I expect you’re all as glad as I am that the so-called ‘beast’ sodded off back East and the milder temperatures are creeping in. And thanks to the cold spell I only have a review and a half for you this month.
I had the all-new Kia Stinger GT S on test. This is the fastest car Kia has ever produced. It has a 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine which produces 370PS. Oh, and rear-wheel drive. That means in the cold snowy weather it was about as much use as an inflatable dart board.
Thankfully the folk at the Kia press office are kind and generous: they’re sending another Stinger later in the year, when I should actually be able to review the performance of this performance car. For now, I will simply tell you that it seemingly represents excellent value for money, with heaps of technology and a surprisingly high-quality feel. To be continued…
The next car to arrive was the Skoda Octavia vRS 245. I always thought of the Octavia vRS as a grown-up Golf GTi; one that had got married and had a couple of kids. But when you lay eyes on the vRS 245, with its big black alloy wheels and finished in primer-like Meteor Grey, it doesn’t look very grown up at all.
This hot hatch has a strong rebellious feel to it, and that continues into the cabin with large, body-hugging alcantara sports seats and lashings of gloss black trim. My test car had an optional alcantara steering wheel which has a distinct motorsport feel to it.
The engine is a 2.0-litre petrol with 245PS and 370Nm of torque. The vRS 245 is front-wheel drive with an electronic locking differential, and is available with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG gearbox. My test car had the latter, and its seamless changes result in acceleration that feels relentless: 0-62mph takes 6.6 seconds and the top speed is limited to 155mph.
Make no mistake, the Skoda is quick. With an electronic sound symposer the cabin is also filled with a throaty engine note, albeit artificial. What I did hope for was some exhaust character: pops, bangs, overrun. But the Skoda didn’t deliver. In its role as a more ‘grown up’ hot hatch it seems to lack some of the youthful joys that make hot hatches great.
My test car had the optional Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) which features adjustable dampers to really distinguish between a comfortable motorway cruise and a B-road blast. Through the selectable drive modes you can configure a custom setting and change settings to suit you: from the steering weight, suspension firmness, and activation of the sound symposer.
Economy is as you would expect from a hot hatch: quoted at 44.1mpg on the combined cycle but much less if you get a bit throttle-happy. CO2 emissions of 146g/km with start/stop technology mean first year VED of £200 in the first year, and £140 thereafter.
Despite being built on the same platform as the VW Golf, the Octavia has a larger body and, as a result, a more spacious cabin. Rear legroom is generous, and suitable to even taller adults. The boot is a hatchback class-leading 590 litres with the rear seats in place.
The Octavia vRS 245 DSG costs from £28,730. This is slightly less than the Golf GTi Performance at £30,990, but I would expect the VW to have stronger residuals. Throw some handy creature comforts in from the Skoda options list and you could expect to pay in the region of £32,000.
For that you get a spacious, practical family car, with the performance to shock your friends. This is a properly good car.