Did you know that they have just celebrated their hundredth anniversary? Or how about producing their fastest production car to date? Yes, it’s the car of all jokes - Skoda.
Before you start making fun at this one, take a minute to hear the facts. Zero to sixty in 7.5 seconds (Still yawning?) It’ll push 149 mph too. Perked up a bit yet? Hear me out. Having just spent the day driving the new Skoda Octavia VRS, I’m actually mighty impressed.
Ok, it shares around 80% of VW parts, but, and here is the interesting part - to my knowledge the engineers were virtually left alone to fettle with the overall finish of the VRS. Which means the boys at the VW factory have kept their noses out.
I shouldn’t big it up, but as a brand, regardless of being associated with Volkswagen, they have done a fantastic job in getting the finished product absolutely right.
In a nutshell, with your new VRS, you’ll get a wider, deeper front chin spoiler, smart 17” VRS-only alloy wheels (the test car was fitted with factory optional 18”s) and a discrete boot spoiler. Like all so-called hot hatches now, twin chrome tailpipes are also fitted. As for the engine, Skoda have opted for the 2.0 litre 16 valve turbocharged engine found in an array of VW group cars including the new Golf GTI.
What I liked so much about the previous VRS, was the fact that it was two cars rolled into one, but at a cracking price. The same can be said for the new model too. Standard spec with no options will set you back a mere £17,500 on the road. What has always baffled me is why does the VW group allow Skoda to price their products much lower than the rest of the company fleet?
On the Road
The real gem is the way that it drives. Picking a good windy B-road is essential if you want to experience what the Octavia has to offer. The first kick between the legs is the power it has available. Although it only produces 197 bhp, the 2.0 litre engine when combined with a sweet close ratio six speeder, feels much faster than the figure quoted in the brochure.
Steering the VRS through the bends made me realize that you don’t have to fork out £40 or £50K to get such a buzz. The suspension didn’t budge or roll too far even though I was attacking a corners at speed. The chassis gives the feeling of raising its shoulders and hunching down ready for an attack, whilst the suspension tightens making the whole car feel extremely reassuring.
The seats fitted in the new car are not what I would say supportive, but there is enough padding to keep you upright, although I did feel that less of this would cure a high driving position, despite being able to adjust the height. The steering wheel is a little on the large side, but it is firm and comfortable enough give a reasonable feedback, but despite gripping like Velcro, it’s just missing out on being pin point direct.
Having spent the morning briskly driving on the Hook Road just outside of Basingstoke, it was time to slow things down and take in the other side of the VRS. Enjoy it’s handling and performance you will, but try to take a chill pill and enjoy its relaxed side too.
Now the VRS becomes car number two. You start to understand why the seats are the way they are. The suspension still remains firm, but somehow transforms and starts to pitch slightly. The chassis exhales and allows the car to roll gently through the bends. The engine becomes whisper quiet, whilst the gearbox is even more of a joy to use. The whole experience is as good as before, but on a slower scale.