The high-performance RS model has always added a touch of glamour and credibility to the Skoda Octavia.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, 135kW/380Nm, 6-speed automated dual-clutch transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 5.0 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.2 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4685mm long, 1449mm high, luggage capacity 590-1580 litres, fuel tank 50 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Stealth performance with outstanding practicality, torque diesel option.
We don’t like: Perhaps too understated looking, plain interior.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
The high-performance RS model has always added a touch of glamour and credibility to the Skoda Octavia. If you think of the Octavia as being a Volkswagen Golf (which it largely is, underneath) with more space and a smaller pricetag, the RS is the thinking/family person’s equivalent to the Golf GTI.You can’t have a GTI wagon, but you can with the RS. And while the petrol Octavia comes with the very same powertrain as its VW sibling, there’s an extra dimension to the Skoda in the form of a turbo-diesel engine option.That’s what we’ve got here: the Octavia RS TDI wagon.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Let’s not get too weighed down in comparisons with the Golf. Except to say this: the Octavia RS drives very much as you’d expect, like a slightly larger and heavier GTI. That diesel engine does add an extra dimension, though. The petrol has the revs but the 2.0-litre turbo diesel serves up a relentless wave of torque – plant the throttle from a standstill and if there’s any dampness or uneven camber on the road, the front wheels will still be spinning as you hit third gear. That’s meant as a compliment: we’re not talking out of-control torque steer, more an obvious show of strength.Often the main issue with a performance diesel is managing the transmission to keep the engine in the narrow rev range where it does its best work. That’s not an issue with the RS, which has a Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) that’s nicely calibrated for the character of this engine. It’s only a six-speeder (most DSGs have seven cogs) but with so much torque to play with, that matters little. The powertrain is perhaps a bit one-dimensional compared with the petrol model, but both Octavia RS models have adjustable driving modes, which can be chosen via the large touch screen: Eco, Normal or Sport. These modify the behaviour of the powertrain but not the suspension: unlike top versions of the Golf, Octavia runs on conventional steel-sprung suspension rather than adaptive technology. Put the RS into Sport mode and you get a curious growl in the cabin, courtesy of a Performance Sound Generator that turns diesel clatter into a deep-throated roar. Odd, but then you have to have a sense of fun to drive a hot Skoda.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
It’s an Octavia wagon, so it couldn’t be easier. Skoda is usually very careful not to make its interior design too interesting (under VW Group orders presumably) and the Octavia is no exception: clean and low-key. Elegant but unexciting. You do get some garnish with the RS, though: special three-spoke steering wheel with perforated leather, RS instrumentation with white illumination, sports seats and unique interior trim details. The rest of the package is Octavia wagon, which is to say an incredibly practical and family friendly wagon. Right down to the power-operated tailgate, which is standard on RS models.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
The Octavia RS has been something of a cult car since the 1990s – perhaps less of a secret now, as the talents of the latest Skoda range are very well understood (by most). The latest version certainly keeps the faith: it’s a remarkably understated and practical performance car that gets the nod from those in the know.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: No
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
Keyless entry/start: No
Lane guidance: No
Leather upholstery: No
Parking radar: Yes front and rear
Power boot or tailgate: Yes
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes