Skoda Octavia vRS road test review: It may have a diesel engine, but as DAVID HOOPER has been finding out, it’s certainly no slouch!
HOT hatches come in all shapes and sizes, but I quite like the shape of this one, Skoda’s Octavia vRS. It’s highly capable, unexpectedly spacious, an impressively competent all-rounder and something of a “Q” car.
Talk about performance cars in the pub with your pals, and this week’s test car may not be the first which comes to mind, especially when you consider that it’s powered by a diesel engine, but having spent a thoroughly enjoyable few days piloting this machine around, let me assure you, it’s one quick car and not much will leave it behind. And it comes with a 4×4 system.
The performance figures speak for themselves, with a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.6 seconds and a top speed of 155mph but stir into the mix a DSG gearbox which selects the next gear faster than you can think about, and massive amounts of mid-range torque (400Nm), and this thing flies. With 200bhp, it’s 45bhp less than it’s petrol sister, but on the road, there’s nothing between them. Estate versions of both engine derivatives are also available.
For a car with such prodigious performance, it’s surprisingly softly sprung, even with the electronics set to full attack mode and the suspension stiffened up as much as it can be, but the handling is up to the job and never anything but comfortable, even on the worst road surfaces.
Being a diesel, it lacks the visceral excitement of noisy exhausts, instead relying on a noise generator hidden in the dashboard, something I normally detest, but I have to say in this vRS it did enhance the experience and make you believe you were driving something with a bit of attitude.
Grip levels through the corners are little short of astonishing, thanks to the 4×4 system which ensures the car stays firmly planted and pointing in the intended direction at all times.
It’s not all good news though, as good as the DSG gearbox is, it can be caught out when pressing on through corners, leaving a pregnant pause between the driver coming off the brakes and hitting the throttle before the car sorts itself out and applies the power again. This can be resolved with some left foot braking (don’t try it unless you’re used to it, or have nothing behind you) and using the paddles behind the steering wheel to instruct the car to downshift under braking into the corner, which is fine, but can get a bit “busy”.
This issue isn’t only a Skoda thing, it usually applies to most cars with this set-up, which for me raises questions about driver’s cars and auto gearboxes, unless of course you just like to go fast in a straight line, in which case it’s fine. Give me a six-speed manual ‘box anytime.
That said, life’s full of compromises, and if you spend a lot of time in traffic jams…
Where the vRS diesel doesn’t compromise is on usability and running costs. On a steady cross-country run on A roads in traffic it returned 56mpg – quite a convincing argument for the diesel engine. Drive it as hard as I could, it still returned high 30s, that’s where it’s petrol powered sister is when you drive it like a saint, and during my test overall, it averaged 40.6mpg over nearly 500 miles of driving, which is more than respectable.
As for the rest of the package, the interior is a nice mix of alcantara dash, quilted sports seats and carbon fibre effect trim, although I do think Skoda could have done better with the black plastic door cappings which felt cheap, but I did like the minimalist gear selector. If you’ve got a penchant for hand-brake turns though, you’ll be disappointed, this comes with an electric parking brake.
The Octavia has room for five people, the boot is incredibly huge for a modestly sized car. It comes with plenty of tech too, I loved the full LED Matrix headlights with adaptive front lighting which seem to vector the light to provide impressive levels of illumination on dark country roads.
The central screen controls most of the car’s key functions, and the dials in front of the driver can be changed to your preference or mood, with some very sporty displays with linear rev counters and the like.
The Skoda Octavia vRS is an impressive package, but is no longer that cheap with an asking price of £33,745. It’s easy to appreciate why it’s one of the favourite tools of undercover police cars – I mean, really, who would think a Skoda could be that quick? Unless you know!
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI DSG 4X4
ENGINE: 1965cc, 200PS four-cylinder diesel engine, driving four wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch manual sequential gearbox.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155 mph. 0-62mph in 6.6 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 31.4mpg.
Wheel World test average: 40.6mpg
FUEL TANK: 52 litres.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles
• All data correct at time of publication.