Early drive: Skoda Octavia Hatch vRS 2.0 TDI 184PS 4x4 DSG

  • Talented Skoda Octavia vRS diesel now available with all-wheel drive
  • Loads more grip but costs £27,315, still cheaper than VW Golf GTD
  • Improved acceleration and cornering confidence

The diesel Skoda Octavia vRS has always been a more rational choice than the petrol car – it’s calmer to drive and offers better fuel economy.

Now the addition of all-wheel drive makes it an even more stable and sure-footed hot hatch than ever before.

Plus, it offers something that rival diesel performance hatchbacks like the front-drive only Volkswagen Golf GTD and Ford Focus ST diesel cannot.

Solid drive now comes with added grip

The new car is made of tried-and-tested bits – the same 2-litre TDI unit as the standard car, a Haldex all-wheel drive system as used on the Octavia Scout, and the DSG automatic gearbox found across the VW range.

The all-wheel drive system promises to deliver higher levels of grip, so you can deploy the diesel engine’s power earlier in a corner without worrying about it overwhelming the tyres.

As well as this, a special electronic differential lock (called XDS+) manages the distribution of power between the left and right wheels to further improve cornering capability. It does this by gently applying the brakes on the inside wheel to tighten the radius of the bend, meaning the front end of the car won't push forwards if you apply too much power. It'll follow the line you've dialled into the steering.

Its effect is profound, particularly on wet or frozen surfaces such as the ice track on which we tested it. The Octavia vRS 4x4 pulled away from the line cleanly without the slightest protest from the tyres, and wound itself around tight corners with confidence-inspiring tenacity.

As you would imagine, this extra grip means the 4x4 Octavia gets away faster, and will race from 0-62mph three tenths of a second quicker than the standard car, taking just 7.6 seconds.

You probably won’t notice the time difference in the real world but the lack of scrabbling front wheels makes it feel considerably faster off the mark.

What are the running costs like?

The Skoda Octavia vRS 4x4 hatchback costs £27,315 so you’ll pay a £1,450 premium over the two-wheel-drive auto model, but it’s still cheaper than the VW Golf GTD.

Economy is slightly affected so you get a claimed 57.7mpg and 129g/km (compared to the front drive’s 60mpg and 124g/km). You won’t need a bigger VED tax budget, but it does sit in a higher BIK tax bracket. A 20 percent tax payer will have to pay £20 more a month than the two-wheel drive car.

You still get the same high level of standard equipment though, and highlights include:

  • Touchscreen sat-nav
  • 18-inch anthracite alloys
  • Bi-xenon headlights
  • Sports suspension
  • Dual-zone climate control

It’s a compelling package for the price and comes complete with the subtle but menacing good looks of the standard vRS, without any of the pretence attached to other performance brands.

Verdict

If all you want is a four-wheel drive Octavia then the all-road Scout version comes with the same engine and gearbox, plus a bigger estate boot.

Installed in this car, the 4x4 system enables you to pull away faster and cleaner, and tackle corners in tricky conditions with even more confidence.

It’s just like the standard diesel Octavia vRS, only better.