There’s an inherent rightness to Skoda’s Octavia vRS. From the linear delivery of its engine to its excellent driving position; from to the slick and easy gearbox – whether it’s equipped with a manual or dual-clutch transmission – to its neat and effective handling, it's easy to adapt to and feels comfortable being driven with spirit.
It’s not the most expressive car, it is based on the Golf GTI after all, but as it’s not dressed up like a hot hatch there isn’t the same expectation for it to drive like one; its saloon body doesn’t suggest the highly aggressive, pointy attitude that modern performance hatches exhibit. Instead, it’s effective, fast, demanding enough to drive to be involving and the performance is eminently usable.
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Its ace card is that none of the vRS upgrades impact the Octavia’s supreme practicality. There is acres of rear leg room, there’s still a huge boot whether it’s the hatch or the estate version, there are clips to hold parking tickets, storage and cubby holes everywhere, and you can even get an interior bin. A firm ride, especially from cars fitted with the optional 19-inch wheels, is the only aspect of the vRS that slightly nibbles away at the car’s ultra usable nature, but even at its firmest it's still far from uncomfortable.
It's a mark of that useful, all-round appeal that we had three vRSs in a row on the evo magazine Fast Fleet, and they're adept at everything from making progress down a B-road, to long motorway trips, to ferrying photographers and all their gear – and they excel at family life, too.
The Octavia vRS range had a bit of a shake-up after its recent facelift. The new entry-level petrol car has 227bhp, the same output as the old limited top-spec model. The most powerful version now has 242bhp, 19-inch wheels, dark trim and, importantly, a limited slip differential. The diesel-powered version hasn’t changed much; it still has a 181bhp turbocharged four-cylinder. All models are available as a hatchback or a saloon and with the choice of either a manual or dual-clutch gearbox. Most of the range is front-wheel drive, however you can get a diesel DSG vRS with four-wheel drive, if you wish.
Skoda Octavia vRS in detail
- > Performance and 0-60mph time – vRS 245 now tops the performance table, hitting 62mph in a brisk 6.6sec. Even the diesel is quick, covering the same measure in 7.6sec.
- > Engine and gearbox – The vRS range is fairly simple: A brace of 2-litre engines, one petrol, one diesel. A brace of transmissions, one manual, one DSG. And either two- or four-wheel drive. Sadly, the 4x4 is both diesel and DSG-only, but it's a great all-rounder.
- > Ride and handling – Closer to a sports saloon than a hot hatch despite similarities to the Golf GTI, but still entertaining. 4x4 adds all-weather ability and security.
- > MPG and running costs – Diesels are naturally the most frugal – our long-termer averaged mid-40s mpg – but no vRS will be particularly taxing to run.
- > Interior and tech – Skoda has kept the cabin design simple. Doesn't feel special, but does feel well-built and well-equipped.
- > Design – A handsome beast, perhaps rendered slightly less so by the latest facelift with its dual-headlamp arrangement.
Prices, specs and rivals
There are five different engine and transmission combinations to choose from on the Skoda Octavia vRS as well as two body styles. When mated to a manual gearbox both the diesel and petrol models are priced just below £26k, if you want the DSG (automatic) you’ll have to fork out another £1400. Four-wheel drive is available, but its exclusive to the 2-litre diesel paired to the DSG ‘box and tops the range in terms of price at just below £29k.
Red and white are the sole cost-free paint finishes being offered, although the optional metallic and pearl effect colours aren't too pricey at £400. The standard alloy wheels are available in silver or grey, however you can swap them for bigger, silver items for £655.
It’s easy to negate the Skoda’s keen pricing with a liberal approach to adding options, the extras list is long so some restraint is required. However, it’s worth equipping Dynamic Chassis Control at £860, so you can slacken off and ramp up the chassis responses according to the roads you’re faced with – it’s the only performance upgrade available on the car. The higher spec vRS 245 trim is no longer available with the Octavia coming towards the end of its life.
As many know, the vRS and VW Golf GTI/GTD employ the same underpinnings and powertrains. While that may be the case, the GTI is marginally better to drive, and its higher list price of £29k (for a five-door) is reflected by a higher quality interior and a more premium appeal overall.
If you require the extra practicality of the vRS estate, the Ford Focus ST estate is priced on a par and delivers similar performance. Its turbocharged 2-litre develops 247bhp and 257lb ft of torque that has it sprint from 0 to 62mph in 6.7sec.