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Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI vRS DSG review

We get behind the wheel of Skoda's diesel, Golf-chasing hot hatch, the 170hp Octavia vRS TDI.

"Once on the move, the oil-burner's torque really pays off..."

What is it?
Skoda’s acclaimed Octavia underwent a facelift at the start of 2009. And this is the hot vRS version, complete with VW Golf-chasing 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine and six-speed DSG gearbox. At 170hp the engine produces 22% more power than the standard 2.0-litre diesel Octavia and a hefty 350Nm of torque. A 200hp petrol version is also available, but at 280Nm it is well outgunned in the torque stakes by the diesel.

What does it look like?
The vRS comes with a lowered ride, body kit, special sports interior and lots of gear as standard. All vRS Octavias get deeper front and rear diffusers and a new bootlid spoiler. Combined with the Octavia’s shapely new headlights and deeper grille, red callipers, 18-inch alloys, twin chrome pipes and more spirited lines than its angular predecessor, the body kit gives the vRS a proper hot hatch look. The LED daytime running lights sit low in the front bumper and give an impression of quality that’s expected of modern Skodas too.

One slightly iffy touch is the “Octavia” wording embossed in the headlights. Beyond casting a Bat-signal style logo across oncoming traffic this kind of frippery doesn’t quite project the class you’d expect from a Volkswagen Group product.

What’s it like inside?
The interior of the vRS is a pleasant place to be. The new touch-screen LCD control panel is straightforward to use and has Skoda-green accents to keep everything co-ordinated, and the six-CD changer has been moved from the boot to the cockpit to save rain-sodden disc changes.

Space-wise there’s lots of headroom, and legroom in the back is reasonable. The boot is enormous. At 560 litres it puts even the Golf Plus’s 395 litres to shame. The only niggle is the special vRS seats. They look sporty in black with light grey faux-suede, but are on the hard side, and the central mesh sections are almost too grippy.

What’s it like to drive?
As it’s 12mm lower than the standard Octavia, the vRS has quite a firm ride, so around town you’ll feel the humps and hollows more than your latte grande might like. Once you’ve replaced your urbanite tipple with three cans of red bull and want to get aggressive in the open, the setup comes into its own. The uprated brakes provide plenty of stop on demand and are user-friendly once you’ve got over the initial grabbyness typical of just about all VW Group cars.

The less-than-snappy 8.4 second 0-62mph stat isn’t that relevant – what the 2.0-litre diesel provides is mid-range punch in abundance. Once on the move, the oil-burner’s torque really pays off and provides painless overtaking.

However, the six-speed DSG struggles to handle the torque at lower speeds, and seems to take much longer than the claimed 0.04 seconds to swap cogs on the way up the ratios (though it is much swifter on the way back down). Torque steer is strong when accelerating hard in first and second, and when the ESP kicks in it delays the up-shift further and the engine over-revs. With few revs to play with in the first place this becomes a problem. Setting the gear lever to sports automatic provides much more controlled (and ultimately quicker) progress up to speed.

Verdict
While the petrol vRS would be more tuneful and better matched to the DSG paddles, the diesel version provides bags of zip when it’s needed most, and with a combined cycle economy figure of 49.6mpg and emitting 159g/km of CO2 it can be frugal as well as fiery. At £20,165 on the road the vRS is £3580 cheaper than the comparable Golf GTD, and now the Octavia’s styling is mostly up to scratch it makes an awful lot of sense.

Car Specs – Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI vRS DSG

Engine:2.0-litre TDI, 170hp
0-62mph:8.4 seconds
Top speed:139mph
Economy/emissions:49.6mpg/159g/km CO2
Price/On sale £20,165/Now

We rate:
Snappy restyle
Mid-range pull

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We slate:
Bumpy ride in town
Drab engine note

Rating: 3.5 / 5

by Richard Webber

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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