Skoda's load-lugger continues to put a smile on our faces, even after 17,568 miles
Word traveller, maybe. European cruiser, possibly. The ability of our Skoda Octavia vRS to cover miles (17,568 to be exact) would easily qualify it for most airlines' Gold cards. And, considering this distance has been clocked up in only five months, you can see just how hard the car has been worked.
Thankfully, the concerns I raised in the last report (Issue 909) about my licence being under threat have proved unfounded. But over the summer months, the Czech wagon has been in great demand from other members of Auto Express staff for family holidays, so I've found myself having to do without OY06 VFH on a few occasions.
The combination of hot hatch handling and refined cruising has been difficult to resist for my colleagues. Road test editor Oliver Marriage said that even when loaded to the gunnels the Skoda was light and easy to drive. His only concerns were regarding the cabin trim; the handbrake casing has worked loose, while the parcel shelf has a faulty catch which releases itself over rough surfaces.
These are only small issues, though, and I will get both problems fixed at the car's first service. Having succumbed to the 197bhp output from the 2.0-litre turbo engine, some new front tyres will also be on my shopping list.
But after all my miles in the vRS as the magazine's staff photographer, I have no real complaints. It's simple to live with and very comfortable. All the controls are unfussy, although the speedo is a bit quirky and the strange increment spacing means I find myself squinting to see how fast I'm going.
However, one daft mistake I made was to leave sat-nav off the order form. As journalists don't like waiting for lost snappers, an aftermarket model was required. A Navman ICN 750 seemed a good option for me, as it has a built-in camera to take snaps and store the coordinates so you can navigate back to them. So far, the system has worked well; a European map upgrade is next on the list.
The Octavia has suffered from the wear and tear associated with high mileages. Its windscreen had a small crack which quickly turned into a much larger split, so a replacement was called for. This was supplied and fitted by Autoglass for £455. The vRS has also needed two oil top-ups so far - a litre at 8,451 miles and another at 16,850.
Nevertheless, these are all small concerns for a load-lugger which has constantly put a smile on my face. It has cured my badge snobbery, too - as with many other people, I have now woken up to the fact that Skoda makes great cars. All I can say is, bring on the next 17,000 miles!
I'm one of the fortunate people who have managed to wrestle the Octavia's key from Pete. And while I have racked up only a small proportion of the miles, the Skoda's charm is plain - no other car offers the same mix of performance, space and value for money as the vRS. One thing I would change is the colour. The bright red paint is well finished, but maybe a subtle shade, such as black or silver, is a better choice for this hot hatch in disguise.Dean Gibson, sub-editor