SKODA OCTAVIA RS REVIEW
What’s hot: Brilliant handling, smart interior, potent TSI and TDI engines.
What’s not: Still the orphan brand here, despite good products.
X-FACTOR: It’s comfortable, spacious and fast, like a Golf GTI only bigger and cheaper - guilt-free sports motoring for the family buyer.
Vehicle style: Medium liftback sedan and wagon
Price: TSI manual Sedan - $36,490 (plus); TDI DSG Wagon - $41,140 (plus)
162kW/350Nm 2.0 litre TSI petrol turbo | 6spd manual
135kW/380Nm 2.0 litre TDI diesel turbo | 6spd DSG auto
2.0 litre TSI: listed: 6.4 l/100km | tested: 9.6 l/100km
2.0 litre TDI: listed: 5.3 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km
It’s the car Skoda “can’t make enough of”, the new Octavia RS, and there’s now a waiting list in every market it’s sold.
Especially in Germany, where it’s bolting. A little factoid which is surely filling Volkswagen with unbridled joy… not. (You can’t have the hick from ‘the other side of the tracks’ taking it up to the flash cousins at home).
No mystery behind any of that. The 2.0 litre TSI manual, in particular, is one super drive.
It gets around a mountain road like a greased ferret, makes a nice sporty rasp while at it, and has a progressive ‘taily’ balance when given the heavy shoe through an apex.
There’s not a keen driver in the country who could fail to enjoy firing this one out of a hole.
The TDI with the six-speed DSG ain’t half bad, and will probably be the volume seller, but the TSI (with the six-speed manual) is the sharper blade.
The reason? That bristling Golf GTI powertrain. Both revvy and torquey, it dominates the character of the TSI.
Slotted as it is into a roomy, comfortable and classy-feeling wagon or lift-back sedan, there’s a package here that truly offers the best of both worlds.
A family car? Yup: tons of room, smart interior, comfortable... ipso facto: a sensible purchase.
And hot-box? Yup again: 162kW and 350Nm, a butter-smooth six-speed stick-shift and a nailed-down chassis, it’s an absolutely terrific steer.
- Leather with fabric-inset sports seats
- Dual-zone ‘Climatronic’ air conditioning
- 8-inch touchscreen with proximity sensors and standard Columbus sat-nav
- DVD player (audio and video), JPEG viewer and an internal 64 GB
- Two SD card slots, a media-in connection and flash memory
- Bluetooth telephone functionality with voice control
- Three-spoke multifunction steering wheel
- Plus, a multi-media holder (for mobile phones and portable players)
We see a lot of interiors in this gig. Some interior fit-outs and style leave you wondering... like, “who do we thank for this grey morgue?”
And some, as you know, are simply better: better style, better materials, and a more comfortable place to be. You’ll pick them in a flash.
And that describes this interior. The Octavia RS looks and feels tight and well-constructed, the tactile surfaces are appealing to the touch, the materials are well chosen and, yes, it works.
Things are where you’d want them to be, and even techno-wallys will work their way around the standard sat-nav and communication platform functions.
The screen is nice and clear and has the proximity sensor function now common across the Volkswagen group.
The leather and fabric sports seats are particularly good. There is no electric adjustment, but they’re nicely shaped and bolstered, firmly but not uncomfortably padded, and, for the driver, dead easy to set for the right driving position.
The rear seats similarly so: they also have some shaping for the outboard positions and look attractive to boot.
The new Octavia is a bigger car than the older model. There is ample legroom, and, in both wagon and sedan, the cargo area is huge - 568 litres in the sedan with the seats in place, 588 litres for the wagon to the window-line, seats in place.
There is also a double-sided floor mat in the boot, something anyone who has lugged around wet-suits and beach paraphernalia will appreciate.
The sedan has that really wide and useful lift-up back (like a huge hatch). At a guess, its boot would easily swallow four full sets of Callaways back there, no problem.
There are lots of little storage options: a neat little removable rubbish-bin in the doors, a multi-media holder for mobiles and media devices, as well as bottle and cup holders throughout.
The sound system and features are pretty good - certainly better than some - but you can upgrade to the ‘Tech Pack’ which gets things hopping with a premium 570Watt eight-speaker CANTON audio system.
The Tech Pack is probably a box to tick. It also adds adaptive cruise control with ‘City Emergency Brake’, rear view camera, automatic parking assist, keyless entry and start and car alarm
ON THE ROAD
- 2.0 litre TSI petrol turbo; 162kW/350Nm/6-spd manual
- 2.0 litre TDI diesel turbo; 135kW/380Nm/6-spd DSG auto
- 0-100km/h: TSI - 6.8 seconds (manual); TDI - 8.3 seconds (DSG)
- Lowered, lightened sport suspension
- MacPherson front axle with lower triangular wishbones, multi-link rear
- XDL extended electronic differential lock
- Driving mode selection: NORMAL, SPORT, ECO and INDIVIDUAL
Look, this car, the RS Octavia, is a really good steer. Wagon or sedan, it feels like a thoroughbred.
