Skoda Octavia 2.0TDI vRS Estate : Hot Hatch

  • Our Octavia might be estate version, but it feels like a hot hatch on the road
  • Diesel engine mixes sub eight-seconds 0-62mph time with promised 61mpg
  • Not quite as economical in real-world, but still enjoyable to drive

I’m old enough to remember when 181bhp, a six speed manual gearbox and 18-inch alloy wheels were a recipe for the most rip-snorting of hot hatches. A check back through the extensive Parkers Facts and Figures pages reveals those numbers don’t stray too far from the 2003 RenaultSport Clio 182.

With similar power, but 16-inch wheels and a five-speed manual gearbox it was, and still is, regarded as one of the best hot-hatches of all time.

But those numbers at the top don’t relate to the latest supermini turned sportscar, but rather a family estate – our Skoda Octavia vRS diesel estate. Yes I said diesel.

Octavia vRS diesel

We already know about the history of vRS and the Skoda brand, but suffice to say those three letters, affixed to the rump of KX63 RSV denote it as the sportiest Octavia available. Based on the same platform as the VW Golf, SEAT Leon and Audi A3 (albeit with far more interior space) it is ostensibly a family car.

A look over the spec sheet suggests our particular yellow peril offers the chance to enjoy up to 61mpg while emitting just 119g/km of CO2. In comparison the Clio from ten years ago managed just 34mpg and 194g/km.

But where the Clio makes 180bhp and 200Nm, the Octavia produces 181bhp and a massive 380Nm of torque – the latter figure available from much lower in the rev range too. From a standing start the 300Kg lighter Renault beats the Skoda for acceleration, completing the 0-62mph sprint one second quicker (6.9 seconds versus 7.9 seconds) but in the midrange it’s a very different story. The Octavia boasts a higher top speed too.

Skoda Octavia vRS cornering

Of course it all feels a little more lazy than frenetic with the Skoda, and there’s little point in revving that 2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine beyond 4,000rpm, but there’s no denying the urge on offer. Settle into its groove, rather than demand it follow your own, and the vRS can cover ground very quickly indeed

When it comes to the corners it’s probably worth admitting defeat to the deftly handling Clio, as the extra weight of the big Czech ultimately comes into play before the first apex. That said, after fitting 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tyres (in place of the 18-inch winter rubber RSV arrived with) our Octavia’s handling vastly improved.

Skoda Octavia vRS wheels

It’s helped by 13mm lower sports suspension (over the regular Octavia estate) and the standard-fit XDS electronic front differential. This isn’t a conventional limited slip differential, sending available power to the wheel that has the most available grip, but a device that will brake the front wheel that has the least purchase of the tarmac. A kind of electronic imitation if you will, that does a decent if not outstanding job of delivering all of the available torque from the vRS to the road.

You can adjust the way the car feels thanks to the Drive Select mode too, which alters steering and throttle response (as well as other non driving-related parameters such as air conditioning power and headlight operation). Select Sport and the vRS is at its most aggressive, with exaggerated engine noise in the cabin, a sharp throttle response and heavy steering. In truth the steering ruins it, but selecting Individual allows you to mix and match between Comfort, Normal and Sport settings for the perfect mix of responses. 

Octavia vRS front

Clearly it’s not going to trouble a Clio around a circuit, but on the road, in the real-world the Octavia vRS does more than keep its nose clean in the face of supposedly sportier models. It might boast a 610-litre load bay, plenty of standard equipment and a quality cabin perfect for growing families, but it’s more of a hot hatch than most would believe. 

 

Mileage: 9,327                    Economy: 43.4mpg (calculated)