Skoda packs Really Special punch

Skoda Octavia vRS Estate

By Bill McCarthy

It could be argued that the Octavia became the breakthrough model for Skoda when it made its debut back in 1996. That was just a few years after the Czech firm was bought out by Volkswagen, with the new model standing out from the Czech manufacturer’s dated-looking range.

But it really came to prominence with its first upgrade in 2004, when the car buying public started to sit up and take notice, particularly when the sporty vRS models were then introduced.

It got better and better, challenging even its own stablemate VW models in terms of quality and sporty performance. No longer cheap, this model is a cool £32,695, but packed with creature comforts, hi-tech aids and a raft of safety kit, it is certainly competitive. You could sit inside and without the badges not know if you were in a Skoda or a VW or even an Audi.

On this vRS, the 245bhp two litre petrol engine, mated to the slick-shifting eight speed DSG box delivers rapid pace, with the smooth revving two-litre engine propelling the car to 60mph in 6.7 seconds.

All that pace demands the safety technology to complement it and the vRS has an electronic limited-slip differential as standard, while the sports chassis, which comes as standard, lowers the car by 15 mm for better grip and stability. And it does grip brilliantly. Switch to sport mode and everything sharpens up as the car takes sharp bends with ease, with excellent feedback from the responsive steering.

It is a testament to gradual evolution and sometimes incremental change is a winner. It is also true that estate cars have now shed their workhorse image and challenge anything in the design stakes. There is perhaps no better example that this model. It offers  practicality with a massive boot, excellent fuel economy through the VW sourced engine and a solid build quality.

The exterior design is the best yet, all angles and creases, with a swooping silhouette which disguises the fact that at heart it is an estate.

But the sporting clues are there in a much understated way with the vRS badging, 19-inch alloys, radiator grille and wing mirrors in gloss black, full LED Matrix headlights, full LED tail lights, black 18-inch alloys and red brake callipers as standard. The vRS logo, inspired by the firm’s motorsport tradition, is prominent on the radiator grille and tailgate, is inspired by the firm’s motorsport tradition.

The wing mirror housings, the window frames, roof bars and diffuser on the rear apron all come with a black finish, while the chrome exhaust pipes finish off the sporty look.

 The interior continues with the sporty but subtle theme and features a sporty black carbon finish and sports seats trimmed with red stitching and the vRS logo. Also included are  carbon-effect decorative strips on the dashboard, pedals in an aluminium design and a frameless rear-view mirror and smart puddle lights.

The centrepiece is the 10-inch digital screen which controls navigation connectivity and infotainment systems. It offers a permanent internet connection provided by a built-in eSIM which enables the use of numerous mobile online services. The infotainment systems can also be operated using voice command at any time.

  Bluetooth, USB and aux-in connection sockets are also available, while the 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit is standard and features an additional Sport layout and a vRS-specific welcome logo.

The sporty theme continues with the three-spoke, multifunction leather sports steering wheel with shift paddles for manual operation of the eight-speed electronic DSG auto gearbox. Here the traditional gear shifter has been replaced with a small, rocker-style switch for gear changes, including parking mode, freeing up extra space on the console. 

 Crucial for an estate, of course, is the boot space, with 640 litres available with the rear seats in place, 1,740 litres with the rear seat folded. A shopping net and cargo hooks will keep things stable in the cavernous boot space.

For safety there are seven airbags, front, front side, curtain, driver’s knee, plus, driver fatigue sensor, hill hold control, plus traction and stability control programmes.

Factfile

Skoda Octavia vRS Estate

Price: £ 32,695

Mechanical: 1984cc, 245PS, four-cylinder petrol engine driving front wheels via seven-speed DSG auto transmission

Maximum speed: 155mph

Acceleration: 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds

Economy: 35-40 mpg

Insurance group: 14E

CO2 emissions: 159-181g/km

Warranty: three years, 60,000 miles

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