Skoda have come a long way since the jokes about the spoiler on a sporty Skoda being just a handle to push it with. Perhaps the best example of this is the subject of this test, the Octavia vRS 230. The vRS is an already impressive sporty saloon which in this latest version has been treated to most of the kit of goodies in the Volkswagen Group portfolio which were previously reserved for the flagship Golf GTI Performance Pack model. Interestingly, though, the price gap between the two seems to have narrowed. At a starting price for the Octavia of £26,350 OTR against £29,110 for the equivalent Golf, VAG are clearly starting to cash in on the much-improved acceptability of their previously bargain-basement brand.
From the outside, the vRS 230 looks pretty much like any other vRS, or for that matter any other Octavia: sleek and understated or dull & boring………..if you overlook the slightly garish 230 logos adorning the base of the rear doors of the test car, that is. Personally, I go for the sleek & understated view; either way the Octavia certainly does not look like a bargain-basement model and can hold its own in a car park full of more prestigious brands.
Hopping into the drivers seat provides a real sense of deja vu for anyone used to the current Golf GTI. The dials are almost identical, as is the centre console switching, door handles and a host of other bits. Not that this is an issue, for the current Golf GTI cabin is indeed a pretty pleasant place to be.
No tartan trim in the Skoda, of course, but you really do have to have a double-take to spot the differences. The seats themselves are sporty leather jobs, the headrests monogrammed with the vRS motif, as is almost obligatory on hot hatches these days ……..although the Golf GTI has to do without!
Starting the engine demonstrates another VW-style feature, a full scale sweep of the needles on the dials, whilst it may only be when setting off that you realise that the Skoda has a manual handbrake rather than the Golf’s electric affair.
Once moving, the Skoda feels solid & refined, which yet again are renowned Golf traits. Acceleration is impressively quick and seamless, courtesy of the massive 350Nm of torque which is available from only 1500 rpm. Skoda quote 6.7 seconds for the 0-62mph dash, surprisingly some 0.5 seconds slower than the Golf, as the Skoda feels if anything quicker than the Golf on the road. Torque steer is all but absent, thanks to the electro-mechanical diff which is once again borrowed from the Golf GTI Performance Pack.
Like the Golf, the vRS is fitted with a sound generator which kicks in when sport mode is selected. Interestingly, though, the sound produced by the vRS actuator seems much more realistic than that from the Golf, which contrives to be fairly dull & uninspiring.
Ride & handling, too, clearly come from the Golf GTI stable, which since both cars share the VW Groups acclaimed MQB running gear is no surprise at all.
Braking is sure-footed, with the pedal weighting almost perfect. Whilst the two cars share the same big front brakes, the vRS does without the big ventilated discs which fitted to the rear of the Golf.
Summing up, the Octavia vRS 230 shares so much of the performance, ride & handling DNA of the acclaimed Golf GTI with Performance Pack that it is hard to differentiate between them. Much of the difference therefore comes down to price. And despite the apparent difference in on-the-road prices for the basic cars, beware: each includes as standard several features not seen on the other. For example, the vRS sports standard sat-nav, a £750 option on the Golf. It also boasts electrically adjustable front seats with drivers memory function which are seemingly not available on the Golf, leather seats (an incredible £1720 on the Golf), & lane assist (£540).
On the other hand, the standard specification for the Golf GTI includes adaptive cruise control (£765 on the Skoda), electrically folding mirrors (£175), keyless entry & start (£400), front & rear parking sensors (£350), & cornering front fog lights (£105).
So to match the specification of the two cars, you would need to shell out a not insignificant £32,130 for the Golf GTI, but only £28,145 for the Skoda – four grand more for what is essentially the same car!
To take a line from another manufacturers advert – you do the maths!
Interested? Find out more here: http://www.skoda.co.uk/models/new-octavia-vrs-hatch