Skoda Octavia RS v Subaru Levorg GT-S 2016 Comparison
Hot on the heels of our recent five-seat SUV comparison we decided to take a back-to-back look at a pair of, shall we say, faster family options.
From Skoda, the recently revised Octavia RS offers plenty in terms of amenity and value, its contemporary styling and near-prestige levels of safety technology roving an enticing drawcard for discerning buyers. On test, the Octavia RS 162TSI retails from $41,890 (plus on-road costs).
Subaru’s new Levorg assimilates sport and luxury in a stylish package, replete with EyeSight safety tech and WRX levels of performance. However, with a starting price of $42,990 for the basic 2.0-litre GT variant (and $48,890 plus on-road costs for the turbocharged GT-S model tested here), the Suby’s asking price may well put it out of reach for price-sensitive buyers.
Chalk and cheese? Hardly; and given how closely the wagons measure physically – and in terms of their equipment and accommodation – the comparison is entirely apropos for go-fast, growing families.
It’s interesting that, despite appearing identical in terms of their size, the Skoda and Subaru differ considerably where it counts most.
Length wise, the pair is separated by just 5mm (4685 v 4690mm respectively), but it’s the Octavia RS that is wider (1814 v 1780mm), giving it more shoulder-room inside, especially when three adults are wedged across the backseat. The Skoda’s longer wheelbase also benefits backseat legroom, and although it’s not as tall as the Subaru (1452 v 1490mm), the difference in headroom is imperceptible.
Where cargo space is concerned it’s the Skoda that again holds the advantage. The Czech-build wagon trounces its Japanese rival by 66 litres (588 v 522 litres) and, with the 60:40 split-fold backseat flipped forward, increases the margin to 272 litres (1718 v 1446 litres).
The Octavia RS also tows more than the Levorg GT-S (1600 v 1200kg braked), and weighs considerably less (1458 v 1622kg), which plays a big role in the model’s fuel economy. Skoda says the Octavia RS 162TSI will consume 6.6L/100km on the ADR Combined cycle against the Levorg GT-S’ 8.7L/100km effort. CO2 emissions likewise favour the Skoda (154 v 201g/km).
Both vehicles on test require premium unleaded, the Skoda’s fuel tank holding 10 litres fewer than the Subaru’s (50 v 60 litres).
Quite obviously there are differences under the bonnet. The Skoda uses a traverse-mounted in-line four-cylinder configuration where Subaru opts for a longitudinally set, horizontally opposed unit. Both displace two litres, are turbocharged and direct injected. Skoda mates its thrifty four to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission driving the front wheels while Subaru employs a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive.
The Octavia RS 162TSI extracts 162kW at 6200rpm and 350Nm between 1500-4400rpm from its EA888-series mill. The torque figure is shared with Subaru’s Levorg GT-S, but arrives far lower in the Skoda’s rev range, the Boxer engine developing peak twist between 2400-5200rpm. The Suby also makes more power, its FA20 flat four good for 197kW at 5600rpm.
Subaru claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.6sec for the Levorg GT-S while Skoda says the Octavia RS will take 7.1sec.
Both wagons are stopped by disc brakes all-round, ride on 18-inch alloys (with a space saver spare) and employ a strut-sprung front-end. The Skoda uses a multi-link arrangement at the rear and the Subaru a double-wishbone set-up. Steering for the pair is electrically assisted, though it’s the Skoda that wins the car-park Olympics with its tighter turning circle (10.4 v 10.8m).
Terms and conditions apply
After-sales support is a key factor in any new vehicle purchase. For the cars on test we find a shared three-year / unlimited kilometre warranty, and similar mileage limits to their capped-price service agreements.
Skoda offers its Octavia with a 90-month / 72,000km capped-price servicing plan and service intervals set at 12 months / 15,000km (whichever comes first). For Subaru the deal is just three years but 75,000km, with visits to the service department pegged at six months or 12,500km. The Octavia RS costs $363.00 at its first service and the Levorg GT-S $312.97.
Skoda offers roadside assistance for the entire warranty period (three years) while Subaru provides just 12 months’ break-down support.
Conversely, Subaru includes metallic paint as part of the deal with Skoda asking $500 for five of the eight hues offered. The Octavia RS may also be optioned with a Black Pack ($500 with 18-inch wheels or $1000 with 19-inch wheels), Tech Pack ($1700), Comfort Pack ($1900), panoramic sunroof ($1700) and electric tailgate ($490). All bar the 19-inch wheels are fitted to our test vehicle. Subaru offers the Levorg GT-S optionally with a spec.B STi performance parts and accessories package for $4000.
Come resale time, and according to redbook.com.au, the Skoda Octavia RS retains 59.5 per cent of its new-car value after three years. The Levorg hasn’t been around long enough to obtain a value, but if the Liberty GT is anything to go by, a 51.1 per cent figure seems bang on the money.
All that glitters…
Running through the brochure it’s obvious there’s little to separate our go-fast wagons. In the grade tested, the Subaru offers a sunroof and blue-stitched leather upholstery as standard, plus heated front seats and adaptive cruise control, too.
