Skoda Oc­tavia RS230

This is one sports sedan that Czechs all the boxes

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

EN­GINE 1984cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo / POWER 169kW @ 6200rpm / TORQUE 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm / WEIGHT 1425kg / 0-100KM/H 6.7sec (claim) / PRICE $41,490

UST LIKE Merc AMGs, the BMW M se­ries and Volk­swa­gen GTis, Aussies seem to have a real affin­ity with the sporti­est ver­sions of Skoda’s line-up. Ac­cord­ing to Skoda, the take-up rate on RS mod­els within the Oc­tavia range ac­counts for about 40 per cent, mak­ing it the hottest sell­ing Oc­tavia vari­ant. So the new RS230, the most pow­er­ful yet, is an im­por­tant model for the brand Down Un­der. But is it the best?

While the shape may be fa­mil­iar, be­neath the un­der­stated bon­net now re­sides an even hot­ter ver­sion of the 2.0-litre tur­bo­mo­tor, now with 169kW and a broader, fat­ter torque­curve than ever be­fore with 350Nm avail­able any­where from 1500 to 4600rpm. The RS230 also gets Volk­swa­gen’s clever elec­tron­i­cal­ly­con­trolled front diff, bor­rowed from the VW Golf GTi Per­for­mance. Other changes in­clude the fit­ting of se­lectable driv­ing modes in­clud­ing a sharp ‘RS’ for­mat.

What’s per­haps most in­ter­est­ing is that the new Skoda is man­ual-only.

It’s re­fresh­ing (for an old dude like me) but prob­a­bly speaks more of avail­abil­ity and pro­duc­tion sched­ules. If you want a two-pedal ver­sion, you’ll need to wait un­til the third quar­ter of next year when the facelifted Oc­tavia hits and will be avail­able in RS230/ DSG form. That be­ing said, it won’t be quite such a niche model as this one, which now sells along­side the 162kW ‘nor­mal’ Oc­tavia RS. That’s be­cause from the facelift on, all Oc­tavia RSs will get the 169kW pow­er­plant.

Speak­ing of niches, the man­u­alonly RS230 is about as niche as a car gets now, par­tic­u­larly in sta­tion­wagon form in Aus­tralia where

SUVs seem to be tak­ing over the roads. Skoda Aus­tralia says it has an al­lo­ca­tion of 70 RS230s for now and would like to get hold of an­other 30. Even then, it ad­mits that 100 man­u­al­gear­box RS230s is prob­a­bly the sat­u­ra­tion point for the Aussie mar­ket.

One thing that stands out is the amount of space avail­able. The wagon’s load area is huge, well thought out and in­cludes con­ve­niences like mul­ti­ple tie-downs, bot­tle-hold­ers, power-out­lets and no less than eight take-away hooks. An op­tional elec­tric mo­tor opens and closes the tail­gate. Even the lift­back has plenty of space although you lose the elec­tric mo­tor op­tion.

Up front, the sports seats are elec­tri­cally ad­justable and look fab­u­lous even if they lack a lit­tle lat­eral sup­port when you’re re­ally hav­ing a go. There’s a bit of a generic Volk­swa­gen feel in­side but that’s no bad thing when you con­sider most of the rest of the world has copied that am­bi­ence over the last few years.

The ESP is a bit in­tru­sive on a race-track, but re­ally feels like a soft ig­ni­tion cut rather than a full on yougotta-stop-drink­ing in­ter­ven­tion. The en­gine in 230-tune is no grumpier than the stan­dard RS but the gear­ing feels pretty long and there’s a smidge of turbo-lag. Over­all, the RS sounds sporty and is well-bal­anced. It’s a very en­ter­tain­ing car.

The RS230 is a crisp me­chan­i­cal pack­age with sharp steer­ing, and a soft-but-firm enough ride that’s in sync with the rest of the Skoda brand. It rides well even on the lumpy stuff and there’s very lit­tle pat­ter from the 19in, 35-se­ries Pirellis. Less than you’d ex­pect, any­way. There’s a bit of noise on coarse-chip stuff, but that’s P Zeroes for you. In case an old-school man­ual trans­mis­sion scares you, don’t give it an­other thought; the clutch is light and the six-speed shifter ac­cu­rate and smooth. Give it a shot be­fore you dis­miss it.

All up, the Skoda works in­tel­lec­tu­ally be­cause it’s su­per prac­ti­cal yet still of­fers an en­ter­tain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with an edgy dif­fer­ence to it. It’s also pretty tremen­dous value at $41,490 plus on-roads and an ex­tra $1700 for the sta­tion-wagon vari­ant. The tech pack (park-as­sist, lane-as­sist, ad­vanced key­less-en­try and pre­mium sound sys­tem) is good value at $1700 and we’d go for the panoramic sun­roof at $1700 when the sin­gle-panel sun­roof is $1500 any­way.

Make sure you Czech it out.

En­try-level Sko­das have some strange cost-cut­ting mea­sures but range­top­pers have all the fruit you could ever want or need

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