Skoda Octavia vRS review
The Skoda Octavia vRS is a hot hatch with a difference, as it delivers more practicality than any of its rivals
The Skoda Octavia vRS is a hard car to get excited about, but that's precisely where its appeal lies. While other hot hatches and fast estates are more engaging or characterful, the vRS offers composed pace while remaining practical, solid and good value. Its sober styling inside and out means the vRS won't draw attention like a SEAT Leon Cupra would, and this understated look is part of its appeal.
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 245 petrol gives a little bit more driver appeal thanks to its 242bhp engine and a limited-slip differential. It's not only the most potent Skoda Octavia ever, but also the most exciting to drive. True, it’s a lot of money for a Skoda, but it’s also an awful lot of car.
The latest vRS 245 Challenge version adds an extra veneer of sporty appeal, but the standard car is perfectly capable even without that car’s standard dynamic chassis control (DCC) system and cosmetic tweaks.
The hot hatchback has become a staple of the performance car market, and one of the most practical examples on sale is the Skoda Octavia vRS. Now in its third generation, the Octavia vRS offers performance that's similar to the closely related VW Golf GTI.
The thing that marks the rapid vRS out from its rivals is the same thing that marks out the standard Octavia hatchback and estate – a spacious body that offers great practicality. That means the vRS isn't quite as focused as some other hot hatchbacks on sale, but constant development has seen power increase and extra kit added to help deliver a sharper, more focused drive, and it's more than adequate for family car drivers who want a car that can put a smile on their face even when the car's fully laden.
The Skoda Octavia vRS is offered as a five-door hatchback or estate with a choice of petrol or diesel power, manual or dual-clutch automatic gearboxes and front or four-wheel drive, with the latter reserved for diesel models only. There are no manual diesel models. As a result, the vRS range offers a breadth of options for buyers. The Octavia used to be a value proposition, but now its prices have increased and fallen in line with the hot-hatch mainstream – prices start at around £27,500 and climb to almost £30,000.
The mainstay of the range is the vRS hatchback. This has been uprated over the years and now comes with a 2.0 TSI 245PS turbocharged petrol engine. That's the same power output as the Golf GTI Performance; the Skoda is front-wheel drive just like the Golf, but a manual gearbox as standard. A seven-speed DSG auto (standard on the Golf) is available at extra cost.
The Octavia vRS is also available with a 2.0 TDI 184PS diesel, which is the same unit that was previously found in the now discontinued VW Golf GTD. Again, it has a six-speed manual as standard, while the seven-speed DSG is also offered as an option. The vRS TDI with DSG box can be had with four-wheel drive too; it which uses a Haldex-based system to get power to all four wheels. The Octavia vRS Estate is offered in all of these variants.
Rivals for the Octavia vRS include the already-mentioned VW Golf GTI, plus other front-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks and estates (where offered) such as the Hyundai i30 N, Honda Civic Type R, Peugeot 308 GTI, Ford Focus ST and SEAT Leon Cupra. Skoda gave the Octavia range a facelift in 2017, adding a new nose and extra kit inside, vRS included.
Those after the ultimate Octavia vRS should investigate the Challenge model. With grippy, comfortable Alcantara seats, adaptive dampers, 19-inch alloy wheels and some subtle black exterior tweaks, it’s more of a special edition car than a standalone model. But the options Skoda bundles with if offer a £2,430 saving over a similarly equipped Octavia vRS, and it makes the most of the car’s under-the-radar appeal.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe Skoda Octavia vRS is a hot hatch with a difference, as it delivers more practicality than any of its rivals
- 2Engines, performance and driveNot the most engaging around, but it's grippy, composed and a more mature way of going quickly
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsNot quite as good as the Golf GTI, but still commendable given the performance on offer
- 4Interior, design and technologySporty upgrades help lift the dull regular Octavia, but it's still quite a subtle and understated hot hatch
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceJust about the roomiest in its class. The Octavia's huge boot and ample rear space transfer unharmed to the vRS
- 6Reliability and SafetyAlways finishes highly in our Driver Power survey, and mechanicals are all well-proven