July 28, 2014
Vehicle Style: Medium performance wagon.
Price: $36,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 162kW/350Nm 2.0 turbo 4cyl | 6sp twin-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 9.0 l/100km
The Skoda Octavia RS is an under-appreciated car.
Though overshadowed by its cousin the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Octavia is, generally speaking, the more broadly appealing machine.
It's not wanting for power (with 162kW, how could it be), it's generously equipped, it looks smart and it's also a good deal cheaper than the Golf GTI, despite being a larger car.
It ticks a great many boxes and, in the wagon form tested here, is a cracking machine.
- Standard: Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, power windows, power mirrors, rear air outlets, power tailgate, bi-xenon headlamps.
- Infotainment: Eight-inch colour touchscreen, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, USB and SD card inputs, onboard music storage.
- RS-specific features: Red contrast stitching, carbon fauxbre door and console trim, leather/alcantara upholstery, sport front seats, sports steering wheel, shift paddles.
- Boot space: 588 litres minimum, 1718 litres maximum.
It’s an understated interior, but a pleasant one to be in.
The majority of the cabin plastics are shared with the cooking-model Octavia and there’s a lot of black. However, the sportier RS scores a few splashes of red here and there to break things up.
The red contrast stitching on the seats, gear lever, handbrake boot and steering wheel signify this is a little more special than the average Octavia wagon. The steering wheel too is nicely-shaped and appealing.
It’s comfortable to grip and neither too thick or two thin; the dimpled leather also gives it a sporty, premium feel.
The other key contact point, the seat, is superb.
The RS-specific front seats offer good lateral support as well as adjustable lumbar support, and they look pretty nifty. The headrests aren’t adjustable, but we didn’t find that to be a handicap.
The back seats are great. Legroom is plentiful, and the optional glass sunroof didn’t seem to intrude too heavily on headroom.
The centre position is quite hard and flat, but two adults will be very comfortable in the back of the Octavia RS.
There are some gripes about this interior though. Firstly, it’s bland. The flourishes of red trim are nice, but the faux-carbon gearshift surround and door trims are old hat.
Plastic quality is another bugbear, with the glovebox lid being of a noticeably different shade to the surrounding dashboard - and the lower centre console plastics are a different shade again.
ON THE ROAD
- 162kW/350Nm 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol inline four
- Six-speed twin-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- Disc brakes all around.
The Octavia RS shares a great deal of DNA with the Golf GTI, and that manifests itself in how effortlessly easy it is to drive quickly.
The DSG twin-clutch auto is lightning-fast through the gears and rev-matches perfectly on downshifts, and though power only goes to the front wheels, traction is plentiful while torque-steer is minimal.
Peak outputs are 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque, but an abundance of mid-range thrust means the engine doesn't need to be wrung hard in order to extract strong performance.
And with a 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.1 seconds (6.9 seconds for the manual), the Octavia RS is hot-hatch quick.
Ride quality is on the firm side, which is not to be unexpected for a performance model, but it's not tooth-rattlingly stiff. Far from it, in fact, with only the most pockmarked roads upsetting the Octavia RS's composure.
The handling also won't disappoint the enthusiast.
Turn-in is sharp, the tyres have a lot of bite and there's little negative impact from the wagon having the extra bulk in the rump.
It's only under very aggressive cornering that some of the Octavia's dynamic sheen is lost, as the inside front wheel becomes unloaded and wheelspin sees the traction control system interrupt the flow of power.
This aside, the stability control tune is very well-calibrated. It is only in some situations - like when cornering quickly on a mountain run - where a proper mechanical limited-slip differential is missed.
That said, it's a limitation most drivers will never discover, for the RS' limits are appreciably high.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.87 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, stability control (switchable) and nine airbags are all standard on the Octavia RS.
An optional Tech package is available, which adds active cruise control, emergency auto-brake, parking sensors and a reversing camera.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
When it comes to small/midsize fast FWD wagons, it's really just two vehicles that are competing for your money: the Octavia RS and the Renault Megane GT220 Sportwagon. Take your pick.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The world needs more cars like the Skoda Octavia RS.
It's just the thing for the family-bound buyer who sorely wants a hot hatch, but needs something a little more practical - and comfortable - for five days out of every seven.
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