Skoda Octavia RS Long Term Review

Skoda Octavia RS Long Term Review

Skoda Octavia RS 2021 Long-Term Review

As seen on motoring.com.au

Practical and piquant, Skoda’s mid-size sports sedan is equally ideal for school runs or back-road fun.

 

Skoda Octavia RS sedan
Long-Term Test

The Skoda Octavia is one of the longest continuing Skoda model names in Australia, being one of two models introduced to the local market in 2008. (The other was the short-lived Roomster.) Launched earlier this year, the A8 generation of Octavia is presented in a multi-tier model range, topped by the Octavia RS. This performance flagship on long-term test is a liftback sedan powered by a lusty turbocharged four-cylinder driving the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission. It’s loaded down with gear and, right from the get-go, promises to be a lot of fun.

Lavish equipment and high-tech options

While the 2021 Skoda Octavia range starts from $30,390 plus on-road costs for a 1.4-litre 110TSI Ambition model at entry level, the Skoda Octavia RS costs $47,790 for the sedan on test, or $49,090 for the RS wagon (both plus ORCs).

All models come as standard with a flat-bottom steering wheel, transmission shift paddles, privacy glass, LED headlights, ambient lighting, power windows and power mirrors. Added features for the mid-range Octavia 110TSI Style comprise fold-in and heating functions for the external mirrors, along with full matrix headlights.

The Octavia RS rides on 19-inch alloy wheels – in lieu of 18-inch alloys – and ride height is lowered by 15mm.

Items that are specific to the RS models include red disc brake callipers, leather and fabric upholstery combination, sports front seats, carbon-fibre dash trim and Alcantara door card upholstery. Exterior details are finished in black.

 

All models are equipped as standard with a Virtual Cockpit, eight-speaker audio, 10-inch infotainment touch-screen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Satellite navigation is standard for the Style and RS models, and the RS model is unique in offering digital radio.

The test vehicle also came with a $6500 premium pack, which includes three-zone climate control, a 12-speaker Canton audio system, drive mode selection, mechanical sun blinds for the rear seat passengers, memory/auto-dimming for the external mirrors, adaptive chassis control, electric adjustment with memory function for both front seats, plus some other gadgets.

Skoda offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with one year of roadside assistance. The service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, and Skoda dealers will sell you capped-price servicing for $800 (three years/45,000km) or $1400 (five years/75,000km).

 

The test vehicle also came with a $6500 premium pack, which includes three-zone climate control, a 12-speaker Canton audio system, drive mode selection, mechanical sun blinds for the rear seat passengers, memory/auto-dimming for the external mirrors, adaptive chassis control, electric adjustment with memory function for both front seats, plus some other gadgets.

Skoda offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with one year of roadside assistance. The service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, and Skoda dealers will sell you capped-price servicing for $800 (three years/45,000km) or $1400 (five years/75,000km).

 

Bigger-bodied Golf GTI performance

Powered by the same engine under the bonnet of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, the 2021 Skoda Octavia RS is four tenths of a second slower to 100km/h (6.7 versus 6.3 seconds for the VW), but is also slightly more economical – 6.8 to 7.0L/100km.

So you’re getting Golf GTI mechanicals in a roomier, more practical package.

Along with the power delivery of the turbocharged engine, drive mode selection brings you by default a sporty engine note in Normal mode, and switching to Sport mode cranks up the noise even more.

If you prefer to do without the synthesised chugging, selecting Eco or Comfort modes will silence it. And Individual mode will do the same trick, if you customise that mode without the woofy sports exhaust setting.

 

I have to admit, I do like the note, although it does sound contrived in Normal mode on light throttle settings. It’s better when the engine is opened up at higher revs in Sport mode.

Even in Normal mode, the synthesised sound fades out at cruising speeds – at 1500rpm for 100km/h – and the engine is very quiet. What’s more, for all its performance potential the Octavia RS is impressively economical, returning a figure of 8.4L/100km on a test drive.

It’s also an engine that delivers flexible performance – with torque right across the rev range for effortless commuting around town and face-tautening acceleration right up to the redline.

 

In between those two extremes, the powerplant delivers prodigious torque for maintaining speed on hills with the cruise control set – without the transmission kicking down.

Speaking of which, the seven-speed DSG transmission bolted to the engine and driving the front wheels is plainly a dual-clutch unit in the way it operates, but with none of the fits and starts for which older DSGs were known.

It offers slick and quick changes and keeps the turbocharged engine on the boil all the time, and that’s the give-away that there’s no torque converter or belts and pulleys in play here.

