The Skoda Octavia vRS has always been the family man's Golf GTI. While it may share a platform and engine with its German sibling, it hasn't been allowed to overshadow its smaller brother. Will the more powerful 245PS model change that? The experts at Car and Driving find out.
Ten Second Review
As you may have guessed from the name, the Skoda Octavia vRS 245 comes with an additional 15PS over the standard car, taking the total to 245PS. Skoda have also added an electronic limited slip differential to help tame things, while equipment levels are up too. But is this pokier engine worth the inevitable price premium?
The Skoda Octavia has always offered bags of space at a bargain price ever since it was first sold in the UK back in 1998. Three years later, Skoda shook up the sensible image with the first Octavia vRS. As the standard car was based on the fourth generation Volkswagen Golf, dropping in the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine from the GTI was a logical move. After building a cult following, Skoda were keen to repeat the formula in both the second and third generation Octavia.
While a diesel option was - and still is - offered, it's the petrol model that has always been the performance flagship. The vRS 245 makes sure that is still the case by effectively using the Performance Pack from the Golf GTI to make the most powerful hot Skoda ever. Still, 245PS isn't that much at the very top of the hot hatch spectrum these days. So what else can the vRS offer?
We might as well start with the headline power increase. With 245PS this time around, Octavia vRS buyers wanting the ultimate ride get 370Nm of torque - enough to manage the short burst from 37-62 mph in just 6.4 seconds. 62mph from rest takes just 6.6s. There is a choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox or - for the first time in a koda Octavia - a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission. The handling's been upgraded too, this vRS 245 model featuring a sports chassis that lowers its body by 14mm, plus the rear track is 38mm wider.
What else? Well, the ESC stability system has an extra Sport mode and an electronically regulated VAQ limited-slip differential is also part of the standard equipment. This electronic inter-wheel lock for the differential on the driving wheels allows for particularly dynamic acceleration when exiting corners: the amount of slip on one of the front wheels is limited and transferring power to the road is optimised. Individual adjustment of drive, chassis and comfort settings is possible through a 'Performance Mode Select' system and a 'Performance Sound Generator' gives the engine note a rortier sound. Finally, there's more direct 'progressive steering' and optional adaptive Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC).
Design and Build
Underneath, the Octavia vRS sits the Volkswagen group's 'MQB' platform that is also found under the Audi A3 and of course the Golf. To put it simply, here's a sensibly styled Golf GTI 'Performance Pack' model, but one with a bigger boot, more spacious rear seats and the option of an estate bodyshell. At first glance, the vRS 245 doesn't appear to be much different to the normal vRS. Look closer. A completely new front section with a wider radiator grille and wide honeycomb air inlets in the redesigned bumper provides for a more dynamic appearance. The slats on the radiator grille and the trim that frames it both come in gloss-black.
Otherwise of course, this variant is like any other Octavia vRS model. It also helps that this car boasts one of the most spacious interiors in the class - there's a lot more space than you'd get in comparable Focus ST, Golf GTI or Leon FR models for example. There's also stacks of clever storage ideas. They include a multimedia holder with space for an iPod, a mobile phone and the like. You can also specify foldable cargo elements for a boot area which can feature a double-sided floor covering. On that subject, the boot volume in the Octavia vRS hatch is 590-litres, while in the estate vRS, it's 610-litres.
Market and Model
You'll need to think in terms of a budget of around £29,000 for this car and there's the usual premium of around £1,200 to go from the hatch to the Estate bodystyle. If you're shopping in this part of the market, you might have noticed that it costs only around £1,000 to go from a 230PS VW Golf GTI to a 245PS VW Golf GTI Performance Pack model. However, if you're expecting a similarly slight premium to go from a 230PS Octavia vRS to this 245PS Octavia vRS variant, you're probably going to be disappointed. The reason for that is that Skoda throws a lot more equipment at the 245PS model - it isn't just about the extra power. One example of that is the vRS 245PS model's top-of-the-range Columbus navigation system, which features a 9.2-inch screen and an optional LTE module for super-fast data transfer, and provides occupants with a Wi-Fi hotspot.
One of the particularly helpful services provided by this package is Online Traffic Information, which offers recommended alternatives to the chosen route in the event of a traffic jam. A 'Phonebox' package charges smartphones inductively. Other useful features include a heated steering wheel, two USB ports in the rear, a personalisable key and a removable LED torch in the boot of the Estate version.
Cost of Ownership
If cheap running costs are your biggest concern, then you might be better off considering the diesel vRS which offers decent performance with impressive economy. If petrol power is your preference or you just want the quickest Octavia available, the 245PS petrol version still isn't at all bad. Indeed, even with the additional ponies under the bonnet, economy and emissions are pretty much unchanged over the normal vRS. Go for the six speed manual gearbox and that means CO2 emissions of just over 140g/km and fuel economy of around 45mpg on the combined cycle.
Unlike many Volkswagen Group products, these figures actually worsen should you opt for the 'DSG' automatic gearbox, but not by too much. The warranty is a standard three years and 60,000 miles (with the first two years unlimited mileage), although this can be extended to five years or 100,000 miles for an additional fee. Skodas also tend to hold their value better than many rivals, while reliability is also better than average too.
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. In creating the vRS 245, Skoda haven't suddenly released all of the untapped potential within the Octavia or significantly altered the car's character. Like putting a Performance Pack on a Golf GTI, there's just a little bit more go and a front end that is a bit more resistant to running wide or spinning up an inside front wheel under hard acceleration.
If that sounds like faint praise, then you are very much mistaken. There's nothing wrong with the normal vRS: the 245 just gives you more of the good stuff with little to no penalty. Yes, it is more expensive but the increased levels of equipment make the price difference seem more than acceptable. If we were in the market for a vRS, we'd definitely tick the box for the '245' package.