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Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TSI

Click to view picture galleryGo-faster Skodas get to wear a
  vRS badge. Note the small
  Churchillian rather than East End,
  although it
s meaningful either way.
  As you
d expect, vRS badges are
  only attached to something with real
  oomph under its bonnet
like the
  sporty new 154mph Octavia vRS...

DEFINE 'OOMPH'. Okay, on the five-door Octavia hatchback and estate models we're looking at 154mph and 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds courtesy of 216bhp from a turboed 2.0 TSI petrol engine with a six-speed manual 'box.

Just £22,990 will put you in the driving seat of a vRS. And to put that in perspective, this large family five-door hatch can be yours for £3,790 less than you'd spend on buying the latest five-door Golf GTI which, as it happens, uses the same engine (the Golf is fractionally faster with a 6.5-second 0-62mph time).

Makes you think, doesn't it? And in case you think there's a catch for this level of performance from a fully-fledged (and well specced) family car then you're mistaken - officially the undeniably speedy Octavia vRS is good for 45.6mpg (combined) with 36.7 around the houses and 53.3mpg on long runs.

“Given that the average
Brit spends three years of
their life in their car,
good seats are essential.
Those in the
Octavia vRS won’t leave
any user regretting time
spent in one.
A hard-pressed seven days tearing up the tarmac and taking in a fair wedge of town work in the hands of the MotorBar crew saw 36.8mpg displayed on the driver's information screen by the week's end. We probably could have done better, but then the vRS does entice you to go for it more than you might imagine!

Looks-wise, the vRS has definite presence, courtesy of anthracite 18-inch alloys shod with 225/40 Dunlop rubber, red brake callipers, a spoiler on the bootlid, front and rear diffusers, and twin stainless steel tailpipes. But it's the colour that makes it really catch the eye our vRS was resplendent in striking Race Blue metallic, and stand out it certainly did.

The core body styling remains fairly understated although there are interesting touches such as the kicked-up flourish on the rear door that looks like an aircraft's tail fin and the distinctive squared 'C' shape LED tail lights.

The predominantly black cabin is inviting. The overall design is easy to live with, fit and finish can't be faulted and there's just enough quality brightwork and carbon-effect trim to lighten-up the mostly black theme.

Given that the average Brit spends three years of their life in their car, good seats are essential. Those in the Octavia won't leave any user regretting time spent in one. Those up front enjoy race-style bucket seats (leather with ribbed fabric centre panels and 'vRS' branding) made better by integrated headrests. Their long bases provide good under-thigh support; they also adjust for height and have manually adjustable lumbar support.

The seatbelts are also height-adjustable. For the rest, footwells are roomy and the driver gets an ally pedal set along with plenty of elbow room for wheel twirling. And visibility out is good, helped by slim A-pillars.

The vRS multifunction wheel has a very grippy perforated leather rim and viewed through its upper arc are crisp dials kept apart by an easy-to-read driver's information display whose repertoire includes absolutely essential these days a large digital speed read-out.

“Rear passengers have
much to be pleased
about as the increase in
wheelbase over the
previous generation
Octavia means their
knees enjoy more room
than in any other car in
the same segment.
Neat touches for socially-mobile drivers include a Bluetooth system with an internal phone book that can store thousands of contacts. Specify Bluetooth+ and you get upgraded reception place your phone in the special compartment ahead of the gear lever and the signal is boosted through the car's aerial, benefiting both reception and prolonging battery life.

Worthwhile too is the Fatigue Sensor. This monitors the driver's movements through the steering wheel and if he or she begins to show signs of tiredness then the car will audibly alert them with a tone alongside a 'Take a break!' prompt on the on trip computer display between the main dials.

And there's plenty of kit dual-zone AirCon, leather, sports seats, 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, Sports suspension, Performance Mode Selection (Normal, Sport, Eco, and Individual), four one-shot power windows, powered and heated door mirrors, onboard computer, Bluetooth, DAB radio, rear parking sensors, auto drive-away locking, touchscreen with CD player, voice control for phone and navigation, tinted glass, sunglasses storage, cooled glovebox, Stop/Start, and a set of 18-inch alloys. Our test car's 8-inch touchscreen with 3D bird's-eye view infotainment system (including navigation) is a 1,350 option.

