October 29, 2013 5:10 PM |
Posted By: James Clark
Rated 3.8 out of 5.0 by 4 members
Up until 2001 Skoda was never really known for producing performance cars - but that year the first vRS badged Skoda was released and gained something of a following. Since then the vRS badged Skodas have become a decent way for people to go pretty quickly without having to part with a massive chunk of their hard-earned money. Has Skoda really created a car that can match its parent company VW’s Golf GTi?
I have experience of driving the previous Octavia vRS (albeit, with a diesel engine) so knew roughly what to expect, but the performance compared with that car was on another level. The MK3 petrol powered vRS features the same 2.0 TSI turbo engine as the Golf GTi meaning 217bhp and a meaty 258lbs/ft (the latter remarkably matches the output of the MK2 diesel). Looking at this car’s 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds it would be easy to dismiss it as a fast-ish family hatch, but in gear is where the vRS really shines, feeling genuinely fast. A look down at the speedo changing up at the top of third gear made me utter a swift “bloody hell” and glance in my mirrors for fear of seeing flashing blue lights appearing over the horizon.
The six-speed manual gearbox compliments the engine well, feeling very light but providing a precise shift action, meaning that changing gear never feels like a chore. Thanks to the turbo engine’s flexibility, you can use the six ratios as you please, either by wringing the engine out to its redline or making use of the low and mid-range torque to dispatch dawdlers. Both techniques proved equally effective on Dorset’s tourist and caravan ridden B-roads!
The steering feels a bit light and artificial, but pop the car into sport mode and some welcome, albeit artificial weight is added (as well as some more engine noise piped into the cabin). You can definitely feel the Golf GTi genes as the vRS is quick to turn in and fills you with the confidence you really need when you are attacking a typical British B-road, especially with the cars XDS+ system working well on the exit of tighter corners. The overwhelming sensation when driving the vRS quickly is one of capability rather than raw excitement, feeling most comfortable at about 7 tenths, which is not a massive problem as most people (me included) have no intention of, or enough skill to drive any faster and means that you will still be travelling at rather antisocial speeds.
When you calm down a bit, the car settles well as despite the suspension being fairly firm, it’s well damped and by no means uncomfortable. Couple this with the relatively good fuel economy and it makes a very convincing and rapid motorway cruiser.
Inside the new vRS has taken massive steps up in look and quality over the previous car, still making use of grey and black plastics but feeling like a much nicer place to spend time. The large screen featuring the cars nav, media, DAB radio and car settings was a particularly nice touch. For me, the seats were a definite highlight, providing both ridiculous comfort and a good amount of support.
Overall then, this Octavia is a very capable car. Fast, practical (especially if you opt for the estate), fairly decent on fuel – Skoda claim 45.6mpg - and it’s easy to drive. Price has gone up from the last model to £22,990, but is still around £3000 cheaper than the equivalent Golf. The lack of true excitement may put a lot of keen drivers off - the vRS is definitely no Megane Renaultsport, but it appears to have plenty to offer to someone that needs a blend of practicality and performance. So the Octavia vRS remains a car that you would buy with you head rather your heart, but what’s wrong with that?