 

Dialling up a smile

There are cars that will get you from A to B efficiently and safely, but there’s a school of thought that proper cars will do so and put a smile on your face too.

That type of car is communicative but comfortable, it takes the hard yakka out of extracting performance, it’s better than just dynamically competent, and hopefully it looks the part as well.

The 2021 Skoda Octavia RS is all that.

It is quiet and refined for open-road touring, but it can muster surprising reserves of grip and agility.

The Octavia’s steering response is quite measured, with the right level of assistance and feedback. Exiting bends there’s excellent traction and handling available, without any apparent torque steer and despite the power to spin wheels in a straight line.

Very close to neutral, even with the power applied, the Octavia corners in a flat stance that feels secure at all times.

 

The Bridgestone Potenza 225/40R19 tyres only begin to squeal right at the very edge of the car’s roadholding limit, which is practically exceptional by the standards of a front-wheel drive mid-size passenger car – and in the same ballpark as hot hatches that are a size smaller.

I found the car’s ride quality to be acceptably good in Normal and Comfort modes, and only feeling a little jiggly on country roads when the suspension was set to Sport mode.

The tyres are a little rowdy at open-road speeds and on coarse-chip bitumen at lower speeds. But those two considerations aside, the Octavia successfully works both sides of the street – comfort and dynamic properties together in the one package.

On the comfort side, it starts with an attractive interior that’s nicely finished, and features fixtures like alloy sports pedals and use of materials to achieve a pleasing look – a mix of brightwork, piano black gloss, carbon-fibre and Alcantara.

Very snug, comfortable seats underpin the driving position and the multifunction steering wheel is of the right diameter and providing plenty of adjustment for rake and reach.

The controls are generally easy to fathom, although the toggle for the gear selector is unusual – but it takes little time to become accustomed to it. Nor, for that matter, is the starter button on the steering column difficult to use, once the driver is familiar with its location.

 

There were some obvious visual niceties, such as the matrix headlights with active shadowing, a feature highly appreciated once night fell. Then there were the choreographed visual displays when locking down (LED tail-lights fade out in sequence) or opening up (Skoda splash screen across entire instrument cluster). The latter was brought to you by the Octavia’s Virtual Cockpit and its selectable display modes.

In the centre fascia, there’s a large, user-friendly infotainment screen with permanently displayed climate control switchgear at its base. Hard demist buttons in the centre fascia are set below the screen, separate from the other climate functions.

The multifunction steering wheel lacks the cluttered switchgear of some cars, and the stubby four-way toggle for the cruise control is relatively easy to use.

 

We like the removable rubbish bin in the door pocket, the umbrella in the door card and the inductive charging plate for smartphones, plus the removable smartphone holder that plugs into one of the cup holders.

Other packaging accoutrements include the sun blinds for the windows of the rear doors, the very comfortable rear seats that fold down in a 60/40 split, although they don’t form a continuous flat floor and nor do they fold entirely flat.

But there’s generous headroom and reasonable legroom, adjustable vents and a third zone for the climate control, plus seat heating for the two outboard seats.

There are also separate map reading lights for the outboard seats and an additional sun blind that reduces direct light through the tailgate window and draws up from the parcel shelf to hook into the roof.

The practical boot is not only large, it features useful bins either side behind the wheel-arches and a 12-volt power outlet, plus a bag hook on the right-hand side, a luggage net and finger pulls to lower the rear seat on each side.

There’s also a configurable cargo blind in addition to the removable parcel shelf. And motion gesture actually works for the power tailgate! Not only to raise it but also to lower it.

 

Not flawless, but not far off

A colleague who drove the test vehicle the week before me fell in love with the 2021 Skoda Octavia RS straight away.

It took me a while longer to form an opinion, picking up the car just before Victoria’s fourth pandemic lockdown. But there was never much doubt that the Octavia RS would impress, based on plenty of experience with the nameplate – and over more than a decade.

Nevertheless, the Octavia RS is not perfect. A constantly squeaking rattle from the glove box lid quickly became tiresome, there’s a space-saver spare under the boot floor – although it’s to be expected in a modern car of this size and distinction – and the five USB ports in the car are all of the USB-C type, which is not ‘universal’, contrary to what the ‘U’ in ‘USB’ would suggest.

These are minor niggles, however. The Octavia promises a lot, and delivers, whether it’s driving enjoyment, safety, comfort or practicality.

There’s something in this car to suit both sides of the brain.

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