Skoda Octavia vRS: Life in the fast lane

Capable but subtle, Skoda's Octavia vRS is the darling of motorway police up and down the land
Capable but subtle, Skoda's Octavia vRS is the darling of motorway police up and down the land
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You know the Skoda Octavia vRS. It’s the car you dread to see in your rear view if you’re shifting a bit enthusiastically on the motorway. The police buy them because they’re subtle, fast, reliable and affordable; four attributes that work well with private buyers too. The latest model’s bigger and plusher than ever and the petrol version still gets to 60mph in 6.5 seconds and tops out at 154mph. In other words, don’t be tempted to try to outsprint one.

Yes, the vRS is the go-faster model of the Skoda Octavia range, launched at a time when going faster seems to be about as socially acceptable as a Gary Glitter comeback tour, but stick with it. There’s a lot more to this car than flicking the vees at the mandated speed limit. The vRS has long been a car that’s all about making discreet progress, which is why they’re the darlings of motorway police the length and breadth of the country. They’re capable but subtle.

This one’s the third-generation vRS model, although those of you with longer memories might well recall the first-generation car initially being badged an RS. The latest vRS packs a hefty 218bhp under the bonnet in 
petrol form, with a 182bhp two-litre diesel also offered.

Firmer suspension has been fitted to improve body control, as this latest generation Octavia is a significantly bigger car than its predecessor. The hatch’s ride height has been lowered by 12mm compared to the standard Octavia, with the Octavia vRS estate getting a 13mm drop. The design features a heavily revised multi-link axle, as well as an electronic differential lock XDS integrated into the electronic stability control (ESC). This function improves the traction of the wheels and reduces the tendency to under-steer in fast cornering. Electro-
mechanical progressive steering 
provides accuracy and fast responses.

Available in either hatch or estate guise, the Octavia vRS features a front grille with honeycomb air intakes, a unique front bumper and fog lights as well as bi-xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights.

Other highlights include the red-lacquered brake calipers and a choice of 17, 18 or 19-inch alloy wheels. The rear end is dominated in the lower section by a strong black diffuser, overlying wide reflector spotlight and the two large, trapezoidal-shaped chrome exhaust tailpipes. And space inside is extremely generous.

The vehicle has grown significantly in length (+88 mm, estate +86 mm) and width (+45 mm). At the same time, the wheelbase has risen by 102mm, greatly boosting rear leg room. Materials quality has improved and there’s stacks of clever storage ideas. Then there’s a multimedia holder with space for an iPod, a mobile phone and the like. The boot volume in the Octavia vRS hatch has increased by five litres to 590 litres, while in the estate vRS, it’s increased to 610 litres.

In effect, you have four vRS models to choose from, petrol or diesel and 
saloon or estate. Then you have to make the choice of whether you want your car with a manual gearbox or the DSG twin-clutch system, which will change the feel of the car quite significantly. Prices have crept up a bit but the Octavia respects the VW Group hierarchy and still comfortably undercuts the Volkswagen Golf GTI, despite offering a lot more car for the money.

The interior features integrated ambient lighting for the internal door handles, well-designed sports seats for the driver and passenger and a sporty three-spoke steering wheel with perforated leather. The gear stick and handbrake are trimmed in leather while the sill plates and pedals are stainless steel.

The instrument panel gets a full colour Maxi DOT display in its own vRS design. The steering wheel, gear stick, door sill panels, seats and floor mats all sport the vRS logo. The Octavia vRS features an integrated safety system while, in the event of an accident, a comprehensive package of passive safety features works to provide the best possible protection for driver and passengers with up to nine airbags.

As well as offering a good deal more pace and space, the latest Octavia vRS doesn’t do at all badly on economy and emissions and claims a 19 per cent improvement in efficiency. Start-Stop and Brake Energy Regeneration are 
fitted as standard.

Despite its increased size and better quality interior, this third-generation Octavia is up to 102kg lighter than its predecessor, due to lightweight engineering, a progressive body design, utilisation of high and ultra-tensile steel and careful selection of materials.

The Skoda Octavia vRS is a model that’s presentable, rapid, discreet and which won’t break the bank. It 
offers all the solid common sense of the Skoda brand with more than enough about it to reassure anyone that they’re not on the fast track to pipe and slippersville.

A potential winner for anyone who doesn’t feel the need for a badge with greater prestige, when the outside lane of the motorway clears like Moses parting the Red Sea before you, you’ll probably realise it was money well spent.

VITAL STATS

CAR Skoda Octavia vRS

PRICE From £23,000

PERFORMANCE Max speed 154mph; 0-60mph 6.5s

MPG (combined) 45.6mpg

CO2 EMISSIONS 142g/km