Skoda Octavia vRS facelift: Review

We make no excuses for our fondness for the Skoda Octavia vRS here on PH. Not least for the fact it's a little difficult to pigeonhole. Is it a hot hatch? Sort of. It is after all based on the Golf GTI, arguably the benchmark all-rounder in the sector. But in actual size and practicality it's more like a car from the next sector up and a sensible family motor or repmobile.

Which makes it sound a bit dull. But in the vRS form enjoyed by many PHers over the years the proven mix of practicality, performance and value for money it's anything but. We should know having run the short-lived Octavia vRS230 for a very enjoyable six months and 15,000 miles. Boxes for a fast car to fit in with busy lives very much ticked.

Hang on though - short-lived? Well, yes. The 230 we ran wasn't in the range long but the whole Octavia line-up has been updated and with it the vRS versions. Which is what we're driving here. So what exactly has changed?

A face for radio
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way first shall we? The updated vRS is, of course, based on the recently facelifted Octavia, complete with its 'overhauled' styling. Sorry to say but the new look does the car few favours; where the old car was actually very well proportioned, the new car is a little more challenging in appearance. In fairness, the vRS model, with it's more aggressive bodykit, does a good job of improving this, but still I don't think many people will be accusing the car of being better looking than its predecessor.

Also changed from the previous car is the interior, which remains familiar to anyone who's experienced a Golf, Leon or A3 recently. It was excellent before, but it now features an upgraded touchscreen interface which certainly looks a lot more modern that the outgoing system, and thankfully works just as well. Sadly, the VW group's excellent "virtual cockpit" hasn't yet been gifted to Skoda, perhaps to maintain the hierarchy and the brand's position as the discount option.

The only other point to note is that the rear track has been increased by 30mm, which was apparently for aesthetics but it brought about a slight increase in stability too.

Business as usual
So, aside from the changes the Octavia vRS remains largely the same. It is still available as either a hatch or an estate, with either a diesel or petrol engine, available with a six-speed DSG or a manual gearbox. For the purposes of comparison to our beloved long termer we will focus from here on in on the 2.0 TSI petrol manual. Happily this also happens to be the best-seller too.

The motor itself remains largely unchanged, although in theory it has gained 10hp over the old model, now boasting 230hp to propel the car from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and onto a limited top speed of 155mph. I say in theory because our long termer was a run-out 230 edition, which made use of this very engine variant. Nonetheless all-conquering EA888 motor remains a willing participant and, thanks to some exhaust upgrades (and some fakery), the vRS certainly sounds a bit more sporty too, with a raspy FUMMMPHH on upshifts. Yes it is engineered, yes they're childish and it will undoubtedly annoy some people ... but it made me smile.

For the most part the way that the car drives brings no surprises. It is still comfortable, well-judged and very pleasant indeed. However, being a vRS it is meant to have the nuts thrashed off it from time to time, so let's stop talking about niceties and get to that bit!

Out of the blocks it feels fast enough to be considered a genuine performance option, although somehow it feels slower than it sounds on paper, which may actually be down to the way it goes about its business with the minimum of fuss. Whilst the 30mm wider rear track seems to bring with it a slightly more stable feel, the downside is that it has made the rear end less responsive to throttle inputs. Admittedly this is only really noticeable on track and so will be of little impact to the vast majority of buyers, but it certainly makes the car feel less agile at lower speeds.

Diff of opinion
This isn't helped by the lack of the VAQ locking 'diff' on the front axle and much appreciated on our vRS long-termer. The more familiar brake-nibbling ESP-based simulation of its torque distribution is your lot and this robs the car of the dynamism and interaction we enjoyed so much. As experienced in other VAQ-equipped cars like the SEAT Leon Cupra and Golf GTI Performance, the system rewards a lead foot by pulling the car into the corner and distributing the traction to where it can work rather than just understeering out of it.

Moving on, as before there are numerous configurable options on the car, with both pre-set modes and an Individual mode that can be adjusted to your preferences. Best advice is to avoid the Sport steering mode as it serves only to add unnecessary weight and remove some feel.

Despite these downsides, the car remains a very appealing package. Sure, it isn't quite as fast, sharp or well equipped as its Golf GTI cousin, but it is much bigger, more practical, equally well screwed together, arguably more subtle and, with prices starting at £25,185, it is a few thousand pounds cheaper too. However, there is another car worth mentioning to anyone considering a vRS ... and that is the vRS we weren't able to drive on the launch. That car is the vRS245, clue in the title being this has a bit more power still and that VAQ front axle. Due later this year it also gets the latest seven-speed DSG, bringing it closer to the updated hot Golf range and offering a big step up from both the previous Octavia vRS models and this 'standard' version of the updated car.

If you like the vRS formula but were looking for a significant step-up in this updated version this would seem to be the one to go for. Something we hope to be able to confirm once we've driven it!

1,984cc four-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual/6-speed dual-clutch auto (DSG), front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 230@4,700-6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@1,500-4,600rpm
0-62mph: 6.7sec (DSG 6.8sec)
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,420kg (DSG 1,440kg, both with driver)
MPG: 43.5mpg (DSG 42.8mpg, both NEDC combined)
CO2: 142g/km (DSG 149g/km)
Price: £25,185 (£26,575 DSG)






P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (27) Join the discussion on the forum

  • philmots 23 Apr 2017

    I was slightly alarmed when I first saw the pictures of this. It's now grown on me massively, looks modern and fresh.

    Knowing how good the VAQ is on my Cupra 300 I would say it's quite necessary if you intend on really using it so the 245 is a good option, but as a family car the 230 would be more than adequate.

  • Ashtray83 23 Apr 2017

    The front lighting arrangement looks all sorts of wrong

  • Jonno02 23 Apr 2017

    I will never like the front end of this car.

  • FourRingedDonuts 23 Apr 2017

    Yeah nice rear end though, in a nice mix of anything German kind of way.

  • AndrewGP 23 Apr 2017

    Jonno02 said:
    I will never like the front end of this car.
    Me neither, it's awful. Shame as the rest of the car looks good and well proportioned.

    I'd like to change our 2011 Mk2 VRS Estate for a new one but I think I'll wait for the Mk4 to come out! (Our car has only done 33k miles though so it's not exactly desperate).

View all comments in the forums Make a comment