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£26,345 when new
What is it? Pub fact time: this Skoda Octavia vRS is the most powerful Octavia in the world, ever. Given that the last car wasn’t exactly a slouch, that bodes well. It’s based on the same platform as the Golf GTI - another reassuring bit of info - and it gets the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. There’s also a hot diesel available, like in the previous generation, which promises great performance and decent economy. See more pics of the Skoda Octavia VRS But presumably the petrol is where it’s at?
Certainly from a traditional hot hatch point of view, yes. It sounds more exciting - there’s a sound generator inside which gives the exhaust note a harder edge in Sport mode - and, being a petrol, it’s more eager to rev. And it’s not slow. Thanks to 218bhp and 258lb ft, the petrol hatch will accelerate to 62mph in just 6.8 seconds. Even the estate version will do it in 6.9 seconds. And yes, you did read that right. Not only is Skoda offering the vRS with both a petrol and diesel, it also comes as either a hatch or estate. The level of choice doesn’t stop there - there’s either a six-speed manual or the twin-clutch DSG. Choice is good, but does it feel like a hot hatch? Sort of. It’s certainly fast enough - only 0.3 seconds off the Focus ST - but it doesn’t have quite the level of connectivity that you’d want from a hot hatch. The steering is precise, but a tad remote, and the chassis doesn’t hook you into the tarmac as well as the best in the class. The flipside is that it’s one of the easiest hot hatches to actually live with. No pinging you off every single speed bump. The ride is comfortable, the engine note can be well suppressed if you flick it out of Sport mode, the seats are figure-hugging but not corset-esque. The Octavia is fast but not frantic. So it’s a hot hatch for the elder gentleman? That’s about the sum of it. Prices start at £22,990 for the petrol hatch, but if it was our money, we’d be going for the diesel estate at £24,060. Good value, different, and therefore cool. That’s where the Octavia vRS excels. See more pics of the Skoda Octavia VRS
£32,150 – £41,200
The V60 is a sensible, safe Volvo, just as you’d expect. The estate car of choice if comfort means more to you than handling
£21,240 – £38,425
Roomier and better than the hatch, but rivals are better still. Facelift gives it a helping hand
£20,740 – £33,210
A worthy competitor in the saloon and estate market. It offers lots, for not much cash