8

10

Model

RS wagon

Price

$36,490

The Numbers

2.0-litre, 4cyl petrol turbo, 162kW, 350Nm, 6sp manual/dual clutch, 0-100km/h 6.8secs, 6.4L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

Great value, dynamically excellent, well finished, and space efficient – the new Octavia RS is a winner. With more power, some aural drama, and better steering it would be nudging a nine.

2014 Skoda Octavia RS wagon

So, what is it?
The sports version of the third-generation Octavia, Skoda’s not quite small, not quite medium-sized sedan/wagon. Like the rest of the Octavia line-up it sits on a slightly stretched version of the VW Group’s MQB (Modular Transverse) platform, which also underpins the current Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. It’s powered by a choice of 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, plucked from the Golf GTI, and a 135kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, borrowed from the Golf GTD (currently not sold in Australia).

Why should I care?
This is fundamentally a Czech-built, VW Golf GTI sedan (with a wagon option) for five grand less dosh. It boasts more power and torque than the out-going Octavia RS, as well as improved fuel economy and reduced emissions. It’s loaded with standard fruit and new tech to boot.

What's new about it?
Beside the fresh engines, the Octavia RS’s exterior is a more contemporary evolution of the existing design, and the new car is lighter by up to 100kg, longer (sedan +88mm, wagon +86mm) and wider (+45mm) than the previous Octavia, with an increased wheelbase (+102mm).

Other highlights include variable ratio steering, nine airbags, driver fatigue detection, sports (strut front, multi-link rear) suspension, electronic diff lock, and an eight inch colour infotainment touch-screen.

That's all nice. What's it like to drive fast?
A launch drive through the NSW Snowy Mountains combined tight twists with long sweepers, and the RS is hugely impressive; beautifully balanced, with excellent body control, and ride comfort.

The front sports seats combine long-distance comfort with great lateral support, while the 225/40 x 18 Continental SportContact 2 rubber quietly and calmly delivers mega grip.

Power isn’t monstrous with Skoda claiming 0-100km/h in 6.8sec for the petrol and 8.2sec for the diesel, but its delivery is pleasingly linear, mainly because the turbos spool up quickly, and a broad plateau of maximum torque kicks off at just 1500rpm in the petrol (162TSI), and 1750 in the diesel (135TDI).

Transmission choice is between a six-speed manual (petrol only) and six-speed dual clutch ‘box. The manual is a reminder of how much pleasure a positive manual shift can bring to the driving experience. As a bonus, the alloy-face pedal set is ideally set up for a bit of heel-and-toe tap dancing.

The DSG dual clutch shifts rapidly, and obediently remains in gear right up to redline.

And driving from home to the office in the city?
The RS is quiet, some might say too quiet, and refined as an urban cruiser. There’s generous rear leg and headroom, as well as a rear seat centre armrest (with cup-holders), plus humungous cargo capacity in the sedan, and even more in the wagon.

Interior layout and instrumentation will be familiar to any current VW driver (that is, it’s good), fit and finish is top-shelf, and materials, including soft-touch dash padding, are high-quality.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?
The 162TSI manual sedan starts at $36,490 (plus on-road costs), which is brilliant value. The dual clutch adds $2,300, and if you want a wagon, factor in another $1,350. The 135TSI (DSG-only) sedan weighs in at $39,790, with the same premium for a wagon.

Standard kit includes, a multi-function trip computer, auto rear door open/close on the wagon, eight inch touch screen controlling sat-nav and eight-speaker audio (including Bluetooth connectivity and streaming, USB, AUX and twin SD card slots), cruise control, dual-zone climate-control air, remote central-locking, as well as bi-xenon headlights, auto lights and wipers, and front and rear parking sensors.

Is there anything bad about it?
Steering feel isn’t great. Not bad, just not at the same dynamic level as the rest of the car. More grunt would be welcome (and the chassis could definitely handle it). The car will also be too quiet for many petrol heads. There’s no exhaust noise inside the cabin at all, and the engine hums like a low-key sewing machine.

Would you take this or go for the Golf GTI?
If you’re still on the loose, the Golf GTI’s more compact dimensions and badge cred may be worth an extra $5K. But the Octavia RS is the perfect option for a hot-hatch buyer with growing family responsibilities. An entertaining drive, but not at the expense of space, comfort and practicality.

Reviewed by: James Cleary

Driven: March 23, 2014