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
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.
This is a hot hatch so a petrol exhaust note is almost essential for the full experience
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.
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.