5/6.8/416 miles||33.4/7.4/367 miles|
|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|