Before Christmas I drove Skoda’s diesel Octavia RS, which I summed up as a ‘hooligan in disguise’ – a family car with plenty of comfort and space, but with a wilder side. It’s certainly a decent car, with a sporty design, smooth gearbox, and is both fast and fun to drive. What I was really looking forward to, however, was the chance to get behind the wheel of the boosted petrol version.
Both cars look much the same inside and out, they have much the same in terms of comfort, high quality and soft touch materials, and technology. The drive, however, is far sharper in the petrol-powered RS 230, which boasts an additional 46bhp over the TDI (ten extra horsepowers on the standard RS) and is all the better for it. Where the diesel is a little hesitant when you put your foot down, the RS 230 shows no such qualms. It positively charges forward, thundering through the gears with plenty of pulling power in each and every one, an exhilarating experience that you won’t tire of too easily. The six speed manual gearbox (DSG is also available) might not be as handy for commuting through the city on a Monday morning, but when you reach the open road and the RS 230 growls as you push it forward, you really feel like part of the car itself.
It isn’t however, the most comfortable of cars on the road, and you can thank the stiffer sports suspension and the large wheels for that, though switching to 18-inch alloys would go a long way to solving that issue. Nor is it the most efficient car from Skoda’s current line up, but that’s to be expected. Driving without too much sudden acceleration netted an average consumption of 7L/100km (40mpg). Have a little fun and this creeps up to around 11L/100km (25mpg).
Not content with being the fastest production Octavia yet, the RS 230 is also the first Skoda to be fitted with an electronically controlled front axle inter-wheel lock, which was originally developed for use in motorsport. In simple English the steering is more accurate, while the tyres root out extra grip and traction. Cornering is where you’ll notice its work – 100 per cent of the power can be directed to one front wheel, giving greater traction and grip as you exit a corner. It’s not something you’re really going to use in everyday driving, but when putting the RS through its paces on some twisty roads you could really feel it hugging the bends as you power through and shoot out the far side.
And there’s more to come. At the beginning of this month, Skoda announced the impending arrival of new turbocharged petrol engine producing 240bhp, hurtling from 0-100k/h in 6.6 seconds and a top speed limited to 250km/h – the most powerful RS they’ve ever produced. That’s paired to a six speed manual gearbox or, for the first time in an Octavia, a seven speed DSG transmission. Petrolheads rejoice.
The petrol and diesel versions are quite similar inside the cabin – black leather bucket seats with red RS stitching, touches of chrome throughout. There’s plenty of space for the kids in the back, not to mention the 590L boot, which I’m not ashamed to admit I got into. And there was plenty of room to spare. If practicality is your thing then you might prefer the estate version which, in Skoda parlance, is known as the Combi. That gives you a 610L boot rising to 1,740L with the rear seats folded – more than capable of tackling a dreaded trip to IKEA.
It’s also as good looking on the outside, particularly with the addition of the RS 230 pack, a black design package that offers some tweaks to the regular RS – two-tone colour styles throughout, front and rear park assist, as well as a lap timer and flappy paddles if you opt for the DSG automatic gearbox. My test model came in metallic white, one of a handful of cars that actually look good in that colour, particularly as it came paired with 19-inch black alloys.
So, how many of your hard-earned euros must you part with? For an additional €620 on the standard RS, you can pick up the hatchback RS 230 for €35,995, while the automatic version weighs in at €38,495 (the respective Combi versions retail at €36,995 and €39,495). For that you get the 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and full leather interior, bi-xenon headlights, twin tailpipes and front and rear parking sensors as standard, as well as a three-year warranty and more. That’s pretty much on par with Volkswagen’s Golf GTI (with which it shares its engine), which starts off at €37,370 for the 2.0L 220bhp version, though the Golf is probably the better looking of the two.
The way I look at it is this – if you want a flashier, sporty car that will get from 0-100km/h a little faster, opt for the GTI. However, if you’d like something that looks and performs like a family car, but can go toe to toe with most of the cars on Irish roads today, the RS 230 is the one for you.
Skoda Octavia RS230 hatchback
Engine: 2.0 TSI Petrol
Transmission: Six speed manual
0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
CO2 emissions:142 g/km
Road tax: €390
Combined fuel economy: 7L/100km (40mpg)