Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Despite only coming with front-wheel drive, the 2.0 TSI 245 makes for the fastest Skoda Octavia vRS from 0-62mph, taking a respectable 6.7sec when fitted with the dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox.
The front-wheel-drive diesel (2.0 TDI 200) and the plug-in hybrid (1.4 TSI iV) both take more than 7.0sec to complete the sprint, although the diesel does it in a more eager 6.8sec in four-wheel-drive form. Even so, while the TDI’s strong low-down pull makes driving briskly effortless, it's an effective rather than enjoyable engine that's not all that quick on the move.
Once it hooks up, performance is pleasingly muscular, and the iV feels swifter than the TDI on the move. Plus, being a plug-in hybrid, it has the added bonus of being able to travel on pure electric power alone for up to 43 miles, officially.
Unlike the TDI diesel and iV plug-in models, the TSI petrol’s traction is assisted by an electronically controlled limited-slip front differential. This certainly helps to apply power on sharper bends, although it's not as aggressive as a Civic Type R and never feels as though it can tighten the car’s line around a bend when you've put your foot down.
Its real benefit is that it all but eliminates torque steer (the sensation of the steering wheel writhing in your hands when you accelerate). If you’re more concerned about traction through a muddy field instead of a race track, the four-wheel-drive TDI vRS will be your best bet. You get mild off-road assistance and a boost in straight-line performance, but most buyers will be better off with front-wheel-drive versions.
TDI and TSI models get lower, stiffer sports suspension as standard, something that’s absent on the iV version. This sports suspension is a fair bit stiffer than a regular Octavia’s, while the optional DCC adaptive set-up allows you to stiffen it even more with a prod of the touchscreen. Even with the DCC switched to its firmest setting, you’ll experience more body lean and have less agility than in the Civic Type R.
That’s not to say you can’t hustle a vRS along your favourite B-road briskly; it’s just that most rivals will put a bigger smile on your face, especially the scalpel-like Civic Type R and rambunctious Renault Megane RS or GR Yaris. Unsurprisingly, the heavier vRS iV is even less of a hoot. While it certainly hides its weight well for a plug-in, you’re all too aware of how that mass and its softer suspension hurts the car’s agility, despite it gripping well.
As well as the thudding from the suspension we mentioned above, there’s a bit of wind and road roar to contend with in the vRS. It’s not too bothersome, but it can have you clicking the stereo’s volume up a few notches on the motorway in order to hear things clearly. A six-speed manual is offered only on the TSI 245, and while it does allow for do-it-yourself gear swapping, the notchy lever action and numb clutch pedal action add nothing to the experience – unlike the sweet 'box found in the Civic Type R.
The DSG gearbox (standard in the TDI and TSI iV, optional on the TSI 245) shifts quickly and near seamlessly between ratios, although it isn’t as smooth as the best 'boxes when manoeuvring at low speeds. The iV’s gearbox is similarly proficient on the move and better at lower speeds to boot. It switches between power sources without fuss.
There’s no doubt the TSI is the sportiest-sounding Skoda Octavia vRS, sounding better than the gritty diesel. The iV also sounds enthusiastic enough, even with just 1.4 litres under the bonnet; indeed, the sound symposer fitted as standard in the UK makes all the engines sound beefier with a little help from the stereo’s speakers.