By Patrick James on 2016-02-12 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Skoda Octavia vRS
2.0 TSI 230ps
HOW much better can Skoda get? That is the question as its ever improving range now challenges the best of parent firm VW.
From the Citigo at the bottom end to the Superb at the top, all have plenty to offer and still at a decent price. No longer bargain basement, but reflecting the quality on offer.
The Octavia is a fine motor and now in its third generation it is a small family car with a huge boot, but in the uprated 230ps vRS version it offers firecracker performance.
Skodas are not noted for their blinged up sporty look and go faster stripes, but this model is about as blinged up as you will get. It has stunning black 19-inch alloys, with contrasting sporting red brake calipers, twin exhausts and the figure 230 emblazoned on the side. Discrete vRS badges abound on both exterior and interior.
That figure tells you how powerful the engine is. At 230ps, the two-litre turbocharged unit offers electric performance, but like many performance engines these days, half-decent economy.
It is capable of sprtnting to 60mph in just 6.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. It is a sweet revving engine with instant response from the throttle, but still packs the kind of torque, normally associated with diesels, so you are not constantly zipping through the gears with more sedate driving.
It isn't cheap at just over Â£26,000, but it is packed with kit and the latest technology. It looks good. All creases and angles with bi-xenon headlights with dark insert, AFS and LED daytime running lights which flank a sporty honeycomb grille.
There are also black design door mirrors and black gloss exhaust tailpipes with sports sound.
Inside, the finish is everything you would expect from a VW group car, with soft touch finish to dash and doors and excellent build quality. Everything clunks and clicks where it should. The only criticism might be that some would find it a bit bland. For others, the less is more look is more desirable.
The controls are dominated by the three-spoke, mutli-functin settring whee and touchscreen satellite navigation screen with SD slot while a colour trip computer with built in lap timer gives instant driving information. The red leather leather sports seats also sport the vRS logos which also feature on door and sill inserts.
The interior is large with plenty of glass letting the light in to offset the dark trim and four adults can be accommdated in comfort, with a fifth not quite so comfortable.
It is a practical car and the huge boot is capable of transporting serious loads in the 590 litre space increasing to a cavernous 1,580 with the rear seats down.
To cope with its blistering pace, the vRS gets sports suspension and an XDS electronic differential as standard. This helps it clings limpet like on corners, feeling stable and agile and the electro machanical steering gives the driver a greater feedback.
The suspension if firm, but not harsh because even though this is a sports model, the Octavia is still at heart a family car and has impeccable manners at low speeds, even if there is always the feeling of latent power.
It potters along quite comfortably, but floor the throttle and the engine bursts into life with a roar. It is a superb motorway performer, where the excellent torque means overtaking is a breeze and the challenge is to say legal.
Claimed economy is a pretty impressive 45.6mpg, with CO2 emissions of 142g/km. It might cost that little bit extra in tax for the business user, but the practicality and performance from the price will offset that.
Skoda Octavia vRS 2.0 TSI 230ps
Mechanical: 1,984cc, 230Pps turbo petrol engine driving front wheels 6-spd manual transmission
Max Speed: 6.7 secs
Combined MPG: 45.6
Insurance Group: 30
Bik rating: 23%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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