Since the first Octavia RS landed in 2001, Skodas with the RS badge have earned their own loyal following of fans for hot performance at value for money pricing. In the case of the Octavia RS, that also means unrivalled space and practicality. The Skoda Octavia RS proves that practical can be fast and interesting too.
There are also quite a few models to choose from. The Octavia RS is available as a hatchback or estate, there are diesel or petrol variants, manual and automatic DSG gearboxes, and also now the option of four wheel drive on the diesel.
The most powerful of the Octavia RS range is the 2.0-litre TSI petrol with 230hp, but the 2.0-litre TDI diesel’s reason for being is simply that it’s cheaper to run while packing 184hp. It’s still quick, hitting 100kmh from a standstill in 8.1 seconds with a standard manual gearbox, but the four wheel drive DSG model tested here can do the same in 7.6 seconds.
The four wheel drive system and automatic gearbox add weight and impact economy, but motor tax is still significantly less than the TSI, at €270. The official economy is 58mpg (I got 52mpg) so the Octavia RS makes a lot of sense in everyday driving.
However, this car is not just about economy and the 2.0-litre TDI still serves up the same sort of handling powers as the petrol TSI. The Octavia RS has a sports suspension, and there’s also an electronic differential lock to improve cornering grip. You can really pull the Octavia RS tight into corners with no loss of stability, and the steering is natural and direct meaning that you will be slinging the Octavia RS in and out of them with gusto. The Octavia RS never feels quite as lithesome as smaller hatchbacks like the Golf GTI or Peugeot 308 GTi as there is more roll of its bodyweight in corners. The four wheel drive system is brilliant however – put your foot down hard on the accelerator and this thing just grips and goes forth like a demon! Comfort is also a plus here, there’s a firm edge to the suspension damping but it never slips into uncomfortable territory.
The shadow of the 2.0-litre TSI does hang a bit in the air though. I had the opportunity to drive these two cars back to back and the TSI has the better performance of the two. The two cars ride similarly and there’s very little between them in terms of handling. But there is no mistaking that you’re driving a diesel in the TDI. The TSI is just a more visceral experience because of the fundamental difference in the power delivery and noise of a petrol and diesel engine. There is definitely gains to be had in the TDI 4X4, the first being the almighty shove of torque (380Nm), and also the extra grip and stability from the four wheel drive system.
Regardless of which model you go for, the RS has beefed up styling that really does sit well on the Octavia including large alloys, rear spoiler, twin exhausts and RS badging on the grille and rear. Inside, there are decorative dash inserts in sport trim, red stitching on the flat bottomed steering wheel and around the gear stick, and some more RS badging. Definitely worth speccing are the optional full leather seats, which really do make the car feel a bit more special. Elsewhere, the cabin has a simple design built around the 5.8” colour touch-screen radio with SmartLink for smartphone connectivity, and you can’t knock the quality of the cabin at this price range.
RS diesels start at just €33,495, which is remarkably good value, not just for all of the above but because the Octavia offers fantastic interior and boot space for the money. The DSG 4×4 test car comes in at a heftier €38,795, while the 2.0-litre TSI starts at €35,995. Standard spec includes front fog lights, bi-xenon headlights, electric windows and mirrors, dual zone climate control, cruise control, reversing camera and touchscreen infotainment, as well as the RS design features.
Whether you go for a diesel or petrol Octavia RS, you’re getting great value for money; not just because of the power on offer and performance-tuned handling, but because the Octavia RS is a genuinely spacious family car. It’s guilt free pleasure. The TSI has the better performance of the two, but the diesel is the one that won’t break your heart with trips to the pumps, while still offering enough of the speed and handling finesse that makes this car a great daily drive.
Model Tested: Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 TDI 184bhp DSG 4×4
Price: €38,795 (Range starts €33,495)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 7.6 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 129g/km
Motor Tax: €270 per year