There are a few cars that have made a lasting impression over my few years of motoring reviews. The Audi R8, for obvious reasons. The outlandish electric BMW i3 and the fantastic Toyota GT86. And now the Skoda Octavia RS has joined that list.
There is the possibility that I may be a little biased when it comes to the Octavia. My first car, the car in which I learned to drive, was a Mark I Octavia, which I quickly came to appreciate for both its simplicity and its cavernous boot during my college years. And the latest Octavia RS is a great example of how much the brand has evolved.
At first glance you might not notice too much difference from a standard Octavia. But if you take a closer look there’s no mistaking that it’s a distinct beast. The spoiler might be the first indication. The styling is sharper and sportier, the extra sports pack (€965 adds anthracite alloys, scuff plates, black grille, black window surrounds, and black exterior mirror housing) on my test car really boosting the RS in the looks department.
The real difference comes when you sit behind the wheel. Straight away you’ll realise that it’s a car designed to put a smile on your face, even as you drop the kids to school. Driving is an absolute pleasure and you have the best of all worlds with the smooth DSG gearbox, and flappy paddles if you’re feeling particularly sporty. The automatic gearbox makes urban driving a doddle, while you can sit back and relax on the motorways. There’s the faintest hint of lag when you put your foot to the floor, as if the RS is taking a deep breath, and then milliseconds later you find yourself hurtling along, gripping the road no matter what the surface and only displaying a hint of body roll in the corners. Do yourself a favour if and when you get behind the wheel of one – take a trip from Dublin to Glendalough and you won’t regret it.
There’s even a proper handbrake (whatever you might use that for) and a lap timer for the competitive drivers, the latter as part of the optional RS Challenge sports pack. 4X4 capabilities offer a little extra comfort in challenging conditions – the RS’ onboard computer, which constantly monitors traction, diverts power to individual wheels as required.
Despite the plentiful power under the bonnet, courtesy of a 2.0L TDI producing 184bhp (my test model; a petrol version is also available), the RS can be quite economical when you put your mind to it. The multimedia centre includes a display of how much fuel the mirror heating and air con is consuming, and there’s a GreenScore which judges how efficiently you’re driving, though you can always switch off the screen. Over the course of a week of putting the RS through its paces I averaged 6.3L/100km or 44.8mpg. The temptation to put your foot down, however, reigns supreme.
It’s also quite a practical car, as befits a Skoda. There’s plenty of space, it’s easy to park, and the kids won’t be squished in the back. The RS doesn’t have quite the same premium feel as the Skoda Superb which I drove recently, and not as much storage either – the compartment between the front seats is a lot smaller, though the door pockets do offer some decent space. It’s also quite comfortable and spacious in the back. You can tell it’s a Skoda by the vast boot, with 590L of space to play with.
The interior is much like the outside – sporty but in a more subtle way. Strips of carbon fibre line each door, there are very comfortable bucket seats in the front, and a small, innocuous button marked RS in front of the gear lever changes the driving mode of the car between Eco, Normal, Sport and an Individual mode that allows you to tailor the drive in terms of steering, weight, throttle response and the engine growl. Onboard technology is also quite sensible – a media centre, rearview camera and sensors, rear parking sensors, cruise control and a tyre pressure monitoring system all come as standard.
Sporty, fast and fun to drive, the Octavia RS is a more practical alternative to the similarly priced Golf GTD (€38,580 vs €38,795 for the entry level RS) – a hooligan in more sensible shoes. Take it for a spin and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Skoda Octavia RS 2.0L TDI 4×4
0-100KM/H: 7.6 SECONDS
TOP SPEED: 228KM/H
FUEL ECONOMY: 6.3L/100KM (44.8MPG)
CO2 EMISSIONS: 129G/100KM
ANNUAL TAX: €270
PRICE AS TESTED: €40,817 (STARTING FROM €38,795)