New Skoda Octavia vRS 4x4 2016 review

We try the fast, fun and stylish Octavia vRS 4x4 on UK roads to see if it's just as good as before

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Skoda Octavia vRS diesel was already a fantastic family car, offering lots of performance and low fuel bills for a good-value price. Adding four-wheel drive doesn’t affect the car’s agility, and while it does mean that price takes a bit of a hit, the extra grip could be useful for some buyers – especially during our notoriously unpredictable British winter.

We tried the new four-wheel drive version of the Skoda’s accomplished Octavia vRS on snow last month, but now we've had the chance to see how it fares on British roads.

The vRS 4x4 gets the same 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel from the front-wheel drive model, mated to the DSG six-speed automatic gearbox. The four-wheel drive system adds £1,450 to the price of the car, and it's available as either a hatchback or an estate. But even with that premium it's still cheaper than an equivalent VW Golf GTD, making this new model look like great value.

Being the only four-wheel drive diesel hot hatch on the market is a strong selling point for the Skoda, with the Ford Focus ST diesel and Golf GTD both sending power through their front wheels. Plus, the ST's centrally-mounted exhaust means you can't tow a trailer - but the vRS 4x4 can manage up to 2,000kg, which is 200kg more than the standard model.

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The boost in traction from the extra driven wheels is impressive, especially on a freezing winter's morning in the UK. The car feels very stable & planted in corners and there's much more grip when accelerating, with this model taking 7.6 seconds to go from 0-62mph – three tenths faster than the two-wheel drive car. 

The huge shove of torque from the 2.0-litre diesel means there's always power when you need it, whether it's during low speed manoeuvres, or when planning an overtake on the motorway. The DSG automatic gearbox is slick and offers quick changes when you need them. 

Every vRS gets slightly lowered and stiffer suspension which does make the ride a little firmer. Various driving modes also alter the cars character, with Sport mode sharpening up the cars response and adding weight to the steering for a more focused drive. 

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The seats are supportive and comfortable, and even though the Skoda's cabin has a simple design it still feels relatively upmarket. The dials are clear and have a sport edge, which adds to the sense of occasion when you get in. Of course, being a Skoda, there's plenty of space inside and the boot is a huge 590 litres. 

Thanks to the extra weight of the four-wheel drive system the vRS 4x4 loses out when it comes to economy and emissions, though. The 4x4 returns 57.6mpg to the front-wheel drive version's 60.1mpg and emits 129g/km of CO2 compared to 124g/km. That's the question you'll really have to ask yourself with this model: do I need the extra traction enough to spend £1,450 on a less efficient model?

For those after a four-wheel drive family car you can't go far wrong with the Octavia vRS, though. It's one of the best all-rounders on sale today, and even with the 4x4 system it's impressively economical. It’s fast, fun, and stylish – especially in this £360 optional Meteor Grey paint.

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