Skoda Octavia RS230
This is one sports sedan that Czechs all the boxes
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