NEW CAR PREVIEW: The Skoda Octavia vRS

Skoda Octavia vRS
Skoda Octavia vRS
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You know the Skoda Octavia vRS. It’s the car you dread to see in your rear view if you’re making progress a bit enthusiastically on the motorway.

The police buy them because they’re subtle, fast, reliable and affordable; four attributes that work well with private buyers, too.

The latest model’s bigger and plusher than ever and the petrol version still gets to 60mph in 6.5 seconds and tops out at 154mph. In other words, don’t be tempted to try to outsprint one.

Plump instead for the diesel engine and you’re looking at 7.8 seconds to 62mph and a top speed of 144mph. The diesel also gets a six-speed manual as standard but both models can be specified with a DSG dual clutch transmission if you have a lazy left leg.

Firmer suspension has been fitted to improve body control, as this latest generation Octavia is a significantly bigger car than its predecessor. The hatch’s ride height has been lowered by 12mm compared to the standard Octavia, with the Octavia vRS estate getting a 13mm drop. The design features a heavily revised multi-link axle, as well as an electronic differential lock XDS integrated into the electronic stability control (ESC). This function improves the traction of the wheels and reduces the tendency to understeer in fast cornering. Electro-mechanical progressive steering provides accuracy and fast responses.

Available in either hatch or estate guise, the Octavia vRS features a front grille with honeycomb air intakes, a unique front bumper and fog lights as well as bi-xenon headlights. Other highlights include the red-lacquered brake calipers and a choice of 17, 18 or 19-inch alloy wheels. You’ll get the best ride quality on the standard 17-inch Dorado alloys, with their 45-series tyre profile. Step up to the 18-inch rims and that tyre profile drops to 40 series, so you’ll find B-roads a bit more garrulous.

The rear end is dominated in the lower section by a strong black diffuser, overlying wide reflector spotlight and the two large, trapezoidal-shaped chrome exhaust tailpipes. There’s also a spoiler, which, on the estate vRS, is fitted as a roof-edge item.

The Skoda Octavia vRS does nothing particularly radical – but then it doesn’t need to. It has established a profitable niche for itself in offering a model that’s presentable, rapid, discreet and which won’t break the bank. Buying a quick car is no longer the no-brainer decision it once was, especially when the budgetary constraints of a growing family look likely to stymie your plans. The vRS offers all the solid common sense of the Skoda brand with more than enough about it to reassure anyone that they’re not on the fast track to pipe and slippersville.

Downsides? There aren’t really too many to mention. If you’re the sort of person who’ll feel the irresistible draw of the VW or Audi brands, you probably won’t give the less overtly slick Octavia the time of day. Still, that just leaves the vRS as a potential winner for anyone who doesn’t feel the need for a more prestige badge.