Skoda Octavia vRS: driven

* Quick and comparatively cheap * Cosmetic and aerodynamic updates * On sale now from £18,160...

Skoda Octavia vRS: driven

Skoda's Octavia vRS has been playing catch-up. While the rest of the range got a new front end, revised engines and interior upgrades, the vRS performance version made do with just the interior tweaks.

Until now, that is. The vRS now has the new-look front-end, with a vRS twist that includes separate LED daytime running lights and a chunkier bumper. Whatever you think of the changes (and not everyone will see them as an improvement), there's been one positive side-effect a weight reduction of 20kg for the petrol model and 15kg for the diesel.

The ride height has been lowered, too, reducing drag and giving the vRS a fractionally higher top speed. In theory the changes sharpen the vRS's handling, too, but you'd need to be a Skoda engineer to really notice the difference. As before, the vRS is a hoot to drive and grips brilliantly, but its sheer size means it's not as agile as many hot hatch rivals.

More practical than most rivals

The upside is that it's more practical, of course. It's roomier than just about every rival, with a huge boot and space for those in the back to stretch out. The updated cabin is as comfortable and classy as it is spacious, with supportive seats, excellent build quality and smart materials and design.

As before, there are hatchback or estate versions, with the choice of a 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol or a 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine. Both come with a six-speed manual gearbox or optional six-speed semi-auto transmission.

With prices starting from £18,160, the vRS is proof that hot hatches can be thrilling as well as affordable and practical. LW

Our verdict:

Power, space and price appeal; the looks less so.