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REVIEW – Skoda Octavia vRS 245 Hatch


Skoda Octavia Hatchback 2.0 TSI 245 vRS 5dr Manual
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4.5

Summary

The current Skoda Octavia vRS is the best one to date; with sharp exterior lines and a high-quality cabin. For the first time there is a plug-in hybrid model – the iV – but it is this car – the 245PS petrol with 6-speed manual gearbox – that’s my pick of the range. It feels a more ‘pure’ vRS experience yet is still a fantastic all-round family car. It offers style, space and, most importantly for a hot hatch, speed.


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Exterior Styling

This latest generation of Skoda Octavia is the sleekest, most stylish yet. And the vRS model is the most aggressive to date. The model you see here may be a hatchback, but the vRS is equally good-looking in Estate form too.

At the front there are lots of sharp lines which give a really purposeful look. With the distinct twin-‘L’ shaped LED daytime running lights either side of a prominent grille, the Octavia vRS is imposing in the rear-view mirrors of other cars.

The nose seems to sit lower, giving a more poised stance, with well-placed lines sweeping up the bonnet to enhance sleekness.

To the side, 19-inch alloy wheels have a two-tone silver/grey design, behind which sit red brake callipers. Again there are sharp lines, most noticeably the large ridge which runs from the top of the front wing right back to the taillights.

Moving to the back there is a sharply raked tailgate to give the hatchback an almost Fastback-like appearance. There is a subtle lip spoiler on the tailgate, and a shark-fin aerial on the roof.

The tail lights are sharp like the front end, whilst the bottom half of the car is broadened by the bumper design. At the bottom sit two rather large exhaust tips, shaped to match the contours of the rear valance.

Finished in Quartz Grey Metallic, this particular car had a more mature feel to it than the stand-out reds and blues available, but still offered an impressive visual package when combined with the gloss black exterior features; which include the grilles, window surrounds, door mirrors, aerial, rear valance and even the lettering on the back.

This car is less about shouting “look at me” and more about blending into a crowd, which gives it the element of surprise.

Interior Finish

And if you like the exterior design of this Skoda Octavia vRS, then just wait until you see inside. Because now, more than ever, the Skoda feels as premium as its VW-Audi Group siblings. In fact, for my personal preferences, there are touches that elevate it higher than some of the other models.

And the most significant of those touches is the choice of materials throughout the cabin. Most noticeable, and most impressive, is the alcantara finish on the dashboard. This is a masterstroke, and gives a level of sportiness in the Octavia vRS not seen before. The large bucket front seats and chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel enhance this, as does contrast red stitching throughout.

Skoda has been more selective over the plastics used in the cabin too. The only questionable quality comes much lower down in the cabin where an element of robustness is more important than visual appeal anyway, and can be forgiven. What’s more, there are multiple textures to the finish, which prevents a monotonous feel to what is a very one-colour interior.

In the middle of the dashboard is a large, 10-inch widescreen multimedia system. Coupled with the 10.25-inch fully-digital instrument cluster it puts the Octavia vRS in a modern space by minimising the amount of manual switches and dials on show.

The finisher in the cabin is a rather convincing carbon-effect trim, which rounds off the interior rather well. Throw in some ambient mood lighting and it’s genuinely a really nice place to be.

Engine/Performance

When it comes to powertrain, this particular Octavia vRS is going to be one of the most popular. It has the purists’ choice – 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 6-speed manual gearbox. Power – 245PS and 370Nm of torque to be precise – is sent to the front wheels. Forget the diesel and plug-in hybrid, this is what the vRS is all about.

The 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds is just one tenth behind the DSG, which seems a fair price to pay for the additional driver engagement gained. Top speed is a limited 155mph; more than enough to get you in to trouble.

There are several different drive modes and, as is often the case with VW-Audi Group cars, there is an Individual mode where you can choose the perfect combination of settings. Those settings include steering response, engine dynamics, and even engine sounds.

