A car that has been called the ‘King’ of hot hatches more than any other is the Volkswagen Golf GTi. Throughout many evolutions, it has found a way of merging performance and practicality. But what if you wanted a little more of the practicality aspect? Well, how about the car in front of you here; the Skoda Octavia vRS estate. Strip away that practical-looking exterior and you will find the same beating heart as the Golf GTi. So is the vRS a bit of a hidden gem? I grabbed one for a week to find out, and/ it was the vRS 230 no less…
Looks – 9/10
I really like the looks of the Octavia vRS. There’s an almost Germanic feel to the styling, with an angular front bumper and LED daytime running lights. The bonnet is sleek and leads up the A-pillars to some roof rails; a nod to the practical aspect of the Octavia. To the side there are some gloss black mirrors, and delightful 19-ince Xtreme alloy wheels. These really stand out, and are mostly black with a touch of silver. The window surround is also black, and this contrasted the Meteor Grey paint of my test car superbly. Red brake calipers give a sporty edge, and at the back the vRS gets a subtle roof spoiler, twin exit exhausts and LED rear lights. As an estate car it has nice proportions, and has a good stance on the road.
Step inside and you are greeted by two welcoming bucketed front seats. Finished in black leather, with red accents and stitching and the vRS logo embroidered on the headrest, they really set the cabin off. The flat-bottomed, perforated steering wheel also has red stitching, and is chunky. The dials are a simplistic but effective white on black, and the cabin is finished off with gloss black trim. The multimedia screen sits nicely in the centre of the dashboard, and the vRS button catches your eye near the gearstick. I would have liked a big start button, but instead you turn a key. Some of the plastics, most notably the door cards, could do with sprucing up a little. Some more leather or red stitching would have complimented the rest of the interior, but overall it’s a nice place to be.
So, that engine. I had the petrol 230 which is a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit. It offers, you guessed it, 230PS and 350Nm of torque. My test car had the 6-speed manual gearbox, which results in a 0-62mph sprint of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 153mph. With the individual drive mode selection you can opt for sportier steering and throttle response, and the Octavia picks up well. Mash your foot into the carpet and it feels like a proper hot hatch. To put it in perspective a standard Golf GTi hits 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, so to be just 0.3 behind in the family estate car is rather impressive. The TSI engine is fantastic, picking up from lower revs and pulling all the way to the redline, such that you needn’t change down on the motorway. It’s nice to be able to create custom profiles for driving, because the sharper throttle response and induction sound feeding in to the cabin is welcome on a B-road, but can be a nuisance around town. This is easily changed via a button marked ‘vRS’ on the centre console.
For an estate car, the vRS handles rather well. The steering is direct and, when switched to sport mode, is nice and weighty too. With some decent stopping power you can push hard in the bends, braking late and throwing the Octavia in. To help prevent those 230 horses spinning away through the wheels you get an electro-mechanical front locking differential. For a front-wheel drive car there’s plenty of grip, although in the wet you find yourself wishing you had 4WD. There is a vRS diesel, and it’s available in 4×4 guise. I think that could be quite the car to drive in wet Britain. The ride is nicely balanced; comfortable on the motorway yet composed on a country road. It further helps inspire confidence in the ability of the vRS.
Now the Golf GTi is seen as a practical hot hatch. But it’s got nothing on the Octavia vRS estate. The boot is more than enough for the weekly big shop, and can house the family dogs no problem. Top tip; stay out of sport mode with Benji on board… The cabin is roomy, with adults comfortable in the back, and the vRS gets plenty of toys to make sure it’s a great car to live with. The front seats can be adjusted electronically, and the driver’s seat has a memory function. The touchscreen multimedia system features a satellite navigation system, hands-free telephone and DAB digital radio. There’s hill hold assists, lane assist, cruise control and dual-zone climate control. This really is a brilliant family car, whether it be on a family holiday or a run
to the tip.
Fun – 9/10
I suspect you may be wondering whether or not an estate car can offer the same sort of thrills as a ‘regular’ hot hatch. Well after spending a week with the Octavia vRS I believe it can. You see it’s styled well, which gives it kerb appeal. With those Xtreme alloy wheels it stands out on
a car park. What makes the Skoda so good is the want to go out and drive it. There could be a misconception that someone who has gone and bought an estate car is probably a family man who has given up on enjoying driving. Now it’s all school run this, day trip that. The Octavia vRS ensures you can do all that well, but then once you’ve dropped the kids off you can go home the long way, hit the vRS button and have an absolute riot.
That just about rounds up my week with the Octavia. I was expecting the practicality, and the Skoda delivered. What I didn’t expect however, was a proper driver’s car. The vRS has a beating heart and petrol running through its veins. It’s got the fun factor of a hot hatch and cheeky, in-your-face styling. For more information head over to the Skoda website or see a local dealer. As tested, the vRS 230 estate costs £28,260 which is remarkably good value. A few years ago the words “Skoda” and “estate” would have conjured up an image of some boring, boxy car driven by a tradesman. Now though, forget it. This is a car for daddy cool.
Total score – 45/50