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REVIEW – Skoda Octavia vRS 245PS iV

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer


Skoda Octavia Estate 1.4 TSI iV vRS 245PS DSG
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4

Summary

The latest generation of the Skoda Octavia is the best looking to date, and the vRS is the nicest of the lot. The interior is a wonderful place to be, with higher-quality materials and sleeker design. The iV model – or plug-in hybrid – is an interesting addition to the vRS line-up. It offers power and economy in equal measure. But unless you are a company car driver, you are probably better off with the cheaper, lighter petrol version.


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Exterior Styling

With every iteration, the Skoda Octavia vRS has become increasingly handsome. This latest version is by far the best looking to date, both in Hatch and Estate form. Finished in one of my favourite Skoda colours – Velvet Red Metallic – it was a lovely thing to look at on the driveway.

At the front the split headlights have gone, replaced by a slimmer, sleeker-looking single unit. The LED daytime running lights compliment the bumper lines, and give a sharp, aggressive look.

There is gloss black detailing on the grille, the bumpers, door mirrors, window surrounds and even the shark-fin aerial. Paired with a bright colour like Velvet Red or Race Blue, this contrast works well. Even the “SKODA” lettering on the tailgate is black.

The 19-inch alloys on the latest vRS are a new design, but somewhat similar to the previous model, which is no bad thing. They suit this car very well – filling the arches nicely.

At the rear, the use of the word “SKODA” as opposed to the badge gives a more premium feel, whilst the tail lights are also slimmer and sleeker than before. Like the front, this aspect of the car seems more aggressive than before, giving the vRS a purposeful look.

Neatly nestled into the rear valance are a pair of large exhaust tips. They are mostly for show, but they look good nonetheless.

Interior Finish

The changes on the exterior may be impressive, but they are nothing compared to how the cabin has been elevated from the previous model. I am going to put it out there that this cabin is actually nicer than the Volkswagen Golf GTi, and that’s a huge acclaim for Skoda.

Unlike previous models, the latest Octavia vRS has ditched practically all of the hard, scratchy plastics. They are still present – take the lower centre console and door grab handles as examples – but they are much harder to find, and not in the areas that matter the most.

The area that does matter the most – the dashboard – is the main reason I rate the Octavia vRS so highly. The use of alcantara, with contrast red stitching – is inspired. It gives a distinct motorsport feel to the cabin that really makes the vRS stand out.

This feel is only enhanced by the chunky, perforated leather steering wheel, and the pair of enormous front bucket seats, again with plenty of red contrasting details.

I have to confess that I am not a huge fan of the new rocker switch gear selector, although it is a minimalist touch. I am, however, a big fan of the 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit and the Columbus navigation system with large 10-inch touchscreen display.

And that touchscreen is neatly incorporated into the dashboard. It isn’t flush-fitting, nor is it perched atop the dashboard. It is designed to stand out as a design feature, and rightly so. There is even a touch slider to adjust the volume, which is a novel feature.

Engine/Performance

Potentially the most controversial aspect of this particular model is the vRS designation on a plug-in hybrid. Purists may argue that it waters down the vRS branding, and that SportLine trim would suffice.

On the flip side, environmental-based regulation is forcing car manufacturers to downside engines, cut emissions and reduce the reliance on traditional fuels. In that regard the iV makes sense – it may not be long before this is the only vRS available.

So what exactly is the iV powertrain? Well, it is a 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, helped by an 85kW electric motor.

Combined power is 245PS – the same as the 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine – and torque is 400Nm, which is actually more than the petrol version.

As a result, the on-paper performance reads well; 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 139mph. That’s half a second slower than the petrol engine, which isn’t a bad trade-off for the extra fuel economy benefits.

But from the driving seat, the iV just doesn’t feel like a vRS. With the instant boost from the electric motor, the iV picks up well. But the petrol engine never seems all that happy to be pushed hard like a vRS should be. It sounds unpleasant at higher revs and seems much happier being driven like a hybrid – just working with the electric motor at low revs to use as little fuel as possible.

The other downside to having a hybrid system is that the lump of torque from the electric motor is more than enough to slip the front wheels.

On balance, this is not a powertrain designed with the keen driver in mind so, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the vRS I’d choose.

Ride/Handling

If there is one thing that can easily spoil the handling of a car, it would be weight. Whether it be a poor weight distribution, top-heavy centre of gravity or just sheer bulk, it can have a severely detrimental effect on how cars behave when you throw them into corners.

With the Skoda Octavia vRS iV, the electric motor and battery pack adds around 200kg over the standard car. That equates to around 13 percent, which is a lot. And the problem here is that the Skoda Octavia is one of the largest hot hatches around, so it doesn’t really have the room to add that extra bulk.

And when you start to throw the vRS iV at some corners, you can feel every extra kilogram. You would expect a hot hatch to be playful round the bends, but the iV feels like it just stumbles from one to the next, not really enjoying the experience.

The sheer torque of that electric motor doesn’t help things either. Under lock, the iV has a tendency to slip its inside wheel. This only adds to the handling woes, and makes it hard to justify the vRS iV if you’re looking to regularly enjoy your favourite rode.

It has to be said that this particular test car didn’t have the optional Dynamic Chassis Control. It’s possible that with better control of the damping, some of the problems could have been mitigated.

When you’re not being a hooligan, however, the vRS iV is very comfortable. Motorway cruising is great, and around town it absorbs the lumps and bumps well. So if you opt for the iV, play to its strengths. Take the scenic route, but slow down and enjoy the view.

Economy

One of the main aspects that appeals about the Octavia vRS iV is the ability to own a performance-oriented car without having astronomical fuel bills.

