Give yourself a little lift
Skoda adds gloss — and no small performance boost — to its roomy and practical pair of Octavias
SKODA calls its limited edition RS230 Octavia a “toe in the water” exercise. The Czech brand is importing between 70 and 100 examples — in liftback and wagon form — to gauge local reaction. It may become a fixture when the rest of the range is updated next year.
The RS230 will be familiar to anyone who has driven a Volkswagen Golf GTi Performance model. It has the same 169kW engine (230 horsepower, hence the name) and the same trick electronic “differential” to stop the front wheels scrabbling for grip out of fast corners.
The look is completely different, though. The Octavia looks like a sedan but its back lifts to free up a more practical load space. Ironically, the boot is more golf-bag friendly than the Golf, with a whopping 568L to the GTI’s 380L (the Holden Commodore holds 495L). The rear seats are equally roomy, making the Skoda a tempting proposition for a Commodore or Falcon owner looking to downsize without sacrificing too much grunt.
And the price is also tempting at $41,990 for the liftback and $43,190 for the wagon, compared with $46,490 for the auto Golf GTI Performance.
Skoda adds some gloss — literally — to the RS to separate it from garden-variety Octavias. The wheels, bootlid spoiler, front grille and side mirrors are finished in gloss black, while chunky, squared off dual exhausts and the obligatory red brake calipers complete the sporty look.
Inside, the layout is familiar Volkswagen group fare, although the heavily bolstered sports seats are finished in leather with red stitching and there’s an RS logo embossed into the headrests. Boy racers will be drawn to the flatbottomed leather steering wheel, alloy pedals and door sills with RS logos.
Techno goodies include adaptive cruise control, satnav, Apple Car Play and Android Auto and dual-zone aircon.
The RS230 is available only as a manual and Skoda claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds, two-tenths slower than VW’s claim for the GTI Performance. Put that down to an extra 80kg of ballast in the Skoda.
Fuel consumption is fractionally higher but still impressive for a performance car at 6.3L/100km. Drive it as it’s
meant to be driven and that figure is about achievable as a weight-loss claim on the shopping channel.
Performance menus can be dialled up on the middle screen, as with the GTI. There is a lap timer for track days.
ON THE ROAD
The first thing you notice about the RS230 is that it’s pretty civilised in the bump and grind of the daily commute. The seat bolstering is supportive without hugging bigger drivers too tightly, while the suspension does a good job of insulating occupants from poor road surfaces.
There’s no doubt it’s firmer than the average small car but it’s not too choppy and doesn’t crash over bumps.
The sport button is best avoided around town because it pipes a fairly unconvincing exhaust noise into the cabin — it’s more irritating than exhilarating.
On the open road, when the engine is in the higher reaches of the rev range, it’s a different story entirely, with a throaty roar that’s the perfect soundtrack for a blast through the bends. The sports button also gives added weight to the steering and makes the throttle more sensitive.
Skoda has borrowed the “electronic differential lock” from the VW parts bin and it works well out of lower speed corners. Not really a diff lock, it does a similar job, braking individual wheels to send drive to the one with the best traction.
From the driver’s seat it feels as if you’re slingshotting out of corners. There’s no wheel spin and Skoda also manages the power delivery so the steering wheel doesn’t tug at the hands under acceleration.
The low-profile 19-inch Pirellis give loads of grip and the steering provides plenty of feedback and good weight for enthusiastic driving.
Forget about dipping the toe, Skoda should dive in the deep end and add the RS230 to the permanent line-up. It’s a great blend of performance and practicality — fun to drive and easy to live with, even though a manual might not be every cityslicker’s cup of tea.
VW’s GTI is a fairly common sight. Here’s something a little different for performance fans to park in the driveway.