It is reasonably audacious for the Skoda Octavia RS 230 Wagon to claim it can do both Sports and Utility better than a vehicle that actually wears the SUV tag.
To be fair to Skoda, the Volkswagen Group brand from the Czech Republic isn’t shouting that claim. Rather it quietly lets the figures forward the argument, starting with a 588 litre boot taking care of the Utility part. A Hyundai Tucson? 488 litres.
The Octavia RS 230 – which reverts to a name designation in horsepower, not kilowatts as per the regular Octavia RS 162 – makes 169kW rather than 162kW from its 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. A Mazda CX-5? 138kW from a 2.5-litre non turbo.
Sports performance isn’t all about power, though, so the headline act for this 70-unit limited edition is the addition of 19-inch alloy wheels and a mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD) as standard. All for sub-$45K, or luxury grade medium SUV money.
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $43,190 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 169kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | 6spd manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.4 l/100km | Tested: 8.7 l/100km
We chose the Tucson and CX-5 for quick comparison as they are the most popular medium SUVs on sale. But even if we crossed virtues for comparison – Mazda for boot space, Hyundai on power – it would make no difference; the RS 230 beats both.
Actually, an RS 162 Wagon, priced from $39,590 plus on-road costs, would eclipse them. Add another $3600 to the price, at $43,190 (plus orc), and the RS 230 certainly ups the Sports quota and standard equipment list, if not the Utility ante.
The RS 230 adds full leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats and auto-fold door mirrors with auto-dimming function over the RS 162. Such kit is usually bundled into a $1900-optional Comfort Package, although the heated front and rear seats that are part of that grouping are instead carved out for $500 extra on this limited edition.
Still, 19-inch wheels (up from 18s) and blacked-out grille and mirror caps are a $1000 option on RS 162 but are standard on RS 230. When levelled to the same equipment standard, the difference between the regular and this special RS is $1200 – a bargain pricetag considering the extra power and LSD.
- Standard Equipment: power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather trim with electrically adjustable front seats, adaptive cruise control, auto on/off headlights and wipers, and remote keyless entry
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, USB inputs and eight-speakers
- Options Fitted: $1700 Tech Pack (automatic park assistance, lane-keep assistance, keyless auto-entry and 10-speaker Canton audio), $500 front and rear heated seats, $490 electric tailgate
- Cargo Volume: 588 to 1718 litres
Don’t expect to see the dashboard design of the Octavia RS 230 on the front cover of Vogue magazine any time soon. Then again, a Tucson and CX-5 can hardly waltz down the catwalk, either.
Function runs ahead of form inside most Skoda products and the Octavia range is no exception given the medium liftback and wagon range starts at around half the price of this flagship RS 230.
Entirely hard door trims and shiny soft-touch plastics are as unpretentious as the vehicle itself. Consider that underneath this Octavia RS 230 is the identical engine and LSD from the $46,490 (plus orc) Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance, and it’s possible to understand how this as-tested $45,880 (plus orc) Skoda can offer a roomier wagon bodystyle with more equipment for less cash.
Beyond touchy-feel furnishings, for that price buyers pretty much score everything from full leather, electric seat adjustment, front and rear seat heaters, power tailgate, booming Canton (no relation to the Mamma’s-making variety) audio, keyless auto-entry and auto park assistance, all the way to an ergonomic 8.0-inch touchscreen.
Indeed, that touchscreen delivers high-resolution graphics, simple voice control, intuitive navigation and Apple Car Play/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology. Only a digital radio is missing.
Another $3000 will also buy a panoramic sunroof for sun-loving types.
While the kit list is impressive, it’s not as though the Octavia RS 230 cabin is economy class in a world of premium-economy expectation.
The front seats are superb and the driving position is spot on, topped off by a sweet little perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel. There is plenty of storage space up front, and equally generous rear amenities capped by a comfortable back bench with air vents.
The piece that should be irresistible to an SUV buyer, however, is this Skoda’s boot. The loading lip is low, the space is square and usable, and the rear backrest folds 60:40 but packs in a centre ski port just in case the outboard pews are needed.
