Skoda Octavia vRS
Skoda Octavia vRS Estate £26,330
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