Forty years of Skoda vRS

  • Forty years since Skoda used (v)RS badging, we try first Octavia vRS model from 2000
  • Like new car it uses the VW Golf platform but offered more space and kit
  • Petrol-engine hatchback is surprisingly similar in ethos and performance to our diesel estate

Driving the very latest and newest cars to assess them and offer you - the users - our definitive verdict is not a nine-to-five we can complain about. Variety, beautiful locations and even the odd heartbeat-raising racing circuit, there’s usually something for everyone – all before the weekend starts.

There is some stability in our lives though, and that comes in the form of our long term test cars. The pillars of our working lives that take us from airport to airport, often via the office, Monday to Friday and from DIY store to social event, via home, at the weekend.

I’m lucky enough to run Parkers’ Skoda Octavia vRS estate, or the Yellow Peril as it’s become known in the office, and indeed in airport carparks. As a frugal, bright, spacious, comfortable, good-looking, well-equipped, practical, fast and fun estate it’s as close to the motoring journo cliché of a consummate all-rounder as it can possibly be.

Skoda Octavia vRS side by side

But despite its ability to empty my loft and transport it to the tip, return around 48mpg and keep me entertained on long journeys thanks to its excellent up-graded stereo system it’s the last part of that list that matters – the fast and fun bit. You see, our vRS is part of an on-going story for the Czech brand that first started 40 years go.

In 1974 the firm started to campaign its 180RS and 200RS (Rallye Sport) race cars in motorsport championships, following that up with the 130RS in the second half of the decade.

head to head Octavia vRS

It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that the maker could put that knowledge into production when the introduced our car’s grandfather, the original Octavia vRS. Incidentally the ‘v’ comes from the accent sat above the ‘S’ in Skoda, and not because of some naming strategy legality here in the UK as is so often thought.

Regardless of badging, the MK1 Octavia vRS blew the motoring press away. Bigger than the VW golf with which it shared its 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, with racier looks and surprisingly sharp handling – plus a cheaper price – it took the was an instant success.

Octavia vRS interior and engines

Fourteen years after its introduction, the similarities with our vRS are only equalled by the differences. Clearly the language of car design has moved on in the intervening years, with the Octavia now sporting a more sophisticated and faceted form, but there’s a clear lineage with the details.

The wheels on the original only measure 17 inches, and our car now wears upgraded 19-inch rims, but the split five-spoke design isn’t dissimilar in concept. Even more closely related are the exhausts, the MK1 featuring a trapezoidal finisher similar to the pair found on the rump of RSV and the vRS badge on the vertical slat grille.

vRS grilles and exhaust finishers

Inside the white carpets and seat centres have gone, thankfully, but the sports seats mix the perfect balance of comfort and support. Both have three-spoke steering wheels with perforated leather, though the new car has multi-function controls, while the main instruments have a similar background layout and each boasts a simply massive boot.

Comparing our diesel to the MK1 petrol isn’t as mental as it sounds either, both car’s developing around 180bhp and similar levels of torque – even if their performance is delivered in a slightly different way. The newer car offers a wallop of torque low down the rev range, while its forebearer requires revs to get the best out of it.

Octavia vRS wheels

That said, it’s incredibly smooth, and head-to-head we suspect this would be a close-run race – even if the newer car will keep on going for longer thanks to its better economy and longer range. The Mk1 also rides far better than our car, though the XDS differential and sportier setup means it’ll attack corners with more speed.

There might be 14 years separating these cars, but that number apart they’re more alike than most would expect. The first generation blew the opposition away, and while the sector is now more competitive than ever, in my opinion the Yellow Peril is doing the same here at Parkers.

Which is why when it comes to home time, I’m more often in RSV than anything else.

Mileage: 4,785 miles      Economy: 44.8mpg