Don’t get too excited about the latter though, because that’s the main gripe with this car. The noise is artificially enhanced through the speakers. You sort of get used to it over time, but there just isn’t any ‘real’ fun to the soundtrack. I never heard any playful pops and crackles from the exhausts, and that’s a shame because the Octavia vRS is otherwise a very fun car to drive.

Dial this car up to the max and there’s an instant throttle response with punchy acceleration. You work your way up the gears and the speedo keeps on climbing. To say it is not really a new powertrain, it seems sharper than before; more responsive to driver inputs.

Ride/Handling

When testing the vRS iV plug-in hybrid recently, I noted that the weight of the hybrid powertrain killed the handling characteristics. It was a great relief, then, when I got behind the wheel of the simpler, more joyful petrol version.

Whilst I appreciate the iV was also the larger Estate version of the Octavia, its kerb weight of 1,720kg represents a not-insignificant 306kg – or 21% – increase over this version’s 1,414kg kerb weight. And that is a colossal difference when you start to throw a car into some tight, twisty corners with vigour.

This car feels exactly like a hot hatch should; nimble, and eager. Turn-in is sharp, with the electronic differential maximising grip as you accelerate through the corners. By comparison the iV never really felt at all comfortable when forced to change direction in a hurry.

This particular car had the optional Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). It costs £945 but is definitely worth the money. This is an adaptive damping system which works in conjunction with the drive mode selector, and it means that there are more noticeable ride characteristics in each mode.

Comfort mode, for example, is noticeable more supple than Dynamic mode. It also means that for your individual mode you can tweak the damping to your liking.

With the DCC this car becomes a much more capable all-rounder. It can be firmer and more aggressive when you want it to be, but also softer and more forgiving when you don’t. It makes a great motorway cruiser, and means your kids need not be rattled to their bones in the back.

Brakes are nothing fancy – no Brembo setup here – but they do the job they need to and enable the vRS to pull up sharply when you stamp on the middle pedal.

Economy

Although this is ‘only’ the petrol version of the Octavia vRS, it still has rather impressive economy credentials.

Combined fuel consumption is a very respectable 40.4mpg on the combined cycle. On longer runs in the car I certainly found this figure achievable, and that’s not bad going for a hot hatch. Granted, if you drive like a maniac you will return a lower figure, but then that’s the case in all cars.

CO2 emissions are 157-160g/km. That equates to a first-year VED of £555 absorbed into the ‘On The Road’ price, with subsequent years charged at the standard £155. With a price far below the VED Surcharge-incurring £40,000 there is no change of triggering it, even if you go a bit silly with the options list.

That could be an advantage to the Skoda over its rivals – stick a few options on a VW Golf GTi and you can get perilously close to the £40,000. And if you get the Audi A3 Saloon with the more powerful petrol engine this will easily exceed £40,000.

Perhaps the only downside to the Octavia vRS in this guise is that it is made to look bad by the plug-in hybrid iV model. That car is much more appealing to company car drivers, with a BIK charge of just 11% compared to the petrol version at 35%.

Practicality

The Skoda Octavia vRS is available in both Hatch and Estate bodystyles. But which you are better off with is, in all honesty, wholly stylistic for the most part. If you prefer the look of an Estate, go for the Estate. If you like the Hatch, then go for that.

I say this because, on the whole, the levels of practicality are equally impressive on both bodystyles. Don’t think that this Hatch compromises on space because it really doesn’t. It has boot space of 600-litres. Yes, you read that correctly. 600-litres. The Estate version has 640-litres, so there isn’t much between them.

It’s the same story in the cabin – the sloping roofline has no detriment to the headroom in the rear, and the legroom for rear-seat passengers is especially generous.

The vRS can even be a capable tow car, with a capacity of 1,600kg braked and 740kg unbraked. That’s exactly the same as the Estate version. Two things to note here – if you don’t have the towbar preparation fitted at the factory the weight plate of the car may not display a towing limit and therefore the car would never be able to tow. Second, the best powertrain for towing is the 200PS diesel with 4WD, which can tow 2,000kg braked.

