Well hello there game changer – the sportiest set of wheels to be found in the Our Cars pages of Diesel Car & Eco Car, currently. We’ve switched from the modest cabbie’s favourite up to the full fat choice of the UK constabularies and got ourselves an Octavia vRS, Skoda’s take on a Golf GTI – or GTD in our case. Keen eyed folk will also notice this vRS is not the latest plate and not exactly delivery mileage on the odometer. We’ve essentially gone down the road many buyers travel down to buy a new car by going for a pre-reg or ex-demonstrator from their dealer. Practically a brand-new car for a few grand cheaper, if you can handle the judgement from the curtain twitching Jones’ with the number plate and knowing it’s had a few miles of use. For example, as I write there’s an identical Octavia vRS with the same options, just a different colour, at a dealer £4,750 cheaper than the new list price. Food for thought.
But anyway, the car itself, our pre-reg Octavia is lovely and that’s really all you really need to know. From a functional and selfish point of view, I’ve a little reservation about running a hatch instead of an estate with the added lip from the boot – there’s no concerns on space, the boot is huge. And I’m conscious of the firmer ride from the stiffer suspension and 19-inch wheels, but so far, I’ve not had to use the car to photograph from.
Choosing a vRS in diesel form will give you a 197bhp 2.0-litre engine and a twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox. There’s no manual on offer, which if nothing else makes the dashboard appear neater, with the smaller, trendier gear selector. There’s a plug-in hybrid available for the green pages of the magazine, too. The vRS also gets extra goodies added in like adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel, electrically powered boot, ambient lighting and full LED matrix headlights, which also give you a different running light design. But no reversing camera, that’s an optional extra.
Along with a sportier front bumper, visually a vRS gives you a rear spoiler, red brake calipers, 19-inch anthracite wheels, and a menacing black pack which consists of black front grille, window surrounds, door mirrors and badging – it’s a lovely contrast to the Race Blue paintwork. All of this is combined with the lowered ride height from the sports suspension and adds to up a really attractive looking car. And there’s some vRS differences inside, too, that matches up well with the sportier exterior. You get black headlining, red stitching, a three-spoke heated steering wheel with flappy paddles, aluminium pedals, an Alcantara dashboard and sporty, bucket type seats with vRS badging. They’re manually controlled and don’t adjust downwards as much as they should, so it does feel like you’re sat on the chairs, rather than in them. It’s quite a contrast to our previous Octavia Estate, which felt like you were sat on the floor, in comparison.
It’s my first time driving a vRS badged Skoda, but the Octavia feels right, the sport suspension is firmer than expected, but wouldn’t describe it as crashy. Combined with the ‘progressive dynamic steering’, which I read as marketing jargon for well-weighted sporty steering, translates into a nicely involved and together car. It’s a pleasure to glide around some corners when the road is right. Likewise, on the opposite end of the spectrum, long motorway runs are comfortable, relaxed and unspoilt by the firm ride. I wouldn’t say no to a bit more soundproofing to quieten down the noise from the tyres, but I can’t complain with the fuel economy. Travelling from Norwich to North Wales on quarter of a tank and the car’s on-board computer boasted 69.6mpg.
Date arrived 17th June 2021
Economy (On test) 55.9mpg