Skoda Octavia VRS review
The Skoda Octavia vRS blends the standard Octavia’s practical, well-built interior with a powerful engine and sportier driving characteristics. That said, other hot hatches are more exciting
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Skoda Octavia VRS: what would you like to read next?
The Skoda Octavia vRS is a brilliant option if you want a well-built, very practical family car – or even more spacious estate – that’s pretty quick, but not horrendously expensive to run.
The vRS was released in 2013 and updated in 2017 with a new, somewhat startled-looking twin-headlight design, an upgraded eight-inch infotainment screen, LED headlights and a 10hp power boost.
That increase means it now has 230hp, which is enough to get the Octavia vRS from 0-62mph in just 6.7 seconds, although fuel economy of more than 40mpg is easily achievable at a cruise. Go for an overtake at any legal speed, though, and the vRS’ power lets you speed past slower traffic quickly and safely.
That’s even more true of the new vRS 245 model that, you guessed it, has 245hp along with a limited-slip differential that makes the Octavia grippier in corners.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the one to have if you’re partial to driving down a country road at speed but even the basic model feels agile in bends, if not quite as pinned to the road as the likes of the Ford Focus ST. That said, the Skoda is a much more comfortable cruiser than the Ford when you’re just driving normally.
It’s also a significantly more practical family car than the Focus will ever be. Its large body means it has lots of rear legroom and a massive 590-litre boot. The five-star Euro NCAP rating for safety only cements the feeling that the Skoda was built firmly with the family in mind.
Perhaps not ‘showy’ families though, because the Skoda’s interior lacks the glitzy touches you get in a Golf GTI. All you get is a sprinkling of vRS badges and a pair of sports seats that don’t really shout that this is the fastest model in the range.
The predictable handling won't be very entertaining for some drivers but others will love how easy the Octavia vRS is to drive fast
What you can’t grumble about is how well built the Skoda feels. There are no squeaks or rattles to worry about, plastic quality is mostly very good, interior trim pieces have consistent gaps that give a feeling of precision and the well-thought-out layout makes the dashboard’s controls easy to operate.
The new eight-inch sat-nav system is equally as intuitive. ‘Hot’ keys let you skip between sub menus and the large volume knob is easy to feel for as you drive down the road. On top of that, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Skoda’s SmartLink+ are fitted as standard, so you can use the apps on your compatible smartphone via the car’s big screen.
This ease of use seems to run through the Skoda – it’s fast, but its performance doesn’t come at the expense of everyday practicality or comfort. If you want to see what kind of deals are available on the Skoda Octavia vRS, click through to the deals page.
The Skoda Octavia vRS has masses of space for the passengers, as well as a huge boot, and the only shame is that you have to pay extra for an adjustable boot floor
This is the ideal car for the person who just wants everything: it's even more functional than it is fun to drive
What the Octavia vRS’ interior lacks in sporty character it more than makes up for in terms of space – no other hot hatch can offer anywhere near the passenger room or boot capacity of the Skoda.
Getting comfortable in the front is easy and that remains true even on long journeys because both the vRS’ front seats come with lumbar adjustment that presses your back in just the right place. The driving position is also spot on because the steering wheel has a wide range of adjustment and both seats move for height.
Sadly, the back seats don’t have any adjustment, but they get close to offering the same amount of space. The Octavia has levels of rear legroom that models such as the Peugeot 308 GTI, Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST don’t get close to matching – even tall adults will have more than enough kneeroom.
The only downside of the vRS models is its one-piece front seats, with headrests that form a continuous part of the seat back. They restrict your rear passengers’ view out the front of the car and might make them feel car sick.
The back gets a little more cosy with three adults shoved in the back. Passengers on the outer seats are likely to brush their heads on the rear door pillars and will have to share their footwells with the person sitting in the middle. In fairness, the Skoda is better suited to carrying three than most other cars at the price.
The Octavia’s big back doors also give you better access to the rear seats when you’re fitting a child seat and the Isofix points are easy to see once you remove the plastic tabs they’re hidden behind.
The vRS has more practical features hidden in its interior than the more sensible models in the range. They do without the vRS’ illuminated mirrors on the back of the sunvisors, a glovebox and cubby under the front centre armrest that are cooled by the air conditioning, pockets on the backs of the front seats, an umbrella hidden under the front passenger seat and a sunglasses holder in the roof of the car.