Perhaps the only advantage of the Estate model is that roof rails allow for roof-mounted accessories such as a roof box or cycle carrier, and the boot is a better shape for the family dog.

But to live with, the Octavia vRS is about as family-friendly as a hot hatch can be. It’s comfortable, spacious and easy to get along with. Then you can go berserk after you drop the kids off at school. It is the best of both worlds.

Equipment

Since the Octavia is Skoda’s flagship family car (Skoda’s words, not mine) you get an impressive standard specification across the range.

All Octavia models feature Alloy wheels, LED lighting throughout the exterior and interior, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors, rear parking sensors, dual-zone air conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, and cruise control with speed limiter.

A comprehensive array of safety equipment – including Collision Avoidance Assist, Turn Assist and Exit Warning – helps the Octavia achieve a full 5-star Euro NCAP rating, which gives peace of mind for a family car.

As you work your way up the range, the specification is enhanced each time. By the time you reach the vRS, the standard specification includes, in addition to the sporty exterior and interior design, Full LED Matrix headlights with adaptive front lighting system and dynamic indicators.

You also get Columbus satellite navigation with 10-inch touchscreen display, electrically-operated boot with foot operation (‘virtual pedal’), keyless entry and go, front and rear parking sensors, and heated front seats.

The safety equipment is also bolstered by Adaptive Cruise Control and lane assist as standard, whilst the connectivity includes a wireless SmartLink for Apple CarPlay which, although much more convenient than needing to connect a wire each time, seemed to sap my phone’s battery at an alarming rate. I’d recommend opting for the wireless charging pad if you plan to use this functionality.

There are a few options available on the Octavia vRS, from an integrated tow bar to a head-up display. More on those in a moment…

Value For Money

If you want an Octavia vRS then this is undoubtedly the best-value model in the range. The vRS 245PS Hatch with 6-speed manual starts at £31,260 on the road. That is £1,680 cheaper than the same car with a DSG gearbox. So look at it this way; if you’re willing to use your left foot and change gear yourself you can tick a few option boxes and still come up cheaper than a DSG.

Options are pretty fairly priced on the Octavia vRS. You can bolster the specification quite nicely without spending a great deal of money. The options fitted to my test car included a CANTON Sound System boasting 610W and 3D surround sound (£590), Dynamic Chassis Control (£945), Driver Fatigue Sensor (£45), Head-up Display (£700), rear wiper (No cost option) and a temporary space-saver spare wheel (£185).

So all in it stands at £33,725 on the road, which is still pretty reasonable. It is worth commending Skoda for allowing all paint choices – including metallic and even the exclusive Hyper Green – at no additional cost.

Other reasonably-priced options include wireless charging (£335), integrated tow bar (£975), Park Assist automatic parallel and bay parking (£355) and blind spot detection (£510).

Some options seem a little on the expensive side. A rear-view parking camera, for example, is £410. And the Winter Pack, which adds heater washer nozzles, a heated windscreen and heated steering wheel to the standard heated front seats, is £485. Still, that seems good value when compared to the Winter Pack 2.0 which includes all of the aforementioned, and adds tri-zone climate control and heated outer rear seats, costing a rather hefty £950.

So the overarching message is ditch the DSG, and use that money to bolster the standard specification to your liking. This is a great package.

Facts and Figures

Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max power 245PS at 5,250rpm
Max torque 370Nm at 1,600 – 4,300rpm
Drivetrain 6-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
0-62mph 6.7 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel tank size 50 litres
Fuel consumption 40.4 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 157 – 160 g/km WLTP
Kerb weight 1,414kg
Towing capacity 1,600kg braked / 740kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 600 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £31,260
Price as tested £33,725
Company website www.skoda.co.uk/new-cars/octavia/hatch-vrs

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