A diesel? I thought the vRS was Skoda's GTi.
It is. The vRS comes with either the 197bhp FSi turbo 2.0-litre from the Golf GTi or now, with this 2.0 common-rail diesel. It’s the newer, more powerful version of that engine too, producing 168bhp and 258lb ft of torque, up 30bhp and 22bhp on the version offered in the more luxury-baised and stupidly named Laurin and Klement Octavia.
So it’s quick?
Not blisteringly so, but it’s pretty useful. Sixty-two comes up in 8.5sec or 1.2sec slower than the petrol vRS but that doesn’t convey the amount of overtaking grunt on offer. That kick in back comes from having 52lb ft on the petrol version but you only feel it at lower revs. The thrust from the petrol-engine is more sustained and its flat torque curve means you don’t have to thrash the thing to make it go.
Which is the better engine?
Well if you hate stopping to fill up, the diesel is the natural choice. The petrol’s clever direct injection technology means its far more fuel efficient than rivals like the Focus ST, managing 35.8mpg on the combined cycle. But the diesel’s 48.7mpg average means it’ll probably stretch another 200miles from a full tank. The price you pay for really putting your bladder to the test is a big drop in refinement. Direct injection means the petrol unit isn’t the smoothest but the TDi unit sounds like a toddler playing drums on a pots and pans kit from cold and even when warm only gets its act together further up the rev range. The dead spot between the engine’s idling speed and the point at which the turbo wakes up is more pronounced in the diesel too, but the gearchange is light and fast.
Presumably it’s no GTi in the bends?
Wrong. It may be about as sexy as Miss Marple but the Skoda’s chassis is spot on. This is a genuine hot hatch. The really meaty steering does its best to stave off the numbness electro-hydraulic racks can suffer from and the body control is impressive. The 30kg weight penalty for the TDi adds a bit of weight over the nose but it still turns in neatly and grips well although it's not hard to have the traction control light blinking away on wet roads. Unlike some hot hatches we could mention the Skoda rides well but, like the hot Golfs, it’s not the quietest motorway cruiser.
What’s the rest of the car like?
A bargain, for starters. What’s you’re actually buying is a bigger, more practical Golf GTi for several thousand pounds less than the real thing. A basic petrol-powered Octavia vRS costs £17,575 compared with £20,860 for the mechanically identical five-door Golf GTi which does without the Skoda’s standard CD changer. A vRS estate commands an £800 premium over the regular five-door but the boot space in the hatch is so generous we’d think twice about ruining the already dull styling for the sake of a couple of extra litres. The Skoda’s cabin quality is as good if not better than the Golf’s, there’s stacks of room in the rear and it sits an insurance group lower than the GTi.
Good to drive, practical and great value, it’s no surprise that Skoda’s vRS models make up 12 per cent of Skoda’s sales. The vRS diesel is no different and makes an interesting undercover hot hatch. But if fuel consumption isn’t an issue – and the petrol’s relatively frugal nature means it needn’t be - we’d take the cheaper petrol car simple because of its more sporting nature.