These touches give the impression Skoda wants to make your life easier, and go on top of a vast array of other cubby spaces, including door pockets that’ll hold multiple bottles of water, four cupholders and a lidded tray for your phone.
And there’s no let up in practicality when it comes to the boot, which is also massive. Its 590-litre capacity means it can easily gobble up four suitcases at once, or carry regular items such as golf clubs or a baby buggy. It’s so spacious that you only need consider the 610-litre estate model if you regularly carry seriously bulky loads that will be better suited to its boxy shape.
For bigger loads, the regular car’s rear seats fold down 60:40 – so you can carry something long and still have room for two people on the back seat – increasing the boot’s total capacity to 1,580 litres, which is enough for a generous portion of Ikea flat pack furniture.
That said, getting loads like that in will be much easier if you pay £150 for the variable boot floor that eliminates the sizeable load lip and also smooth’s out the bump in the floor when you drop the rear seats.
The Skoda Octavia vRS is quick in a straight line, has plenty of grip in corners and is relaxing on the motorway, but other hot hatches are even faster and feel more focused
This is a hot hatch so a petrol exhaust note is almost essential for the full experience
The Skoda vRS is available with a choice of three 2.0-litre engines – the 230hp petrol or 184hp diesel fitted to the regular vRS, or the 245hp petrol fitted to the vRS 245.
Your best bet is one of the two petrol engines because they are quieter and smoother than the clattery diesel and also a lot quicker. Whatever legal speed you’re going at the vRS has rapid performance and the engine always seems to have power unlike the peakier delivery you get in cars such as the Peugeot 308 GTI.
On-paper performance is very similar whether ever model you go for – the 230 gets from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds; the 245 does it in 6.6 – both are limited to a healthy top speed of 155mph and both can return more than 40mpg on the motorway.
Where you will notice a difference though, is in corners, where the 245’s limited-slip differential gives the Octavia’s front tyres more grip to slingshot out of bends even more vigorously than the standard car.
Next to the feisty petrols, the 184hp diesel seems ever so slightly dull. It gets from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds so doesn’t feel as quick nor as responsive. Its impressive mid-range performance means it’s a quick overtaker on the motorway and it should easily return 60mpg at a cruise, so there is a case for choosing it if you do lots of motorway miles.
It’s also worth considering if you often drive on slippery roads or tow a caravan, because it’s the only vRS available with four-wheel drive.
The Skoda Octavia vRS has stiffer suspension and bigger wheels (18 inches on the 230 and 19s on the 245) than the standard car so it grips harder in corners and resists body lean well.
If you’re a keen driver, go for the 245 model that comes with a clever limited-slip differential. As you accelerate out of a corner, it sends power to whichever front wheel has the most grip, allowing you to fly out of bends without spinning your tyres.
That said, cars such as the Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus ST – with their extra power and stiffer suspension – will be much quicker than the Skoda if you take them on track.
But it when it comes to normal driving, the Octavia is a much better bet than either of those two. Hit the motorway and you can switch the car’s drive select from Sport to Comfort, which tones down engine noise and – if you have specified the optional £850 adaptive dampers – softens up the suspension. Primed like this, the vRS is almost as comfortable as the softly sprung standard car.
Those adaptive dampers are a particularly attractive option if you do a lot of town driving. They take the edge off smaller bumps and broken road surfaces. The optional £1,390 DSG automatic gearbox means there’s no clutch pedal to operate in busy traffic, but it can be a little jerky at low speeds, and makes the Octavia that bit harder to manoeuvre slowly.
That said, parking is still pretty easy. Plus, rear parking sensors are fitted as standard and, if you’re really not a fan of reversing, the £375 rear-view camera is a worthwhile option.
Annoyingly, if you want automatic emergency braking – which is standard in the Golf GTI – you’ll have to pay £200 extra. And, while the Octavia scored five out of five in 2012 Euro NCAP crash tests, new models such as the Hyundai i30, which got a five-star rating in 2016’s tougher test, will be even safer.
The interior of the Skoda Octavia vRS is very well built, but it doesn’t feel quite special enough for a top-of-the-range car