Skoda Octavia vRS review
The Skoda Octavia vRS is just as practical, but now even plusher inside and adds a super economical plug-in hybrid model. Shame it isn’t more fun to drive, though.
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The new Skoda Octavia vRS is big news in the world of hot hatches because it’s, well, massive. Octavias always have been.
Better still, the new one is more efficient, too, because it features a range of new tech including an optional hybrid system. The hybrid model shares its hybrid drive tech with the new Cupra Leon and VW Golf GTE, but wraps it up in a more practical family-focused package.
The new Skoda Octavia vRS takes the recently revamped Octavia and adds plenty of sporty features. The front grille now gets a moody black finish, there’s a huge new air intake in the bottom half of the front bumper and the plastic trims above the fog lights come painted black, too. Lowered suspension, larger alloy wheels and a subtle lip spoiler on the hatchback’s bootlid complete the Octavia’s vRS makeover.
The new Skoda Octavia vRS’s interior follows a pattern set by the latest VW Golf and SEAT Leon. Everything’s very simple, minimalist and (mostly) button-free. It features a large central touchscreen infotainment system, a digital driver’s display instead of conventional analogue dials and a dinky selector switch instead of a chunky gear lever.
The dashboard has a slightly more flowing design to it than these cars, though, and you get plenty of bright red trims to make sure you don’t mistake it for the standard Octavia inside. Red mood lighting on the doors and red stitching on the more supportive sports seats add to the vRS’s sporty demeanour, as do the embroidered headrests and vRS-specific graphics on the driver’s display.
Will a plug-in hybrid hot hatch ever catch on? Well, it might have to, because you'll be seeing a lot more of them going forward.
Of course, this being an Octavia, adults of all sizes will sit comfortably. There’s loads of space around the front seats and two tall adults will stretch out in the back too, let alone kids. A simply huge boot takes care of the luggage – bigger than that of any other hot hatch.
The new Skoda Octavia vRS is available as a vRS iV hybrid model. This uses the same combination of 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor as the new VW Golf GTE and hybrid variants of the Cupra Leon.
As a result, it produces an identical 245hp and drives the front wheels through the same six-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Skoda says it’ll reach 60mph from rest in less than 7.3 seconds and reach 140mph. You’ll also be able to travel for around 39 miles using just electric power.
The new Octavia isn’t just going to come as a hybrid, though – you’ll also be able to get a purely-petrol-powered version with a 245hp 2.0-litre engine. This model will come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, or you can upgrade to a seven-speed DSG automatic, and it also features an electronic limited-slip differential for maximum traction out of corners.
Finally, there’ll also be a 200hp 2.0-litre diesel-powered Octavia vRS. This model will ditch the manual gearbox option and come with the seven-speed auto as standard. But, you will be able to upgrade from front- to four-wheel drive for a bit of extra traction in slippery conditions.
So, if you like your hot hatch with a decent dose of space, look no further than the Skoda Octavia. Head to our deals page for the best prices.
The Octavia vRS is massive for people and luggage, but the folded rear seats leave a ridge in the boot floor.
Being big on the outside translates into being big on the inside, too.
There’s a simply enormous amount of space for four occupants in the Octavia, although while there’s decent space for a fifth person in the middle of the rear seat, they’re likely to feel a bit unloved because the seat itself isn’t that plush or comfortable.
The front sports seats are large with huge side bolsters to support you when you’re getting on with getting where you need to be, and there’s loads of headroom, legroom and adjustment, so getting comfortable will never be a problem.
Rear-seat occupants will feel pretty good about their lot, too, because there’s also loads of space, on top of which the sculpted seats hold you in just the right way. Unless you’re in the middle.
The two outside rear passengers also get a neat little pocket on the back of the front seats for their smartphones, although it’s a shame this is sited so low – it’d be nice if you could watch videos on your phone while it was supported in the pocket.
There are quite a few oddment areas doted around the Octavia’s cabin. For a start, the glovebox is a decent size, and it’s backed up by a large cubby below the armrest between the front seats.
The centre console also contains a lidded area with two cupholders, which also have rubber grippers to hold a bottle steady.
Ahead of the gearlever sits a flat area for your smartphone, and it also contains a couple of USB sockets so you can charge it up.
There’s another little storage area by the driver’s right knee, and the door pockets are truly enormous. Better still, they’re lined so that the stuff in them doesn’t rattle.
In the back, the door bins are also large and lined, and the central armrest features a couple of cupholders.
As with any Octavia, the boot is enormous, allowing you to carry a full 600 litres of stuff. The only slight gripe is the fact that there’s nowhere to stash the parcel shelf below the floor.
The boot is a decent shape, and there are all the usual hooks and lashing points to make sure everything remains where you put it, even during a spirited drive home.
The seats fold down with just a tug of a lever on the side of the load compartment, but there’s nothing clever about them so the backrest simply sit on top of the cushions, and so leave a small ridge in the boot floor. It just means that you’ll need to lift large and heavy items over the ridge when sliding them into the boot.
The Octavia vRS is quick and secure, but isn’t actually a whole lot of fun to drive.
Variety is the spice, apparently, and Skoda seems to agree because you can have your Octavia vRS with a choice of three powertrains.
The conventional hot hatch engine is the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit that produces 245hp and 370Nm of torque. This drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed twin-clutch DSG automatic and an electronic limited-slip differential to maximise traction.
The second engine choice is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that generates 200hp and 400Nm, and you can have this as just front-wheel drive or with four-wheel drive.
The final option is the plug-in hybrid, which links a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor. This combination generates 245hp and 400Nm. This is a front-drive-only powertrain.
A 7kW wall charger will top up the batteries in a couple of hours, which will allow you to do around 39 miles on electric power alone.
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is pretty punchy, and feels like it will easily match Skoda’s performance claims. It revs cleanly and has proper strength to get what is quite a large car moving from a standstill.
The twin-clutch DSG gearbox changes gear swiftly and smoothly, and does a pretty decent job of knowing which gear you want to be in at any given moment.
The Octavia vRS’s suspension is stiffer and 15mm lower than that in lesser Octavias, and you can really feel the difference. It does good job of dealing with the UK’s scarred backroads, and doesn’t get too deflected by bumps. The body remains under total control at all times, too, so you don’t have to put up with any unseemly pitching and rolling.
The ‘progressive’ steering is neat, too, because it’s quick enough to required just a single turn to go from straight ahead to full lock at parking speeds, but is slow enough so that it doesn’t feel frantic at faster speeds.
Having said all that, a Volkswagen Golf GTI, with which the Octavia shares many parts, definitely feels sharper and more involving, and a Honda Civic Type R is a whole load sharper still. The Octavia also suffers from some unpleasant wheel hopping when you put your foot down in slippery conditions. Not nice.
Still, the Octavia vRS also comes with matrix LED headlights that automatically block out part of their beam when a car comes towards you or you catch slower traffic. In effect, you can have full beam on all the time and the car takes care of not blinding anyone.
The interior is much more stylish than those of previous Octavias, but some scratchy trims let the side down.
Skoda Octavia vRS colours
- From £380