Skoda Octavia VRS

Skoda Octavia VRS lr

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By Tim Saunders

“It’s got the same electric seat as the Volkswagen van,” observes my son Henry (3) on assessing the Skoda Octavia VRS Challenge. He’s a clever lad. Previously, we had tested a VW Caravelle Executive and he’s quite right about the driver’s seat.

Economies of scale dictate that the Volkswagen Group, which owns 12 manufacturers including Skoda, Bentley and Seat, will use the same or similar parts and features across its range; a sensible idea.

Excellent quality is something that we have become used to from the Volkswagen family and this Skoda is another shining example (quite literally from that gorgeous velvet red metallic paintwork). I think the beautifully crafted black alloy wheels compliment this souped-up saloon making it really quite eye-catching. “They look out of place on this car,” says my artist wife, Caroline, who, it is fair to say, knows more about design than I do. “The shape of the car is quite bland yet the wheels look as if they should be on a totally different vehicle.” Whatever her thoughts, a Jaguar XF parks next to the Skoda and the driver cannot take his eyes off the Skoda.

The Octavia has won legions of fans including the British traffic police, who can often be seen in them pulling speeding motorists over by the roadside.

The driving position is as I would expect; excellent and all my family agrees that it provides a very comfortable environment. There’s adequate room in the rear for three passengers. But despite its size it’s a real struggle strapping in my three children in their car seats. Dare I say it; it’s easier in my geriatric and considerably tinier Ford Fiesta.

On the Skoda a push button ignition replaces the traditional key on the steering column. It is quick, especially when sports mode is engaged by pushing the VRS button; 0 to 60mph in 6.6secs and a 155mph top speed. Put your foot to the floor in second gear and it will reach 70mph as quickly as you can say ‘Jack Robinson’. What a delight. I enjoy using the decisive six speed manual gearbox and there’s a traditional handbrake.

It’s the last day of the summer term for my daughters Harriett (8) and Heidi (6) and it makes a nice surprise for them to be collected from school in this cool, flash Skoda. But even this cannot stop siblings bickering. Henry wants Harriett’s bag and there’s no sharing happening so Caroline has to remove said bag. Peace is still not restored though. Children. We read the riot act and sincerely hope that the summer holiday will be a time for peace and harmony. It needs to be because Caroline and I look at the forthcoming six weeks with a mixture of joy and dread as we have no help.

The following day we visit the library and the children select their six books each for the summer reading challenge. We pop them in the boot and I am aghast at the sheer size of it. Great for the holiday getaway and as I discover, a trip to the tip with an old cot that would not fit in my little car.

A new splash park has opened up at Lee-on-the-Solent - not too far from us – which is excellent in the summer heatwave, and so we visit, in the Skoda. There are crowds of people meaning that there is no parking. So we park a little way out by the roadside.

These days when cars are fitted with such magnificent and expensive alloy wheels that can so easily get damaged when parking, it strikes me that a really helpful feature could be to include wheel sensors and cameras that detect and warn when the wheels get too near a kerb. Such technology could save owners many headaches.

While there is no reversing camera, the Octavia does beep when getting too close to obstacles, which can be helpful, if a bit irritating.

In the blistering summer heat a tilt/sliding glass sunroof would be a very welcome addition for those of us who like a light cabin and to drive with fresh air throughout the car. However, on what is claimed to be Britain’s second hottest day on record, we drive about very comfortably with all the windows shut and the air conditioning on full. It cools the cabin down very quickly.

The Skoda comes loaded with luxuries including heated front seats, cruise control, aluminium pedals, black exhaust tailpipes with sports sound and there’s even an umbrella under the front passenger seat. At night there’s some fun blue lighting on the door inserts.

This sizeable sports saloon is a top class driver’s car but the overall experience could still be enhanced further, I feel.
 
Facts at a glance:
 
Octavia VRS Challenge
Price: £30,770
Engine: 2.0 TSI
Power: 245bhp
Economy: 36mpg approx
 

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