Skoda Octavia vRS review
It's not the fastest or the most fun, but the Skoda Octavia vRS has great practicality and usability to make it an accomplished all-rounder
The Octavia vRS isn't an easy car to get excited about, but that's precisely where its appeal lies. While other hot hatches and estates are more engaging or characterful, the vRS offers composed pace and is also practical, solid and strong value. Its sober styling inside and out means you won't turn heads like you would in a SEAT Leon Cupra, but it looks smart in an understated way and is solidly built. It's also one of the roomiest in its class, while the Golf GTI-sourced petrol is punchy, efficient and smooth. It's a shame the diesel is a bit too straight-laced, but the vRS 230 petrol gives a little bit more driver appeal and a whole lot of extra kit.
The Skoda Octavia, now in its third generation, is a dependable, solid and spacious family car that doesn't try to cater for keen drivers. The flagship hot vRS version, however, aims to inject a bit of speed and involvement into the mix.
Launched in 2013 alongside the VW Golf GTI it shares its engine and chassis with, the Octavia vRS is available in five-door hatch or estate format and with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol or diesel engine. As of 2015, Skoda also offer a vRS 230, which adds an extra 10bhp, bigger brakes, an electro-mechanical front differential and lots of extra equipment.
Skoda has refined and improved the vRS in pretty much every area over the years. Unlike some more focused hot hatches, it does more than go quickly and corner well. It's comfortable, spacious, well specced and surprisingly affordable too. All things considered, it's 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 already commodious 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, which 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
Engines, performance and drive
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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 you engine noise natural.
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, so the Golf GTi is a more refined choice.
The vRS 230, launched in 2015, features similar upgrades to the Performance Pack on the VW Golf GTI. The brakes are beefed up, there's a new sports exhaust, and changes to the engine mapping allow an extra 10bhp. It's not noticeably quicker, but it feels punchier in the mid-range and makes a sportier noise.
the 230 also gets the same XDS+ limited-slip diff as the SEAT Leon Cupra. It helps keep the front wheels in check when pulling out of tight corners, and works really well. Overall the 230's upgrades are enough to give it a shade more driver appeal and make it feel more like the Golf GTI.
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, there's a slight penalty in terms of speed and efficiency. You'd have to be driving very quickly to notice, however.
That said, the petrol in particular is very potent, with lots of torque and from low revs right to the redline. it even sounds good, especially in VRS 230 form. The diesel is smooth and adds an effortless dimension to progress with its thumping mid-range torque, but it doesn't sound or feel particularly sporty. If economy is your main concern, go for this.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Octavia vRS is heavier than its Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon relatives and its official mpg figures are a touch 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 to buy than the Golf, but slightly more expensive than the SEAT Leon overall. Its key selling point is that it offers much more space than both.
The Octavia vRS petrol is group 29 for insurance - similar to the VW Golf GTI and better than cars like the Peugeot 308 GT and Ford Focus ST. The diesel is even better at group 26, combining with lower fuel economy to reduce costs. The Insurance group for the vRS 230 will likely be a shade higher.
While it doesn't have the badge kudos of VW, the Octavia vRS shouldn't drop too much of its value as it's well priced to begin with, Expect it to withhold at least 40 per cent of its value after three years.
Interior, design and technology
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 rather bland 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. But the ease of use and solid feel of the standard Octavia's cabin remain, which is a good thing.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
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.
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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.
Reliability and Safety
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.