For space and equipment the Octavia gets big ticks for around $45K, and we haven’t even arrived at the RS 230-specific part yet.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 169kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed manual, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
The kids seated in the back seat of the Octavia RS 230 will no doubt be told to keep away from LSD in their older years, and rightly so.
For the overwhelming majority of family-car buyers the mechanical device of the same name, which ensures power is only supplied to the front wheel with the most traction in corners, will be of little use or consequence.
For the driving enthusiast who owned a hot hatchback but now must prioritise domestic duties, however, the inclusion of an LSD in the Octavia RS 230 is equivalent to dunking a first born’s noggin in the baptism font; and with that, Skoda is welcomed through hallowed sporting gates.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine has long been as sweet in this application as it has been in the Golf GTI. It purrs on light throttle and keenly thrusts towards its top end when called on to do so.
However, we must make mention of the six-speed manual’s utterly lovely shift action that renders the usual six-speed automatic ‘DSG’ inferior by some margin. Autos may be favoured by multiples in our country, but it’s as impossible to shy away from a pro-manual verdict as it would be for a chef to conclude that a Michelin-star restaurant is superior to popular Macca’s.
The 169kW of power is made at the same 6200rpm as the RS 162’s 162kW, however the carry-over 350Nm is now made from 1500rpm until 4600rpm – held 200rpm later than before. The RS 230 claims a 6.8-second 0-100km/h in wagon form, a tenth quicker than the regular model but a tenth slower than the liftback.
Kerb weight only increases by 25kg to 1400kg, though.
The penalty is worth it for the dynamic dividends, at least if a hot hatchback masquerading as a family car seems appealing. Despite wearing low-profile tyres, the fixed suspension of the Octavia RS 230 proves fantastic around town. The Skoda rides no more firmly than a CX-5, except with added engine effortlessness.
On rough roads at speed, it can’t quite keep pace with the three-mode adaptive suspension standard on a Golf GTI, which keeps its body movement in check at all times. The RS 230 can be slightly flummoxed by bumps, but crucially it isn’t inhibiting to the driving experience.
If anything the extra bodyroll, along with the manual transmission, contributes to engagement that is greater than the Volkswagen hot hatchback that wears a more serious face when cornering.
When set-up properly before a corner, the Skoda will subtly shift its big booty and then get all its power down thanks to the LSD and a masterfully tuned Sport electronic stability control (ESC) setting. It really is fast and fun.
Yet thanks to a kerb weight a couple of hundred kilograms below the average all-wheel drive medium SUV, the Octavia is reasonably economical, posting 8.7 litres per 100 kilometres in mixed conditions.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Skoda Octavia range scored 36.84 out of 37 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2016.
Safety Features: Dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, collision warning alert with low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Skoda’s capped price servicing program covers the first six years or 90,000km, with checks annually or every 15,000km at a higher-than-average cost of $319/$378/$694 for the first three and $579/$490/$652 for the remaining trio.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
An SV6 Sportwagon is larger and just as quick as this Skoda for similar money, but it isn’t as dynamically focused. The Mazda6 GT diesel is a surprisingly subtle driver’s car, but it’s slower and less dynamic than the Octavia without a ride or refinement upside. The Levorg is most similar in concept but a dud drive with a dated cabin.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Skoda Octavia RS 230 is a knockout vehicle from the unassuming offshoot of the Volkswagen Group.
It succeeds because it packs all the gear a driving enthusiast could ever need, including a potent and finessed drivetrain and solid yet engaging chassis. Yet it asks little compromise from the family for such focus – not in boot space, or legroom, or equipment for the money.
Despite being all the better for it, a manual-only offering will limit its appeal for some buyers who forget how easy it is to use a left leg when driving; although Skoda has indicated that a forthcoming replacement for the RS 230 will get an auto.
Manual or auto, the Octavia comfortably delivers Sport performance teamed with pragmatic Utility better than any SUV. And only 70 individuals need to apply.
MORE: Skoda News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Skoda Octavia Models - Prices, Features and Specifications