More well-considered standard features include a multimedia holder that slots into any of the cup holders to hold your mobile, a large locker under the front passenger seat, a decent glasses holder in the roof that's actually big enough to hold a real-world pair of shades (most are far too small), a big, cooled glovebox with a 6-disc autostacker and 2 x SD card slots, and an ice scraper in the lockable fuel filler flap.

Safety equipment comprises seven airbags (including one for the driver's knee), Driver Alert system, Lane Assist, Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights, auto lights and wipes, Hill Hold, tyre pressure monitoring, cornering fog lights and an electronic stability control system.

Rear passengers have much (11cm, actually) to be pleased about as the increase in wheelbase over the previous generation Octavia means their knees enjoy more room than in any other car in the same segment. Deep side windows keep it all airy and three adults will fit side-by-side without squabbling; two can happily share the big, wide padded drop-down centre armrest.

“With your family safely
belted-in around you,
the vRS is a civilised
and unstressed
mile-munching machine
— even the universally
annoying AWTY
(Are we there yet?)
question will fail to rile
a vRS driver.
Also class-leading is the Octavia's boot 590 litres is what you get with five aboard; eject three and fold down the rear seats and this jumps to a cavernous 1,580 litres. Loading is at knee height, which will be fine for most people.

Also likely to be much appreciated is the reversible boot floor mat: proper carpet one side; the other side is waterproof and non-slip and perfect for those recreational trips to the woods with the family dog. Sturdy hooks for shopping bags round off the vRS's versatility.

This is a bigger car than the Golf GTI but the vRS's underpinnings and running gear are much the same as those of a regular GTI. Its sports suspension mods (shorter sports springs have dropped it 15mm closer to the ground plus the anti-roll bars have been beefed up and the dampers tweaked) have made the Octavia vRS's handling enjoyably taut while remaining reassuringly predictable.

With your family safely belted-in around you, the vRS is a civilised and unstressed mile-munching machine even the universally annoying AWTY (Are we there yet?) question will fail to rile a vRS driver.

But while it's more than family-friendly it can be instantly game-on whenever you call it. Because occupying the vRS's engine bay is the same turboed 2.0-litre powerplant as can be found under the bonnet of the Golf GTI. In fact, underpinning this latest Octavia is the same chassis and drivetrain components as are used by the VW Group's Audi A3, Seat Leon and VW Golf.

The vRS's engine is a smooth-revving unit and it packs a real punch: 216bhp backed up with a muscular 258lb ft of torque that stays with you all the way from 1,500 through to 4,400rpm. No surprise then that there always feels to be plenty in hand; when driven with verve it's unfailingly eager to leap forward with a growl whether you're overtaking a string of stragglers or powering out of a corner. And accessing any gear at any point is fuss-free as the short-ish throw gear lever has a snappy change action.

While it is firmer-riding than a regular Octavia, the vRS's sporty suspension is compliant enough to ensure you don't reap 'hard' from 'firm' it actually accommodates the jolting bumps and potholes that UK motorists have long since given up bitching about surprisingly well.

“As you’d expect,
Sport mode really wakes
everything up —
barrelling round snaking
roads the vRS feels
invigoratingly wieldy.
Standard equipment includes Skoda's Performance Mode Selection which lets you choose your own performance options: Normal, Sport, Eco, and Individual all pretty self-explanatory. Needless to say most of our test was conducted in Sport mode with Comfort switched in for the remainder of the time.

As you'd expect, Sport mode really wakes everything up or, if you prefer to dabble, you can mix and match the various settings for the torque, accelerator sensitivity, power steering and air conditioning.

In Sport mode the steering is also at its best: weighty and as quick as it needs to be to stay with the chassis. Handling too is palpably sharper, body control is strong and the grip impressive; barrelling round snaking roads the vRS feels invigoratingly wieldy.

Skoda has also fitted the vRS with a performance sound generator to ramp-up the engine's soundtrack stick it in Sport mode, give it some wellie and you'll be rewarded by a more-ish hard-edged growl in the cabin.

The new Octavia's subtle styling boosted by Golf GTI power make the RS a bit of a Q-car handy when Big Brother really is watching. For drivers keen to break the 'convoy' monotony of everyday motoring without spending too much money (a temptingly reasonable 23K) while appeasing the family (who'll love the generous rear accommodation) and the dog (who'll love the 590-litre boot and non-slip mat), the vRS is right on the money. — MotorBar

Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TSI | 22,990
Maximum speed: 154mph | 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds | Average Test MPG: 36.8mpg
Power: 216bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 142g/km