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Octavius Maximus: Skoda Octavia RS Review

There has always been something really cool about a hot wagon. The idea of lugging around copious amounts of whatever while snaking your way through bendy bitumen and fast straights has been a compelling proposition for many a moon. This brings us to the latest iteration of the Skoda Octavia RS.

The Octavia has been one of Skoda’s most popular models and the RS wagon has spearheaded its popularity. Its decent grunt, practicality and un-assuming “Q-Car” style has gained it a cult following. Now into its fourth generation, can this performance wagon still deliver? After collecting it from Miles Skoda’s new showroom on Moorhouse Avenue in Christchurch, I intended to find out.

The Octavia comes in two spec levels with the RS being the top tier. The entry level Style TSI starts at $47,990 plus ORC whereas the RS is $10k more at $57,990. So, what does that extra $10,000 get you? Well, more power for starters. Under the bonnet sits a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 180kW of grunt and 370Nm of torque. This is mated to a seven-speed DSG gearbox sending drive to the front wheels, naturally.

This is the same amount of power and torque you get from the new Volkswagen Golf GTi, which is hardly surprising as the new Octavia shares the same underpinning as its German counterpart thanks to Volkswagen’s new MQB Evo platform. Skoda claim the sprint to 100km/h from a standstill is dealt with in 6.7 seconds and the Octavia RS is good enough for combined fuel consumption figures of 6.7L/100km and 151g/km of combined C02.

The Octavia RS has always been a looker, and the latest generation continues this well. The new LED adaptive headlights are no longer split in two, with the designers opting for a single unit, which is cleaner cut than before. The new Octavia has also grown, with the RS being 15mm wider and 22mm longer than before, despite sharing the same 4689mm wheelbase.

The rear end has been tweaked and a smattering of blacked out badging looks good, especially against the Quartz Grey Metallic of my test car. The Comet Black 18-inch Alloys have a certain whiff of Lamborghini about them and look good too.

Skoda has also managed to find more room inside, with boot space increasing by 30L, bringing the total volume to 640L. This is more than adequate in anyone’s language, especially as the boot now features a false floor for a greater ease of loading. Fold the seats flat and the space increases in 1700L.

Inside, the RS embossed leather seats provide just the right mix of comfort and support. The bolsters hold you firmly in place without leaving you feeling like you are being held prisoner. This also results in a great driving position and the RS sports steering wheel feels good in your hands. The gear lever is now a shift-by-wire gear selector, flick it up or down with your thumb or index finger to engage drive or reverse. It’s a sweet system and feels very satisfying to use.

Along with the optional head up display, digital instrument cluster with multiple style screen selection, the biggest change when it comes to Octavia creature comforts is the new 10-inch Columbus touchscreen infotainment system. This is a big system and sports a number of unique features, including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a new digital assistant named Laura.

The system itself was a tad tricky to get your head around at first, but once you get into a rhythm, it becomes like second nature. Having a few buttons below the system for the climate control and drive modes also helped simplify things.

Onboard tech is considerable. The Octavia RS gets a tonne of safety gear including driver fatigue detection system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, parking sensors front and rear, reversing camera, low speed auto brake, side assist with exit warning, and front collision assist.

Other features include heated steering wheel, heated seats, ambient lighting, wireless charging and a very swish panoramic sunroof which is operated by sliding your finger across a panel like an iPAD. All in all, the Octavia RS is a very nice place to be, and the optional CANTON sound system give legends like Nina Simone and Louis Prima the “live” ambience. Gotta say, I do like my jazz.

Fire up that turbo four pot and you notice immediately a distinctly different engine note playing through the speakers. Skoda’s idea to play a grunty bellow to accompany the regular engine soundtrack is nothing new, but it doesn’t really do it for me. There is nothing really wrong with the normal noise so I don’t know why they would feel the need enhance it this way. Anyway, back to the drive.

The Octavia RS wakes up and is keen to move the moment you point than handsome nose onto the street. Applying some right shoe reveals a minimal amount of pedal travel between you touching the accelerator and the forward reaction of the car. When cruising, the RS is comfortable and supple when dicing through traffic or negotiating inner city back streets. Despite its wagon dimensions, it does feel hot hatch direct and responsive. This should come as no surprise considering its closely linked with its Golf cousin.

Flick over to Sport once you leave built up areas and you can have some good ol fashion fun. The seven speed DSG is slick on the way up and down and the steering weights up, giving you crisp and responsive feedback when you tug left or right. I wish the RS was a tad more dramatic in certain areas.

Part of me wishes it would crackle and bang after lifting off throttle. No matter though, especially when you can devour corners at a considerable rate. Power delivery is very linear, and if you keep it in the sweet spot between 3500 to 5000rpm, its pretty brisk too.

Let’s make no mistake here. The wagon segment is not what it used to be. A shadow of its former self if you will. Is the new Octavia RS wagon likely to turn the tide? Eh, probably not. However, its appeal cannot be ignored. It’s well equipped, pretty quick and very spacious. Also, there are very few in this niche segment which can match it in terms of price and fun factor. Basically, the Skoda Octavia RS wagon can still deliver on many levels.


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