The Levorg GT-S also includes LED headlights and halogen DRLs, countering the Octavia RS’ bi-xenon headlight and LED DRL offering. Both cars offer front foglights, but only the Skoda offers rear foggies. The Subaru offsets the difference with standard auto high-beam.
Otherwise we find dual-zone climate, push-button ignition, paddle shifters, electric seat adjustment, windows and mirrors, trip computer, electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, cup-holders, multiple 12-volt outlets common to both; and much more besides. Really, these are very well-equipped vehicles for the money, and each pack a lot of gear for the price.
It’s a similar theme where infotainment is concerned. The Subaru might offer a smaller touchscreen than the Skoda (7.0 v 8.0 inches) and fewer speakers (six versus eight), but both offer AM/FM radio, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, sat nav, steering wheel remotes and USB connectivity. Neither is equipped with DAB+ digital radio and but Skoda offers a premium audio system as part of the aforementioned Tech Pack, which as we mentioned is fitted to our test vehicle.
In addition to the electronic driver safety packages listed atop this review we note seven airbags as standard on both models, in addition to traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, tyre-pressure monitoring and seatbelt reminders. All five seating positions in both vehicles are fitted with three-point seatbelts and anti-whiplash head restraints, while each scores a reversing camera (which is bolstered by front and rear parking sensors on the Skoda).
Both cars also offer top-tether and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and both are rated with a five-star ANCAP safety score.
Mixing city, freeway and rural roads we find differences and similarities in equal part.
For the Subaru, it’s a smooth driveline that stands tall, with ride comfort very nearly a match. However, the inability of the suspension to settle itself after even small, sharp creases is rather irritating. Rebound damping is clearly incorrect. The Levorg continues to ‘bounce’ after clearing the bump, the repeated oscillations disturbing the wheels’ ability to recover and settle. The front-end seemed to lack compression damping in equal measure, bottoming out on bumps that didn’t challenge the Skoda in the slightest. Combined they’re traits that do little to instil trust in the Levorg’s ability to cling to lumpy corners at speed, in spite of its honest steering feedback and a quick-acting rack.
The Levorg’s throttle response is sharp, especially in ‘S’ (Sport) and ‘S#’ (Sport Sharp) modes, which works almost to negate the initial lag of the turbo and continuously variable transmission. Roll-on throttle, however, is purposeful and brisk, the Subaru answering calls to overtake with dutiful immediacy.
However, there are factors that limit the Levorg’s ability as a sporty tourer. Tyre noise is appreciable and the high-set driver’s seat hampers ergonomics. Rear seat legroom is quite tight for adult passengers and, on cold mornings, the EyeSight safety systems failed to operate. EyeSight also had a lot of difficulty maintaining distance between the car ahead, and anticipating the closure of said gap, in low light conditions, resulting in erratic compensatory responses as well as the occasional ‘panic’ brake. Best drive the car yourself at dusk and dawn, methinks.
We also found high idle on cold starts to be protracted and intrusive (taking minutes to settle from 1800rpm), and steering quite heavy at carpark speeds. Couple this with outdated switchgear and a busy touchscreen and the Levorg soon fell behind the clever modernity of the cheaper Octavia RS.
For Skoda the only real downfall came from its contrived ‘exhaust’ note. In Sport mode, the ‘soundaktor’, delivered through the Octavia’s speakers, sounds artificial and rather annoying. It drones at freeway speeds, countering what is otherwise a relatively quieter cabin. Use the Skoda’s Individual mode and the benefits of Sport mode can be had without the sound. It’s a compromise we preferred, though the Octavia RS is so good in Normal mode, it makes you wonder why they’ve bothered.
The Skoda is more settled on patchwork roads and handles difficult corners with aplomb. The inside wheel will attempt to spin-up on hard-corner exits, but is met with fast and unobtrusive acting traction control, rarely limiting torque to the wheels. The steering does well to eliminate torque steer in this situation, and is all-round more feelsome. The mix makes for a secure, predictable chassis that is at the same time remarkably compliant, a real surprise given the Skoda’s dynamic tenacity.
Both judges on test preferred the switchgear, ergonomics and infotainment system of the Octavia RS, but noted seat cushion comfort slightly in the Subaru’s favour. We found no glitches or complaints with the adaptive cruise control, but found the forward collision warning system a fraction sensitive, especially in busy freeway traffic.
Braking performance was excellent in both vehicles with pedal modulation that was hard to separate. Even after repeated hard application the brakes of both vehicles held strong, a reassuring conclusion to our two-car comparison.
There’s no doubting both the Octavia RS and Levorg GT-S offer plenty of tractable turbo mumbo. They’re also good looking and capable tourers with enough cornering tenacity to shame any family SUV. But when you look closer at the value-for-money side of the equation, and the ability to exceed the expectations of the brochure, it’s the Skoda that takes the win.
The better utilisation of space, modernity of infotainment and driver assistance technologies, and the unflinching road-holding competence of the Skoda places it at a clear advantage over the Subaru. Consider also its superior capped-price servicing and roadside assistance plan, and longer service intervals, and the Octavia RS holds a clear advantage. Czech mate.