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Car reviews - Skoda - Octavia - RS TDI range

Our Opinion

We like
Diesel performance and economy, chassis’ fine sport/comfort balance, wagon’s stealthy styling, value and practicality
Room for improvement
Some road noise, generic (albeit pleasant) VW parts-bin interior

30 Oct 2008

LACKING the Golf GTI’s dynamic deftness as well as the DSG gearbox has not held the RS back in Australia, as it has proportionally done better than most of its lesser Octavia siblings, according to Skoda.

Perhaps it is the 147kW 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, excellent packaging (particularly the wagon) or subtle sportiness that has won the RS a small but seemingly dedicated following.

So the introduction of a diesel-powered version – using VW’s latest and most powerful common-rail four-cylinder TDI unit at that – can only enhance this larger-than-average small car contender from the Czech Republic’s appeal – especially since the DSG is also available with it.

Skoda flew us to Canberra to drive a 250km or so loop over a variety of rural roads, to sample this lively diesel’s performance, as well as to reacquaint ourselves with the Octavia RS’ unique chassis settings.

And we were suitably impressed on these roads, from the responsive and well weighted steering and reassuring stability – even at speed over uneven surfaces – to the happy marriage that is TDI and DSG.

First, dynamics: RS is not a GTI, so don’t quite expect the huge levels of body control and intimate adjustability that so sets the current Golf GTI apart from most others.

Yet the RS’ supple ride quality, combined with a firmish chassis tune that likes to change corners and does so with composure and ease, might just be your dynamic cup of tea. The Octavia isn’t hardcore, and is not meant to be.

The twin-clutch gearbox seems to have lost some of that low-rev hesitation that inflicted earlier iterations in other VW Group offerings, providing instant and seamless gear changes.

The TDI, meanwhile, certainly deserves to live behind the RS (VRS in Europe) brand by being an eager, extremely refined and unobtrusive powerplant, hurtling the sportiest Octavia cross-country like it had never even heard of speed restrictions. It really is an impressive engine, this 125kW common-rail turbo-diesel.

Throw in diesel economy and pleasingly low carbon dioxide levels, and the RS TDI starts to make more sense than the petrol RS TFSI.

More praise is forthcoming for the six-speed manual, which also does a great job in partnership with the new engine. Honestly, we would be torn deciding between which gearbox we’d choose: if you’re rural folk then save your $2300 and settle for the manual urbanites might prefer the automatic ease of the DSG. Either way, you’re in good hands.

About the only reservations we had concerned a fair level of road noise droning into the cabin – although not on all road types and never really for it to be too much of a distraction.

We like the functionality and quality of the VW parts-bin cabin (if not the originality – the Czech-made Skoda does not even try to hide its German DNA), finding the sports seats supportive and comfy.

And the level of go-faster visual addenda is not OTT in the RS TDI either.

As a finale to our big day out in the flagship Octavia, Skoda allowed us to experience the Octavia with a talented racing car driver at the wheel, just to see how responsive the RS really is at speed.

Needless to say, this car’s dynamics certainly betrayed its rather homespun styling, taking on the circuit with aplomb. This was further hammered home by a stint behind the wheel while being tutored by said racing car driver, which served to highlight how entertaining yet forgiving this car can really be.

Which sums up the Octavia RS TDI perfectly.

It’s entertaining yet responsible, indecently fast yet impressively frugal, premium-feeling inside yet value priced all-round.

We can understand why Skoda is so confident that Australians will respond to this really likeable all-rounder.

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