Savvy buyers have caught on to the fact that there isn’t much difference between a Volkswagen and a Skoda … except for the price.
We test Skoda’s new Golf GTI sibling.
Skoda is shorthand for sharp value. As the junior brand in the Volkswagen Group, it offers much of the same technology found in a VW or Audi at a reduced price.
The Skoda Octavia RS combines the turbocharged heart of the VW Golf GTI with a more practical body for about $7000 less.
Priced from $51,490 drive-away as a sedan or $52,990 in wagon form, the Octavia RS appeals to the head and heart like few other cars at this price.
You get loads of kit, including 19-inch wheels, LED lights, a digital dash and 10-inch central touchscreen with wireless phone charging, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Pitched as an everyday machine with a surprising turn of pace, the Octavia RS is a polished all-rounder.
There are well-bolstered seats with integrated headrests and eye-catching red stitching, while ambient lighting lifts the mood.
Fitted with five USB-C power outlets and dual-zone climate control as standard, the Octavia benefits from clever touches such as bins in the door pockets, an umbrella tucked into the driver’s door, luggage hooks in the boot and a rechargeable torch.
Customers can dial up the prestige appeal with a $6500 premium pack adding leather and Alcantara seats, multi-mode adaptive suspension, a head-up display, three-zone climate control, and heated front and rear seats with driver’s memory adjustment.
The Octavia RS has 10 airbags and lots of driver aids including auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and more. It also covers the basics well, with excellent visibility and sure-footed handling.
Powerful brakes, quality tyres and composed suspension add to the safety net.
Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine with 180kW and 370Nm, the Skoda uses a snappy seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to rip to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds.
It’s a proven unit that delivers flexible power with a minimum of fuss, though the jury is out about the fake V8-like sound effects plumbed into the cabin through its eight-speaker stereo.
Low-profile tyres wrapped around attractive 19-inch alloys deliver crisp steering responses, and the optional multi-mode suspension of our test car offered an outstanding choice of driving modes ranging from truly plush to ultra-firm.
A clever differential helps get power to the road through hardworking front tyres that can be overwhelmed if you push too hard in the bends. On the whole, though, the Octavia is precise, engaging and easy to live with.
Polished, practical and fun to drive, the Octavia RS is one of the standouts in its class.
Volkswagen Golf GTI, from about $59,000 drive-away
The benchmark all-rounder hot hatch is a little more focused to drive than the Octavia, with smaller dimensions and rock-solid resale value.
Hyundai i30 N DCT, from about $52,000 drive-away
Now combining more than 200kW of power with a dual-clutch auto transmission, Hyundai’s hot hatch is one for driving enthusiasts.
Mazda6 GT SP wagon, from about $52,500 drive-away
Though it lacks the focus of a proper performance car, the range-topping Mazda6 has plenty of luxury gear and enough thrust from a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine.
SKODA OCTAVIA RS VITALS
Price: From $51,490 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: 5-yr/unlimited km, $2932 for 5 years
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 180kW/370Nm
Safety: 10 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane-keep and blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert
Spare: Space saver
Cargo: 640 litres