Latest vRS gets a power boost, fresh looks and new technology but how good is it? We find out
What do we have here?
Launched way back in 1995, this is the facelift of the third-generation Skoda Octavia vRS. It’s available as either a five-door hatch or five-door estate.
The updated models get revised looks, headlined by the introduction of quad headlights at the front and redesigned taillights at the rear.
VRS models get a sports front bumper, honeycomb air inlets, grille with vRS badging and LED Headlights.
They come fitted with 18” Gemini anthracite alloy wheels, lowered suspension and a rear diffuser complemented with chrome exhaust tailpipe finishes.
Inside you get sculptured sports seats, vRS embossed door sill trims and stainless steel pedals. Over the previous model, there is larger and revised design for the infotainment touchscreen, which has grown to 9.2in.
Pick between two four-cylinder engines, one petrol and one diesel available in three outputs.
There’s a 2.0 TDI 184PS diesel engine, a 2.0-litre TSI in either 230PS guise, up 10PS from before, and a new range-topping model with 245PS.
All engines get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The diesel and 230PS petrol are offered with an optional six-speed DSG automatic while the 245PS gets a seven-speed DSG version option.
Additionally, the diesel can be selected with all-wheel drive connected to the DSG gearbox.
All vRS models get dual-zone climate control, Amundsen touchscreen satellite navigation, acoustic rear parking sensors, cruise control, performance mode selection, rain sensors and a Supersport 3-spoke leather multi-function steering wheel.
Prices start from £25,185 for the hatchback, while the estate costs an additional £1200.
We’re testing the 2.0 TSI 230PS in estate form and with a manual gearbox which costs £26,385.
Our test car came finished in Moon white metallic paint (£380) and fitted with several options fitted including: Black Design package (£150); Canton sound system (£500); gloss black roof rails (£60); heated front seats (£250); temporary spare saver spare wheel (£100); vRS Alcantara upholstery with heated front seats (£925); and wireless phone charging with Bluetooth + WiFi (£300) pushing the asking price of this car to £29,050.
How does it drive?
The vRS is an entertaining car to drive.
Its four-cylinder 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine develops 227bhp at 4700rpm and 258lb ft of torque at 1500rpm meaning it’ll get from standstill to 62mph in 6.8 seconds.
When compared to the latest hot and mega hatch times to 62mph times, that’s not headline grabbing but it has more than power for most people’s needs and enjoyment. The vRS never leaves you wanting for more and it’s perfectly judged to ensure front end grip is excellent and torque steer doesn’t need to be addressed here.
With a useful chunk of mid-range torque, it’ll pull you along quite happily with little need to change gears, including when you accelerate out of a town or village up to national speed limits.
However, when the need arises, or the want for that matter, changing gears is simple with the lever for the six-speed manual box is within easy reach of your left hand. It also has a sweet action.
While the throw is slightly too long to be finger flickingly good, the light clutch reduces strain in heavy traffic.
The vRS estate is pretty light at just 1367kg (kerb weight) and that shines through when you approach a tight corner. The body stays flat, there’s no discernible understeer, front end grip is excellent and the Octavia feels really chuckable.
Add light but well-weighted steering that’s consistently weighted, willing to turn-in and is brilliantly accurate, then the right ingredients for the perfect hot hatch recipe are starting to amass.
In spite of the sports suspension and 18in alloys, the ride is impressively smooth. Yes, you’ll feel the worst potholes and road scarring but the vRS copes well enough to ensure the ride doesn’t become uncomfortable.
Complementing that is wonderfully set up damping that hushes any vertical movement over lumps and bumps ensuring the vRS remains composed.
Visibility is excellent with relatively thin roof pillars while the extra glass afforded to the estate shape means over-the-shoulder visibility and parking visibility is superb.
What's it like inside?
VRS models get sports seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, vRS sill plates and stainless steel sports pedals.
However, little has changed from the previous model, although the updated infotainment screen does add a touch of class with its piano black surround. The infotainment system is excellent, intuitive, clean and easy to use. You can also control the ventilation through it as well as apps.
All dials are clear to read, most are well-sized and feel pleasant to use.
Finding a comfortable driving position is helped by a driver’s seat that offers good adjustment with a pump lever for height and a rotary dial for the backrest. A second lever adjusts lumbar support.
Head room is excellent as is shoulder and elbow. The Octavia truly has a spacious interior. It also has good storage with a big door bin and glove box, there’s also a sunglasses holder in the roof by the rear-view mirror. There’s an anti-slip tray ahead of the gear lever with a sliding cover, a three-part cupholder between the seats and an averaged sized bin under the central armrest.
Getting into the rear is easy with the large door opening. The seats are firm, supportive yet comfortable.
The front sports seats manage not to impinge on rear space, meaning that foot, leg and knee room is tremendous while head room is excellent. The central transmission tunnel is tall but narrow so can impact on three sitting comfortably.
The door bins aren’t the largest and neither is the small fold out tray between the front seats. A fold down armrest is well padded and has space for 2/3 drinks depending on their sizes. There is also a load through flap to the boot.
Open the tailgate to access the 610-litres of capacity and you’ll find a very low load lip. There is, however, a little drop to the large and flat floor.
There are side compartments and two fold-down bag hooks. Two levers lower the rear seat backrest. There are further anchor points around the boot to secure loads more securely, a 12v socket for power and best of all there’s a removable torch.