On paper, the iV certainly delivers, with a combined fuel consumption of 176.6 – 235.4mpg on the WLTP combined cycle. That might sound remarkable, but before you run off to the dealership to place an order, let me explain a little further.

How efficient the iV is will depend entirely on how you use it. Let’s say you pop to the shops a couple of times per week, and charge up in between, you will use virtually no petrol, ever. So you would have ‘infinity’ miles per gallon.

On the flip side, if you regularly drive long motorway journeys with no time to stop and charge, you will use mostly petrol, and come nowhere near 176.6mpg.

What I can say is that the pure-electric range of the Octavia vRS iV is up to 43 miles on the WLTP cycle, and a full charge takes around five and a half hours on a domestic 3-pin socket.

Company car drivers will be pleased to hear the vRS iV has emissions of 27 – 36g/km on the WLTP cycle. That equates to a company car BIK% of 11%, which is much better than the 35% of the petrol vRS Estate.

From a VED perspective the first year rate is £nil, and currently £145 thereafter. The Octavia vRS iV is classified as an “Alternative” fuel type vehicle. What’s more, even with a few extras this Octavia was below £40,000 which means it avoids the VED surcharge too. You can’t ask for more than that!

Practicality

As a car to live with, the Octavia vRS iV Estate is a great companion. It handles the trials and troubles of family life with ease. There is plenty of room in the back, and even taller adults will find the outer-rear seats comfortable on a long drive. The middle seat is less comfortable, but still fine for kids.

The benefits of the iV powertrain is that, unlike a pure-electric vehicle, you can travel further without restriction. And yes, rapid chargers may sound good in practice, but if you are traveling the length of the country do you really want to stop at a services once (or maybe twice) for 40-odd minutes whilst it charges? Probably not. In the vRS iV, you just fill up with petrol and off you go.

There are, however, two main downside to the iV powertrain. First, having a large battery pack and an electric motor in addition to the petrol engine means you lose some boot space.

In the vRS iV Estate, you get a healthy 490 litres. But that represents a 150-litre reduction from the ‘regular’ vRS, with its cavernous 640 litre boot space. Even the vRS Hatch has more space – at a very impressive 600 litres.

Secondly, the iV is not rated for towing. If you want to drag something behind you, such as a caravan, this isn’t the Octavia for you. The other vRS’s in the range can tow 1,600kg braked, and the 200PS TDI 4×4 can tow 2,000kg braked.

Equipment

If there weren’t already enough reasons to buy the new Skoda Octavia, just wait until you get a load of the standard specification. It’s definitely what you’d call generous. It may not be as comprehensive as, say, a Kia or Hyundai, but there is some logic to that.

With a Kia, if you want a certain feature, you have to buy the trim that has it. With Skoda, you can bolster any level of trim you like, meaning you don’t necessarily have to have the top-spec model to get the best toys.

As it is, all Octavia models have a great standard spec. Alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail lights, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors, dual-zone air conditioning, light and rain sensors, and cruise control with speed limiter are all standard across the range.

The safety equipment is similarly impressive – and helps the Octavia achieve a full 5-star Euro NCAP rating. These systems include Collision Avoidance Assist, Turn Assist and Exit Warning.

By the time we come to the vRS iV, the specification is even greater. Included as standard on this trim is Adaptive Cruise Control, Columbus satellite navigation with 10-inch touchscreen display, electrically-operated boot, keyless entry and go, lane assist, Virtual Cockpit, and a wireless Smartlink for Apple CarPlay.

There are some options available should you wish to enhance this specification further. The most appealing ones include wireless mobile phone charging, panoramic sunroof, winter pack, blind spot detection and Dynamic Chassis Control. These vary in cost but can certainly add an extra something to your Octavia – I mean who wouldn’t like to point out heated rear seats to their friends?!

Value For Money

Whether or not you will view the iV variant of the vRS as good value for money will depend on the type of purchaser you are.

IF you are a company car user, this is probably the only vRS you could probably justify as a P11D benefit, so you might well be all but tied to this powertrain. And, if that is the case, you will be able to enjoy an element of the power and performance for a reasonable monthly charge.

For private buyers, however, the iV is a little harder to justify. Take the vRS Estate you see here. For an iV, the starting price is £36,875 on the road. For a 245PS petrol with 6-speed manual gearbox the price is £31,850. That’s just over £5,000 cheaper. And if you want a DSG version it’s £33,530. That’s still £3,345 cheaper than the iV, and to a private buyer that’s not insignificant.

For me it’s not just about the price, either. The reason to buy a vRS is because you want a hot hatch experience. The Octavia is a big car already, but the extra weight of the batteries and electric motor are detrimental to the nimbleness of the car to such a degree that it’s not all that fun on a tight, twisty B-road. In other words, it’s not a ‘true’ vRS.

For that reason my gut tells me I’d save myself the full £5,000 and buy a 245PS manual. Incidentally I have that car booked in to test very soon, so let’s see if I change my mind…

Facts and Figures

Engine 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol and 85kW electric motor
Max power 245PS at 5,000-6,000rpm
Max torque 400Nm at 1,550-3,500rpm
Drivetrain 6-speed DSG automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
0-62mph 7.2 seconds
Top speed 139mph
Fuel tank size  41.5 litres and 13kWh battery
Fuel consumption 176.6-235.4 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 27-36 g/km WLTP
Kerb weight 1,720kg
Towing capacity N/A braked / N/A unbraked
Luggage capacity 490 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £36,875
Price as tested £38,715
Company website www.skoda.co.uk/new-cars/octavia/estate-vrs

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