Traditionally, the problem with buying a performance car has often been a commensurate lack of pragmatism. Sure, it’ll look great and drive well but it may not suit the rigours of family life the way it ought to.
Skoda has tried to settle the score on that front ever since it introduced its Octavia RS - taking the good parts from the related Volkswagen Golf GTI and wrapping them in a body that’s more generous.
Now with a new range-topping RS model to sit at the head of Skoda’s performance arm there’s even more to like both in terms of practicality and performance.
Vehicle Style: Performance medium hatch and wagon
Price: $43,390-$46,890 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 180kW/370Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.7 l/100km
The RS 245 arrives as the flagship performance variant of the recently-updated Octavia range, sitting above the regular RS variants with more power and more equipment.
Available as either a liftback sedan starting from $43,390 plus on-road costs with a six-speed manual transmission, or an additional $1000 as a spacious wagon, the Octavia RS 245 is essentially Skoda’s version of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance as it uses most of the same hardware.
Don’t be fooled by the name though, the RS 245 lists its output in metric horsepower not kilowatts.
This isn't a 245kW fire-breather, rather it an upgraded version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the RS 169 that produces 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque, increases of 11kW and 20Nm respectively.
To get the extra power and torque to the ground the RS 245 utilises an electronically controlled limited slip differential, another Golf GTI Performance part.
Unlike the auto-only Performance, the Skoda is available with a choice of either six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (rather than the six-speed unit in the regular Octavia RS) for an extra $2500.
- Standard Equipment: Leather and Alcantara trim, electrically adjustable front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, auto-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 9.2-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, AM/FM radio, USB input, eight-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 568 litres min/1558 litres max (hatch) 588 litres min/1718 litres max (wagon)
Beyond the powertrain upgrades, the RS 245 also has larger 19-inch alloys, standard leather and Alcantara sports front seats with electric adjustment, black exhaust pipe outlets and unique instrument cluster and door inserts.
It all builds upon what is already a fairly generous list of standard equipment in the regular RS, which has active cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, nine airbags, adaptive LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and a 9.2-inch high-res multimedia screen with sat nav, a 64GB hard drive, eight-speaker audio, Bluetooth streaming and smartphone mirroring.
Buyers can also choose two optional packs to further enhance the specification, with a Tech Pack adding adaptive suspension, keyless entry, a 10-speaker Canton audio system and semi-autonomous parking while a Luxury Pack brings lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and heated front and rear seats.
No matter what, the Octavia’s cabin presents well with a simple dash layout, clear instruments and good small item storage with plenty of smart solutions such as the lidded bin in the driver’s door pocket, built-in umbrellas and a removeable mobile phone holder in the cupholders.
It’s not the most theatrical environment with very few visual hints to its hot hatch status, but it does have a sense of understated quality about it with excellent soft-touch materials, comfortable yet supportive front seats and a good driving position.
The multimedia system stands out against its simple ambience for its high-tech, high-gloss interface and is mostly easy to use, with the exception of the fiddly touch buttons for volume control.
But the Octavia’s real trump card is its space, with more room in the back seats than others in the class and a huge boot that is easily accessed no matter whether you choose the liftback sedan or the wagon body style.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 180kW @ 5000-6700rpm, 370Nm @ 1500-4300rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear suspension
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering
Just like the Golf GTI on which it largely shares its underpinnings and fundamental components, the RS 245 offers a nice balance between everyday usability and accessible performance.
With peak torque arriving at just 1500rpm, the 2.0-litre turbo engine is hugely flexible with the ability to leisurely cruise around at low engine speeds in town or out on the open road while also offering a strong surge of mid-range pulling power when you tap into its full potential.
It’s not a head-banging hot hatch in the same vein as the Ford Focus RS, and it doesn’t have the most inspiring sound track when you push it hard, (with a digitised, and droney, exhaust note plumbed through the audio system), nor is it a slouch in a straight line with plenty of punch between the bends.
The clever electronically-actuated limited slip front differential harnesses the power sufficiently to provide decent traction out of tight corners, but the steering isn’t the last word in feedback and, while predictable and stable in its overall handling character, the front-end can still push wide when pushed hard.
It’s the kind of hot hatch that is best when driven with a bit of patience and smooth inputs rather than grabbing it by the scruff of the neck.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is the pick of the gearboxes, with its broader spread of ratios making better use of the power while also being more efficient and convenient to use in everyday traffic even if it still displays some low-speed hesitation that is typical for its type.
As alternative for those who enjoy the engagement of D.I.Y. shifting the manual is pretty good with a light and positive action across the ratios and decent feel through the clutch pedal.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Ultimately, the Skoda Octavia RS 245 offers a lot of car for the money and is the most rational member in the growing league of hot hatches.
It’s understated style, everyday usability and practical, spacious cabin will appeal to the pragmatists out there and its performance won’t disappoint their hidden hoon either, even if it doesn’t set any benchmarks for dynamics or at-the-limit driving thrills.
It’s a well-rounded hot hatch for the head and the heart.
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