We drive Skoda's updated hot hatchback
Pros: Practicality and space, style, updated infotainment
Cons: Rivals offer superior performance
Few cars combine performance, practicality and affordability quite like the Skoda Octavia RS. Boasting a range of Skoda’s most powerful engines, it offers the same practicality and load-lugging qualities as the regular Octavia, but with sportier styling and driving performance. In mid-2017 the RS received a mild update as part of a wider update to the Octavia range, with tweaked styling, upgraded equipment and subtly-increased power. The new RS makes for a more enticing package than before, so we spent a week with the diesel model on Irish roads to see what it is like to live with.
What is it like?
The new Octavia RS looks much the same as before from the outside, except for a more aggressive front profile with a revised headlight arrangement and reshaped front bumpers. Although we weren’t initially convinced about the new headlight design, it has certainly grown on us since. As standard, the Octavia RS features 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and double chrome exhausts for a sportier finish than the standard Octavia. Our test car is also fitted with an optional RS XTREME Challenge pack that adds upgraded 19-inch alloy wheels, black exterior detailing and tinted windows, though it’s a costly upgrade (€1,003).
Stepping inside, the Octavia RS impresses with supportive alcantara sports seats, a leather sports steering wheel laced with red stitching and a brand-new glass-faced 9.2-inch touch screen system, which is our favourite feature. The touchscreen is a joy to use with in car Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all integrated as standard. There is generous amounts of room inside and plenty of space to accommodate four passengers comfortably on longer journeys, while boot space is unmatched in the class with a cavernous 590 litres of space. For this reason, the RS makes a great choice for those seeking a functional family hatchback with added zest.
The Octavia RS is available with a choice of two engines, either a 230bhp 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol unit or a more economical 184bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged TDI diesel. We drove the RS in diesel guise and it is ultimately the more sensible choice of the pair, with punchy performance and strong low-down torque delivery. As standard, the RS features a six-speed manual gearbox, but our test car is fitted with optional DSG automatic transmission, which is worth the extra outlay in our opinion. There are both two and four-wheel drive drivetrains available, but we found the front-wheel-drive sufficient for most roads.
Acceleration is brisk with 0-100km/h taking 8.2 seconds, and there are various driving modes available at the touch of a button including sport, ECO and even a customisable individual driving mode. In Eco mode, fuel economy is especially-good and we were able to consistently achieve over 50 MPG. The Octavia RS isn’t the fastest in the traditional sense of the word, especially when you pitch it against hot hatches like Volkswagen’s Golf GTi or the Ford Focus ST. Those seeking more increased performance credentials can consider the petrol-powered Octavia RS however
The updated Octavia RS drives very much like its predecessor, which is a great thing. It strikes an ideal balance of handling and comfort, although the larger 19-inch alloy wheels on our test car add extra road noise and harder ride quality on bumpy surfaces. The Octavia RS is easy to drive quickly with reassuring grip on twisty roads and much greater poise than the regular Octavia. Again, while it isn’t necessarily as focused as other performance hatches such as the Ford Focus ST or Volkswagen GTI, most buyers will be surprised by the RS’ driving capabilities.
Prices for the new Octavia RS kick off at €34,450 which makes it one of the most affordable new performance hatchbacks on the market and over €5,000 cheaper than the comparable Volkswagen Golf GTD. Standard specification is excellent with ambient interior lighting, in car WI-Fi, a reversing camera, LED headlights, the 9.2-inch touch screen system and lots more included as standard. Our test car is fitted with the optional RS XTREME Challenge pack and an electric panoramic sunroof, which are desirable but expensive upgrades.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The updated Octavia RS is a highly-capable family car with acres of boot space, yet it doesn’t compromise on style and performance. New styling updates add to its style, and features such as the new standard touch screen system mean it is also more sophisticated than before. While it can’t match racier hot hatch models such as the Volkswagen Golf GTi or Ford Focus ST for sheer driving thrills, the Octavia RS is nonetheless a very rewarding hatch to drive with superior economy and running costs. One to consider for those who need a family car that doesn’t sacrifice on performance.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 TDI DSG
Prices from: €34,450
Price as tested: €37,830
Annual Road Tax: €270
Engine: 1968cc turbocharged diesel
Top Speed: 204km/h
0-100km/h: 8.2 seconds
Transmission: DSG Automatic
Body style: Hatchback
Boot Space: 590 litres