► Petrol manual vRS tested
► More power for fast Octavia
► A great bargain hot hatch
With a brand slogan of ‘Simply Clever’, Skoda’s approach to the updated Octavia vRS is just that: holding onto the winning recipe that makes it such an appealing all-rounder, but tweaking it in all the right places with a more aggressive look and gently uprated performance figures.
There’s certainly no shortage of options when choosing your vRS: there’s a choice of petrol and diesel, manual and DSG gearboxes, front- or all-wheel drive and hatchback and estate bodystyles – there’s something for all tastes. If you want a performance Octavia, you’re spoiled for choice.
It’s the heartland 2.0-litre TSI petrol we’re testing here, coupled with a six-speed manual transmission.
Skoda has turned up the wick (ever so slightly) of the hot Octavia, so it now produces 227bhp in standard form. The old one pushed out 217bhp, while the hotter 230 version topped the range. Now, the range will be headed by the vRS 245 coming soon… Still with us?
We’re focusing on the bestselling 227bhp petrol version here, capable of launching from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and onto a limited top speed of 155mph. It’s no slouch for a sensible family hatch.
Skoda hasn’t just left the uprated engine to do the work, though – the rear track is 30mm wider than before, the ride 15mm lower than a regular Octavia and Dynamic Chassis Control with adaptive dampers has been nabbed from the Golf GTI as an optional extra (one you should definitely go for).
Not much, just that controversial front end and upgraded interior. The styling is much more cohesive than images lead you to believe, and it’s translated well onto the vRS thanks to the more aggressive front bumpers and all-round body kit. Of course, it always helps going for an in-yer-face colour, too.
Inside, there’s a new glass-faced touchscreen controlling the car’s functions and a set of supremely comfortable yet supportive sports seats keeping your body in check. That’s about as far as the cosmetic things go.
To be honest, just like the old Octavia vRS, which is only a good thing. It’s an excellent all-rounder, the vRS, and with a smooth power delivery from the punchy 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, it’s an incredibly easy car to drive quickly.
A smooth wave of torque (258lb ft of the twisty stuff) is available from just 1500rpm right up to 4600rpm, and makes the Octavia a very flexible performer with some serious in-gear shove – ideal for effortless overtaking manoeuvres. It’s made even easier thanks to a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, too.
On a twisty road the Octavia isn’t as focused (ahem) as a Focus ST, or even a Golf GTI, but it provides an excellent balance between fun and comfort, which is what buyers of the Octavia will revel in.
Body control is tidy and it’s eager to turn into a bend, but it remains a civilised car to hustle along a fast road and makes you feel confident in driving quickly. It’s very easy to do that in a vRS, but it’s nice to know it settles down like an Octavia should when you put it back into Comfort mode.
The only black mark we’ll give the latest 2017 Octavia is that there’s now a sound generator pumping fake engine noise into the cabin. While it’s quite a meaty note, it’s still artificial and doesn’t always add to the experience.
The best thing about the new 2017 Skoda Octavia vRS is that it’s still a sensible family car with an enormous boot, huge, well-built cabin and a lengthy list of kit onboard, but with Q-car performance thanks to its turbo petrol under the bonnet. It makes performance very accessible.
By no means is it the fastest hot hatch on sale, but if you need a family car but you’re unwilling to sacrifice performance, this should be on your list. Or even better, go for the much-cooler vRS Estate. In green, like our old long-term test car.