Skoda Oc­tavia RS245

New range-top­per is the most in­volv­ing ver­sion yet

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

VOLK­SWA­GEN and Audi have a li­cence to push higher up the per­for­mance hatch food chain, how­ever, Czech brand Skoda sto­ically cham­pi­ons its prin­ci­ple of putting value first.

That means its RS per­for­mance sub-brand has been ne­glected of late, with Fabia ver­sions axed de­spite a strong pres­ence in top-level ral­ly­ing and ru­moured plans of a Su­perb RS shelved in the wake of Diesel­gate.

The only car in Skoda’s cur­rent range that’s al­lowed a high­per­for­mance vari­ant is the Oc­tavia. Re­cently facelifted, the stan­dard RS is a cred­itable car but lacks the dy­namic fi­nesse its ri­vals of­fer. Now a new range-top­per has joined the line-up look­ing to ad­dress that.

Pre­vi­ously the limited-run Oc­tavia RS230 sat at the top of the pile, but for the facelift it has evolved into the RS245, which will not have a limited pro­duc­tion run and is avail­able in hatch­back and es­tate forms.

Up­dates over the reg­u­lar petrol RS model (which has the same out­put as the out­go­ing RS230) in­clude work on the tur­bocharged 2.0-litre petrol en­gine, which gets a new turbo, oil pump, in­jec­tors, man­i­fold, tim­ing chain, fuel pump and pis­tons. As a re­sult, 169kW be­comes 180kW and 350Nm of torque be­comes 370Nm.

On the out­side, there’s some black de­tail­ing and mas­sive, blinged-up 19-inch al­loy wheels, as well as, im­por­tantly (and just like the ear­lier 230), a proper limited-slip dif­fer­en­tial on the front axle. How­ever, this time around there will be a new sev­en­speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion on of­fer, which will com­mand a pre­mium, in­stead of the man­ual-only RS230.

The gen­eral flavour of the car is not dis­sim­i­lar to the usual RS qual­i­ties we’re ac­cus­tomed to. All of the pos­i­tive traits re­main: a flex­i­ble ride with a pleas­ant, well-built cabin and truly cav­ernous space. The boost in power is only sub­tle and shaves just a tenth of a sec­ond off the car’s 0-100km/h time (now 6.6sec), so it still feels free-revving and pow­er­ful, if a lit­tle slow to build up the pace from low revs. It’s also a lit­tle less im­pres­sive in the grand scheme of this seg­ment now that other hot hatches are push­ing the 200kW-plus mark with all-wheel drive set-ups at a sim­i­lar price bracket.

But the big­gest dy­namic dif­fer­ence over the rest of the RS range comes as a re­sult of the LSD. The RS245 is no­tice­ably bet­ter at putting down its power out of cor­ners than the stan­dard RS; it will still un­der­steer, but not to the ex­tent the stan­dard model does. The ag­ile front end is only let down slightly by steer­ing which, although pre­cise, light and quick, doesn’t of­fer much feel and robs the driver of some en­joy­ment.

Eco, Com­fort, Nor­mal and Sport drive modes are avail­able via a vRS but­ton on the cen­tre con­sole that al­ters the steer­ing, throt­tle re­sponse and gearshifts. In Sport, the car re­ally livens up and the up­graded ex­haust that the 245 gets sounds great, if a lit­tle ar­ti­fi­cially en­hanced, while an In­di­vid­ual mode lets you mix and match set­tings. Adap­tive dampers are stan­dard and help to soften the ride at a cruise or firm it up when press­ing on, but even in Com­fort the sus­pen­sion is still firm, although not quite as jar­ring as that of some of its key ri­vals.

Also newly avail­able with the RS245 is a seven-speed DSG, as op­posed to the six-speed unit for the rest of the range. Like the six-speeder, it shifts quickly and calmly dur­ing reg­u­lar driv­ing while be­com­ing more ag­gres­sive in Sport, but it can be slightly hes­i­tant on kick­down. The ex­tra ra­tio means that the en­gine is not only more pow­er­ful, but also more ef­fi­cient – the com­bined fuel con­sump­tion fig­ure has been cut to 6.4L/100km in DSG guise – and it makes cruis­ing even more re­fined and re­lax­ing than be­fore.

And un­der­neath it all, it’s an

Oc­tavia. It gets a solid driv­ing po­si­tion with loads of ad­justa­bil­ity and great vis­i­bil­ity out of the cabin, a top-notch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem (which now gets Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto smart­phone mir­ror­ing), and it’s gen­er­ally mas­sive and prac­ti­cal in­side. It’s a thor­oughly com­mend­able prod­uct that is now closer than ever to be­ing as en­ter­tain­ing as it is prac­ti­cal. It’s the best of both worlds.

The Oc­tavia RS still makes the most sense at the en­try level of its line-up, but this range-top­ping RS245 cer­tainly stakes a claim for con­sid­er­a­tion by de­liv­er­ing a pretty fan­tas­tic pack­age of ev­ery­day use­abil­ity and driver­fo­cused vigour. It’s ex­pen­sive, but still lineball with the Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI and only a bit more than the Fo­cus ST. And although it’s slightly slower than both, it could prove to be the eas­i­est of the three to live with.

These im­prove­ments make the

245 worth the pre­mium (yet to be de­fined) over the 230, but for the most en­joy­ment, and to shave some money off the list price, we’d stick with the slick man­ual gear­box on the 245.

Whichever guise you choose, this is the fastest, most pow­er­ful and most com­plete Oc­tavia RS yet.

It’s a pretty fan­tas­tic pack­age of ev­ery­day use­abil­ity and driver-fo­cused vigour

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