The wheel is direct and steering response for both TSI and TDI models is sharp and precise; the chassis too is well-tuned and the car at speed sits flat and controlled.
And while leaning to ‘firm’, the suspension has an elastic feel with just the right initial compliance to remove uncomfortable jarring over broken tarmac and potholes.
In my view, Skoda better tunes its suspensions for the vagaries of Australian roads than most European manufacturers. Maybe because Czech and the old Eastern-bloc roads can also be a bit ratty.
I particularly like the progressive steering feel of this new RS which changes the ratio and ‘sharpens’ as the wheel is turned. On a rapid punt along a mountain road, it feels very alive and responsive.
You have to seriously overcook things to find any plough-on understeer, and, in Sport mode, the XDL diff and ESC teams to allow some really satisfying movement from the rear end (the wagon in particular).
But as we mentioned at the head, the TSI petrol turbo, with its 162kW and 350Nm dominates the Octavia RS story. (And in this Skoda, it’s $5000 cheaper than the Golf GTI with the same donk.)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the TDI - it’s smooth, free-revving and potent - but the TSI is a marvel.
Besides being cocked ready-to-fire should you ask it the question, its wide fat torque-band gives it astonishing tractability, and makes slapping it through the six-speed manual a sheer joy.
With corners where you’d normally grab second, third is fine, faster in fact, and will effortlessly whip the RS out the other side.
Both engines, in fact, are immensely enjoyable; it will perhaps come down to the use you intend for the car as to which you’d choose. For lots of hard work or shuffling in traffic, the diesel will give you better economy.
But neither is thirsty. We were driving some of this country’s most exciting mountain roads and we were not being kind, quite the contrary.
The consumption figures we returned - 9.6 l/100km for the TSI, and 7.8 l/100km for the TDI - given the heavy treatment and conditions, are really very good.
Normal driving will likely put you right in touch with the claimed consumption figures of 6.4 l/100km (TSI) and 5.3 l/100km (TDI).
Lastly, with the 18-inch rubber, the Octavia RS is pretty quiet on road. There’s a little wind-flutter from the base of the A-pillars, but tyre noise is quite low and only the lower frequencies make their way into the cabin.
- Multi-collision automatic braking
- Fatigue detection warning, reverse parking sensors
- Electronic stability control, Anti-slip regulation (adjustable via Sport Mode) and ABS brakes
- Electronic diff-lock (EDL) and XDL for dynamic cornering control
- Nine airbags, three-point seatbelts throughout
- Tyre pressure control and LED daytime running lights
TMR VERDICT I OVERALL
Styling? Well, it’s no style leader but the Octavia RS is no hideosity either.
Importantly, with a low-slung stance and those guards filled with the bigger 19-inch wheels, it looks through-and-through the German sporting saloon.
The fact that it goes hard, will blister the tarmac on a mountain road, and is really nicely trimmed and featured inside, means you can absolutely mention it in the same sentence as an A4. Just like that.
No doubt, some will baulk at the pricing, perhaps of the diesel in particular.
But, on road, both TDI diesel and TSI petrol variants have the wood on anything you care to line it up with from Hyundai (at a similar price) or even Honda, much as we like the Accord Euro.
Certainly, no argument with the RS 162 TSI. At $36,490 for the six-speed manual sedan there is lot of performance, and a lot of car, sitting under that price.
Skoda Australia expects the wagon to be the biggest seller (around 70 percent of sales).
With the diesel under the bonnet, the Octavia RS TDI Wagon will set you back $41,140 (plus on roads), which puts it about lineball with the $41,240 list price of the outgoing Mondeo ZETEC TDCi diesel wagon.
And it's $20,000 less than the $60,900 Audi A4 2.0DT Avant, with similar power and features.
We like the TSI best of all, but both petrol and diesel are very accomplished sporting cars.
This, the Octavia RS, is the Skoda that may finally, finally, put the brand somewhere on the map in this country. It is certainly one to consider.
Skoda’s Octavia RS really is one ‘out of the box’. (Ego mihi arbitror, your honour.)
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Octavia RS 162 TSI Petrol Sedan - Manual - $36,490
- Octavia RS 162 TSI Petrol Sedan - DSG - $38,790
- Octavia RS 135 TDI Diesel Sedan - DSG - $39,790
- Note: Wagon body adds $1350
Tech Pack - [Available mid-2014]
- Adaptive Cruise Control including Front Assist with City Emergency Brake
- Rear View Camera
- Automatic Parking Assist
- Advanced Keyless Entry including Smart Start [KESSY] and Alarm
- Premium German Canton sound system [10 loudspeakers, digital equaliser]
18-inch Black Pack - add $500
- Gemini Anthracite alloy wheels 7.5J x 18”
- Black side mirrors
- Black frame around grille
- Black roof rails (wagon)
19-inch Black Pack - add $1000
- Xtreme alloy wheels 7.5J x 19”
- Black side mirrors
- Black frame around grille
- Black roof rails (wagon)