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Skoda Octavia vRS
SKODA may be better known for practical family cars rather than performance, but its vRS models have carved out quite a niche for themselves.
The Octavia vRS is just as versatile and spacious as the standard Octavia, but thanks to lowered sports suspension and a 2.0 TFSI engine – the same one used in the Volkswagen Golf GTI – it has genuine hot-hatch credentials.
When launched, it was Skoda’s most powerful-ever car, while later a 2.0 TDI engine with 170bhp was introduced. Available as a hatchback or an estate, the Octavia vRS proves that you can combine an enjoyable hot hatch with a sensible family car – and it needn’t break the bank either.
It was given a subtle facelift, so that now you are met by a sharper front end and a more upmarket interior that includes leather seating.
Not only is it more aerodynamic but it has real character now, whereas before it was too anonymous for its own good.
It’s a car that deserves to be noticed too, because it blends such a range of abilities that almost anyone could be happy behind the wheel. This is a performance car based on a very practical one, and you lose none of that practicality when you go down the vRS route, whether that be in saloon or estate form.
Occupants in the back and in the passenger seat will have nothing to grumble about either, with plenty of space for four and enough to make five adults a comfortable proposition. The cabin is typical Skoda too: high in quality, efficiently designed and laid out with just a hint of its Czech roots in the instrument graphics.
There are no confusing gadgets, confusing handbrakes or complicated infotainment systems to trouble your journey either: the touch-screen unit is a doddle to use too, with simple graphics and large buttons to make life easier.
But it is in the driver’s seat that you will gain most pleasure, because there is 200bhp to make your journeys a little less ordinary.
Whatever the gear and whatever the speed, the vRS will pick up the pace, and as well as being fun to drive when you’re in a hurry it also makes for relaxing progress.
Although the vRS has lowered suspension and larger wheels, the ride quality is good enough to cope with whatever a badly-maintained road can throw at it. Firm enough to be agile and composed but soft enough to be untroubled by bad bumps, it allows you to flow along the road at whatever pace you like.
More than most manufacturers, Skoda makes cars for people to buy with their own money, and the combination of value and all-round ability makes it n attractive proposition. It looks like a car from the class above.
In standard form, the Octavia is smart rather than dashing, but with the vRS makeover comes all the necessary addenda. The front bumper is unique and bodycoloured with a large air intake, with a similar item at the rear. Large alloy wheels are standard, with discreet vRS badges front and rear. It’s enough to make you feel like you’re driving something special.
As well as the VW-based chassis, the Octavia vRS borrows that 2.0- litre turbocharged FSI engine from the Golf GTi. That means a wide torque band from low revs, as well as very respectable fuel economy.
In the larger and heavier Octavia shell, the turbo engine can’t deliver the same fireworks as it does in the Golf, but 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 149mph tells its own story. Linear acceleration rather than a sudden turbocharged thump in the back is the result, but this makes for smoother yet equallyrapid progress.
That’s not the sucker punch either.
The five-door version of the Octavia vRS will cost you £20.330, while the five-door Golf GTi is £25,905.
When you know that you could have very similar mechanicals, equipment and more space for £5,575 less, it makes for a tempting proposition.
SKODA OCTAVIA VRS
ENGINE: 2.0litre TFSI petrol.
TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual (DSG option available).
PERFORMANCE: 0 to 62mph in 7.2 seconds; top speed 150mph.
ECONOMY: 37.7mpg combined.
CO2 RATING: 175g/km.