Test drive: Skoda Octavia vRS Hatch 2.0 TFSI 200PS petrol 6-spd manual
The TotallyMotor Verdict
It’s time for the battle of the Skoda Octavias. This top-of-the-range, £22k, near-200bhp Octavia vRS whirlwind against the £15k, smidge-over-100bhp Octavia 1.2 SE TSI.
Both in hatchback trim, both powered by petrol-turbo motors; but one loud ‘n’ proud and the other calm and quiet. There’s the obvious difference in style; kinda Jekyll and Hyde, and, of course, that £7,000 difference in price.
And with Skoda’s Octavia long being associated with inner space, keen pricing and reliable practicality, this Octavia shootout is based purely on bang for your buck fun.
Test drive: Skoda Octavia vRS Hatch 200PS
Take a look for yourself at our TotallyMotor test car pictures, as shot on location, and make you own mind up on the more reserved styling of the already-tested Octavia Hatch SE 1.2 TSI. Distinctly understated in Storm Blue.
And then take a look at the in-your-face-and-slap-it vRS, in Candy White paint, taking a golden bath in the late November sun. With its vRS-only deeper front and rear bumpers, vRS Hatch-only boot spoiler, LED running lights, 18-inch Neptune alloys and hunkered sports-suspension-stance; the Octavia vRS is certainly gaze-magnetic. You’ll go unnoticed in the dark blue Octavia SE, but you’ll be about as incognito as a nuke when rolling in vRS style.
“Nice car, mister”, says some BMX nipper, as the vRS gets its photoshoot, and if this next-gen PlayStation player notices the vRS naughty streak, I’m thinking this Skoda must look the powerful-part.
Opposite ends of the Octavia-styling-scale indeed, but both solidly-built with a classless class about them.
Into the interior:
The extra £5k for the vRS badge not only gets you the extra go-go and show-show, it also gets you the key to really feeling the part when you fire up your quicker Skoda. A nice pair of vRS design sports seats.
Here we have the black and grey, half-leather bucket seats you’ll only find in the Octavia vRS, and while they add a dash of sparkle to vast and airy interior, they’re taller and firmer side bolsters are meant to keep you firmly gripped during max-apex-attack.
And that they do. Although even for a slim-hipper like me, I did find the seat base bolsters to be pretty tight to the thighs, and this had me squirming around a little during longer drives. The seats in the Octavia SE are, on the other hand, built for comfort and not speed, and left me long-trip squirm-free.
Both Octavias get the large interior and huge boot absolutely as standard, but vRS gets a whole load more bells and whistles inside, like extra leather, a completely-free-of-controls leather steering wheel, and all-round adjustment for both front seats. And this adjustment gets the better of the two trim levels when it comes to driving position. With the vRS I sat in my preferred low-in-chassis position with a good reach-to-me from the steering wheel.
Again, both Octavias get a great stereo, with the more expensive vRS getting four more speakers on top and a whole load of juicy extra bass to go with its large, colour touchscreen multimedia, sat-nav set up. Some may scoff, but I personally think that sound quality during long drives only extends the happiness.
Now here is where you’d think our polar-Octavias would be night and day different, with nearly 100bhp separating their power-stats and everything tweaked for sport in the vRS, and most things tweaked for pure practicality in the Octavia, in SE trim. But it’s not as marked as the boot badges would have you think.
First, engine-wise, and both cars get the benefit of turbocharging for torque nice and early in the revs and a goading turbo-whistle from under the hood. At nearly 200bhp, through a 6-speed manual gearbox, the vRS is quick. Accelerate hard through the ‘box and in no time you’ll be going quicker than you think is right.
The vRS while wanting those admiring looks at the bright-bodywork, doesn’t make a huge show out of its aggressive acceleration. Sure, the brochure says 7.2secs to 62mph and onto the Germany-only 150mph, but she does it quietly.
Less quiet is the sound of slurping fuel that accompanies harder driving, but even at a fuller tilt, the vRS still managed between early-20s and early-40s on the mpg readout; combined around mid30s, and not far off the Skoda-quoted 37.7mpg. Its CO2 rating of 175g/km will cost £190 per year in road tax.
Quiet again, and the gearbox is light and easy; if a little characterless, and there’s really as much torque as you need from the 2-litre, petrol-turbo motor. The steering is quick but a touch on the light side, and in general the handling and grip levels left me happy and confident, rather than tippy-toeing.
The brakes gave me great initial feel and nice pedal progression into powerful stopping, something, perhaps, due to the coat of red paint lavished on them.
The 1.2-litre TSI petrol-turbo motor in the Octavia SE can’t match the brute strength of its 2-litre cousin, of course, but for its size and economy (we saw mostly mid-40s on test); the near-105bhp TSI engine really does itself proud in the performance stakes. It’ll hit 62mph in 10.8secs and pull on to 119mph. There’s a sheep needs it jacket back!
Octavia SE is, as you’d expect, a more softly sprung suspension affair than the lower and firmer vRS, and while there’s no doubt in my mind that the vRS would carry more corner speed on its sports engineered suspension and wide ‘n’ low tyres, the Octavia SE also cuts a decent, if less quick-witted, cornering-rug.
I guess the biggest difference in the daily drive of these two tested Octavias is that the vRS always reminds you of its bad intentions; with sharp looks, firm ride and gusty power. But, with the 1.2 TSI motor in the SE non-sporting-trim, you have to floor it to find the fun buried beneath, once you bury the gas pedal. The little TSI will tickle very efficiently around town all day long, whereas it’s not long before the vRS has you goaded into your old back lane tricks again.
Ten second sum up:
Both cars deliver an exciting drive, a large and well-equipped interior, a huge boot, and that screwed-together feeling that Skodas are famous for. The Octavia SE 1.2 TSI delivers these attractive qualities quietly; by the back door, while the snorty Octavia vRS delivers them through the front door, without opening it! It’s a tough choice between them, and it’s all yours to make.
Prices and availability:
The Skoda Octavia hatchback range starts at £13,280 for the 1.4-litre 80PS 5-speed, rising to £22,330 for the high performance vRS model. Price as tested £15,040 for the SE 1.2 TSI 105PS model, and £22,330 for the vRS Hatch 2.0 TFSI 200PS 6-speed manual. Available now.
Words & pics: Daniel Anslow
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