Tested: 2.0-litre TDi 184bhp diesel, 6-speed manual, FWD
Since its introduction in 1996, Škoda's Octavia vRS has offered affordable, engaging performance and generous practicality in both hatch and combi (estate) body styles.
The third generation Octavia reached the UK market in the spring of 2013 and Škoda recently introduced a number of aesthetic and technical upgrades for its 2017 model year, all of which are incorporated on the top-spec Octavia vRS Combi tested this week.
As before, the Octavia vRS Combi offers a greater, family oriented versatility and practicality through a range of petrol and diesel engines, six-speed manual or DSG transmissions and 4x4 capabilities.
Aesthetic upgrades to the standard 2017 Octavia Combi are relatively minor and Škoda has focused on areas that needed changing, rather than fixing what wasn't broken. Outside, there's a new grille, split LED headlights, C-shaped rear lights clusters and, of course, front and rear vRS badging.
The transformation of the standard Octavia Combi into vRS guise doesn't hurt its generous accommodation. Front and rear occupants enjoy good head and legroom, while the cavernous load space of the estate at 610/1,740 litres is very good indeed – better even that the Audi A4 Avant and BMWs 3-Series Touring – both cars from the class above. The cabin offers well-sized door bins and a generous centre console cubby too.
Sitting atop the Octavia trim-grades as it does, the vRS Combi is exceptionally well equipped. Standard kit includes multi-function steering wheel, sculptured sports seats, vRS embossed kickplates, parking sensors, Amundsen satellite navigation, cruise control, driver fatigue sensor, driving mode selection (eco/comfort/sport/custom), dual-zone air conditioning, front fog lights, lane assist, a wi-fi hotspot and LED rear lights. The vRS sports 18-inch 'Gemini' alloys as standard and, with its ride height reduced by 15mm and a 38mm wider rear track, its aggressive stance is reinforced.
The dashboard layout of the Octavia vRS Combi is pleasantly straightforward, with clear separation between controls with well labelled buttons and switches. Also, the Octavia doesn't fall into the usual trap of putting all the controls on the touchscreen, leaving key functions such as heating, cooling and ventilation to dedicated, more intuitive switches.
Despite the sporting approach, the Octavia vRS Combi sacrifices little comfort in the name of performance. Although riding on 18-inch wheels, the stiffer suspension doesn't impact on the ride quality as much as you would expect and only the harshest lumps, bumps and crusty surfaces cause any disturbance in the cabin. The excellent seats offer extra support too, while road and engine noise are kept in check at sensible speeds.
Engine, transmission and performance
Our Octavia vRS Combi test car was fitted with the characteristically strong 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel engine – the same oil burner deployed in the Volkswagen Golf GTD. It offers 184PS and a useful 380Nm available from just 1,750rpm. The slick six-speed manual 'box sends power to the front wheels, shoving the standing vRS Combi to 62mph in a flat 8.0 seconds, peaking at an unrestricted 143mph.
Ride and Handling
On the road, the Octavia vRS Combi shows its VW Group DNA through and through. It now feels and drives like the proper five-door contender it always aspired to be. However, the longer wheelbase and extra weight negates any notion of it giving the Golf GTD a run for its money.
At slower urban speeds the Octavia vRS Combi barely feels sporty at all – due in part to the more sophisticated and quieter multi-link rear axle. It's altogether rather civilised and in tune with the car's Jekyll & Hyde character.
Pressing on when the need arises takes very little effort thanks to the high level of grip available. The steering is precise rather than expressive and quick directional changes are handled assuredly with a tangible degree of neutrality from the excellent chassis.
The Škoda Octavia vRS Combi in manual FWD format is essentially a less emotive purchase than most of its overheated rivals. The 245PS petrol variant offers significantly more driver engagement and fun for your buck.
Unless your exterior colour of choice is 'shout-out' Rallye Green, the sedate styling inside and out means the Octavia vRS Combi is unlikely to turn heads like the SEAT Leon ST Cupra would, but it looks smart in an understated way and is solidly built. It's also one of the roomiest in its class and the Golf GTD-sourced diesel is punchy, efficient and relatively smooth.
But while many other hot estates are more engaging or characterful, the Octavia vRS TDi Combi offers composed pace while remaining practical, solid and incredibly good value.
By Wayne Gorrett, News & Reviews Editor
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