ROAD TEST: Skoda Octavia RS adds spice to daily grind
Sept. 11, 2019
MEET one of the most underrated cars from an equally underestimated brand.
Czech manufacturer Skoda returned to Australia more than a decade ago and it's still slowly building, yet it's derivatives like the Octavia RS have the ability to drag it from the shadows and into the spotlight.
Owned by Volkswagen, the secret to the RS's success lies within. Sharing underpinnings with the seventh generation Golf, it also borrows the GTI's engine.
Gene pools don't come much deeper. The Golf GTI is renowned the world over for its ability to mix daily duties with sporting prowess.
Skoda has improved the family appeal by offering its sporty machine in wagon guise for just under $45,000 drive-away. Our family has started a long-term evaluation to see if it makes the future purchase short-list.
While there is a higher specified RS245 (which is a nod to the horsepower coming from the 2.0-litre engine), the base RS isn't bereft of equipment. Among the feature highlights are a beautifully crisp eight-inch colour touchscreen equipped with smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 18-inch alloys, eight-speaker sound system, along with sporty touches like bucket front seats wearing 'RS' badging, flat-bottom sports steering wheel armed with paddle shifters as well as aluminium pedals.
Last year total Skoda sales increased 8.6 per cent, that figure would have been higher had Skoda been able to secure more vehicles. Octavia was the brand's biggest seller.
There has been lingering concerns about resale and maintenance costs, but the marque has bolstered peace of mind with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is required annually or every 15,000km, with a pack covering three years costing $860 while five years of coverage is $1700. Over three years it's less expensive to service than just about all rivals other than the Toyota Camry, and it sits mid-pack over five years.
Red, white or grey colours are available, but the metallic or pearl effect options of black, moon white, silver, blue, quartz grey or green attract a $500 premium.
The Audi-like virtual cockpit digital driver dashboard costs $700, a panoramic sunroof is $1700, 19-inch Xtreme anthracite alloy wheels will set you back $700, while the power boot opening is $500.
With a 54mm longer wheelbase (distance between front and rear wheels) over the Golf GTI, the Octavia fits into the mid-size segment with a more spacious cabin.
The cabin is simplistic in design, but has a classy edge due to the touchscreen and sporting touches.
Skodas are typically full of smart gadgetry, and the wagon has useful hooks in the boot to stop bags sliding around, a removable torch, small bins in the front doors and an umbrella hidden in a small cubby underneath the front passenger seat.
There is a "multimedia device holder” that fits into the cup-holders up front, but it's too small to house modern smartphones.
Boot space of 588 litres is bigger than what you'll find in a Renault Megane Wagon, Mazda CX-5 or a Holden Commodore Tourer. Fold the rear seats and there's 1718 litres of space.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is a lively unit. Stamp on the right pedal and it reaches 100km/h in a hot-hatch rivalling 6.7 seconds.
With a heap of power pushing through the front wheels an electronically controlled limited slip differential helps maintain traction.
It's beautifully balanced and adept which encourages the driver to push the performance envelope.
Off the line it feels quick. In the twisties it goes to the next level, biting and gripping with consummate ease. Unsticking the RS would take some work.
Press the RS console button and choose from eco, normal, sport and individual modes. Each offers a differing personality with matching acceleration and steering responses. Sport mode is our early preference, with an improved soundtrack from the dual exhausts.
Fuel consumption has initially been more than nine premium unleaded litres per 100km, but we'll monitor the figure over the coming weeks to see if we can get closer to the super thrifty claim of 6.5.
The Octavia was awarded 36.87 out of 37 on its way to getting five stars from ANCAP nearly three years ago.
It's debatable whether it would get the same glowing report now, especially with lane assist and blind spot detection on the optional extras list. Both can be added as part of a $2800 "luxury pack” which also includes suede/leather trimmed seats (with electric adjustment up front) and folding door mirrors.
All the vital equipment is included, like radar cruise control to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front on the highway, autonomous emergency braking which uses radars and sensors to automatically stop or avoid collisions, rear view camera, along with parking sensors front and back.
There are some other cool additions, like adaptive lighting where the headlights swivel up to 15 degrees in turns, along with a pre-fill braking system which pumps the hydraulics with fluid and brings the pads closer to the discs if the driver lifts their foot off the accelerator abruptly.
RENAULT MEGANE GT WAGON $39,990
Smaller than the Octavia, the 1.6-litre 151kW/280Nm 4-cyl turbo engine has more than enough oomph for most tastes but the twin-clutch transmission isn't as smooth or as intuitive as the one found in Skodas or VWs.
MAZDA6 ATENZA WAGON $49,990
While not a sporting derivative the Mazda's 2.5-litre 170kW/420Nm 4-cyl turbo has some firepower. The suspension set-up errs on the side of luxury.
VW GOLF R AWD $59,190
Forget the family-friendly looks, this is a beast. The benchmark of athletic wagons with all-wheel drive, it's packing a 2.0-litre 213kW/380Nm 4-cyl turbo that is pure naughtiness.
Superbly fun to drive quickly, it's already a favourite of the two young boys. The question remains whether there are too many compromises for the sporting ability for daily activities.
AT A GLANCE
SKODA OCTAVIA RS WAGON
PRICE $44,490 drive-away (excellent value)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5-year unlimited km w'ty (good), $860 for 3 years (among cheapest)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 180kW/370Nm 4-cyl, 7-speed auto (lively)
SAFETY 9 airbags, autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, fatigue alert (blind spot warning optional extra)
THIRST 6.5 litres/100km (miserly)
SPARE Space-saver (par for the course)
CARGO 588 litres, rear seats down 1718 (expansive)
PF Toasts Chilubi Victory As UPND Beats Kambwili’s NDC To Second PlaceFrancois Hollande exfiltrated from a bookstore after a signing sessionAccused 'female' athlete is a man, Eldoret court toldPerth unveils 'compelling' pitch to host India TestMourinho: Manchester United Should Be Awarded 2018 Title After Man City Ban