2014 Skoda Octavia RS First Drive Review
Our 2014 Skoda Octavia RS first drive review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
By Isaac Bober (Editor)
In a nutshell The new Skoda Octavia RS is bigger and more powerful than its predecessor. More practical too.
Practical Motoring Says Rather than try and compete with the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Skoda Octavia RS gets most of that cars best bits, is only a smidgen slower than it, is a lot cheaper, and offers a lot more room for a family. The Octavia RS might not be quite as dynamic as the Golf GTI, but it’s near enough that you won’t be disappointed. Is it the better, more practical car, no doubt about it.
THE THIRD-GENERATION OF THE SKODA OCTAVIA RS heralds, like the rest of the Octavia range, the most significant leap in terms of performance and practicality since it was first released back in 1996. See, the new model is bigger than before, and has a more powerful engine, too and, although it misses out on some of the Volkswagen Golf GTI’s gear, like its trick adaptive suspension (the two are virtual twins under the skin in many other ways), it undercuts that car (before drive-away prices) – $38,790 Vs $44,490.
This new Octavia RS shares the same longer wheelbase of its garden-variety siblings (although it sits 12mm lower in Sedan trim), meaning its 102mm longer, between the axles, than its predecessor. But, on the outside, there’s no mistaking the Octavia RS for a regular Octavia (it’s available in both Sedan and Wagon trim).
This increase in size has made more interior room available for driver and passengers, particularly those travelling in the back seat. Indeed, head, elbow and legroom has grown substantially over the previous-generation Octavia RS. And, for those with children in childseats, the Octavia RS offers Isofix mountings and hooks for the top-tether strap.
We tested the Sedan which has seen bootspace increase by eight litres to 568 litres (588L in the wagon) which grows to 1558 litres with the rear seats folded down (they don’t go completely flat (the Wagon grows to 1718 litres, allowing for objects up to 2.92 metres in length to be carried).
From the RS-specific front and rear aprons, to the boot-lid-integrated spoiler and 18-inch alloys (although 19-inch rims are an extra-cost option) with bright red brake calipers peeking out from behind the wheel spokes. The Octavia RS is also available in one exclusive colour, Steel Grey, and the six regular colours available across the Octavia range.
The Skoda Octavia RS is based on the Octavia Elegance equipment package, and that means it’s impressively equipped, with dual-zone climate control (with humidity sensor), front and rear one-touch power windows, colour multi-function display (with sat-nav), front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth with audio streaming, rain-sensing wipers and more. In terms of pricing, the Octavia RS 162 TSI Manual lists from $36,490 (+ORC), the Octavia RS 162 TSI DSG (which we’re testing) lists from $38,790 (+ORC), and the diesel-powered Octavia RS 135 TDI DSG starts at $39,790 (+ORC), the Wagon adds $1350 to the price.
And, from this month (May 2014) Octavia RS buyer will have the option of ordering Driving Mode Selection which incorporates four different driving profiles (Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual) which alter everything from DSG shift pattern, to power steering and headlight control. At the time of writing there was no word on pricing.
Skoda has gone to great lengths to let us all know that this new Octavia RS (petrol/manual) is the fastest production one yet and with its 0-100km/h time tumbling from 7.2 seconds in its predecessor to 6.8 seconds in this car, it’s not wrong. We’re testing the six-speed DSG-equipped variant which stops the clock at 6.9 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint (the VW Golf GTI manages the sprint in 6.5 seconds).
See, Skoda’s engineers have hiked up the power and torque from the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, which now produces 162kW of power (up 15kW) and 350Nm from 1500-4000rpm. This, in our test car, at least, is mated to a six-speed DSG (a six-speed manual is standard) and fuel consumption is 6.9L/100km (it’s a little lower in the manual-toting variant – 6.4L/100km).
As mentioned, the Skoda Octavia RS shares much of its running gear with the VW Golf GTI, but unlike the GTI the Octavia RS does without adaptive suspension but shares its software-based XDL system which can softly brake both inside wheels, allowing for a torque increase on the outer wheel to ensure tight cornering when pressing on. Over the standard model, the Octavia RS sits 12mm lower (thanks to shorter springs), gets thicker anti-roll bars and a little more negative camber at the front.
And, on the road the Octavia RS 162 TSI DSG is excellent and that’s because it’s not trying overly hard to be a ‘hot hatch’ and so, after a drive across your favourite stretch of bitumen, you come away feeling suprised and delighted. And that’s not damning the thing with faint praise, because driven with enthusiasm, the Octavia RS rewards with meaty and direct steering, vice-like grip, indeed you’d have to have fists made of ham and fingers of butter to get the snout to run wide in corners.
If the grip and go isn’t impressive enough, the ride acts as icing on the cake. Despite its dynamism, the Octavia RS is, thanks to the brand’s desire to build practical, everyday cars, is every bit as comfortable across broken surfaces as it is neutral feeling when you’re throwing it at a series of tight and twisting corners. It’s an impressive blend that wouldn’t be out of place on a Jaguar, and it’s the master of blending comfort with performance.
There’s excellent vision right around, and the addition of a rear windscreen wiper on the Sedan Octavia RS makes me wonder why more sedans don’t have them. The sports seats have just enough grip to keep you in place and, although the seat base is a little flat it’s more than comfortable enough on longer journeys.
In terms of safety, the Octavia RS receives a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating and numerous active and passive safety systems, like stability (offering dynamic modes) and traction controls, multi-collision brake, tyre pressure control, nine airbags, and LED daytime running lights.