Skoda Oc­tavia vRS

Skoda Oc­tavia vRS Es­tate £26,330

Top Gear (UK) - - CONTENTS - TOM HAR­RI­SON

WE SAY: A CHEAPER, MORE SPA­CIOUS, LESS FUN VER­SION OF THE GOLF GTI

Pre­dictably, very lit­tle is difer­ent about the facelifted Skoda Oc­tavia vRS. There’s more modern in­fo­tain­ment, bet­ter ac­tive safety and so on. And the head­lights from a circa 2009 Mercedes E-Class, be­cause plainly more is bet­ter.

The big­gest me­chan­i­cal change is prob­a­bly the ex­tra 10bhp that’s been lib­er­ated from the 2.0-litre turbo petrol (the diesel is un­changed), which makes the base vRS efec­tively the same as the old vRS230 range-top­per, mi­nus that car’s trick VAQ LSD (from the Golf GTI Per­for­mance Pack). Skoda is saving that for the slightly more pow­er­ful vRS245, which is also set to get the Golf’s new seven-speed DSG. For now, petrol and diesel Oc­tavias get un­changed six-speed man­ual and DSG trans­mis­sions. Driven here is a petrol vRS es­tate with the former.

Of course, de­spite the ex­tra 10bhp (for a 227bhp to­tal) the new vRS feels no faster than the car it re­places. The difer­ence from rest to 62mph is just a tenth of a sec­ond – which is less time than it takes to blink. On the hot-hatch spec­trum – be­cause that’s what this thing is, even though it doesn’t look like it – the vRS is about as quick as a Fo­cus ST, ie fast enough to en­joy, but not so fast that ev­ery time you go any­where near the throt­tle pedal you’re in very real dan­ger of hav­ing your driv­ing li­cence taken away and torn into tiny pieces.

A Fo­cus ST Es­tate is around £200 more than this Oc­tavia, and in some ways it’s a bet­ter car. More in­volv­ing to drive, cer­tainly. The Skoda’s good – with pretty nat­u­ral, well-weighted steer­ing, a good man­ual gear­box (the DSG is good too, but not quick enough on the way down and the kick-down step in the throt­tle pedal is poorly defned), ad­e­quate grip and a rel­a­tively game chas­sis – but it left us feel­ing a bit cold. It’s as though Skoda’s en­gi­neers were in­structed to make the vRS pre­cisely 36 per cent less en­ter­tain­ing than a GTI – no more, no less.

But the in­te­rior is bril­liantly solid. Ma­te­rial qual­ity is be­yond re­proach in all but a cou­ple of places and there’s loads of space. Way more than you get in the Fo­cus. A good, fastish fam­ily car, then. A bit by-the-num­bers, but you could levy that crit­i­cism at any­thing the VW Group’s re­leased in the last decade.

Typ­i­cal VAG prod­uct: solid, re­li­able and not can­ni­bal­is­ing its cousins

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