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Car reviews - Skoda - Octavia - RS TDI range

Launch Story

Skoda logo30 Oct 2008

By GEORGIA OCONNELL

AT LAST, Skoda has extended the appeal of its hitherto manual-only Octavia RS (dubbed the VRS abroad) range with the addition of an ‘automatic’ gearbox.

But there is a caveat or two involved: the ‘automatic’ is in fact a dual-clutch automated manual transmission known most widely as ‘DSG’ and you can only have it for now in the RS with a new-generation 125kW 2.0-litre TDI ‘performance’ common-rail turbo-diesel engine.

The continuing 147kW 2.0-litre TFSI twin-cam four-cylinder petrol powerplant will finally be paired with the DSG gearbox in February next year.

This will be just a month before the first of the facelifted Octavia wagon and liftback (Skoda has dropped the misleading ‘sedan’ description for its five-door hatch) models arrive, although the revamped RS versions won’t arrive before the third quarter of 2009.

Skoda is also only the third manufacturer to offer a performance-orientated diesel in the ‘hot-hatch’ segment after Volkswagen (Golf GT Sport TDI) and Renault (Megane RS dCi 165).

The RS TDI is part of a new family of VW Group diesel engines, and uses a diesel particulate filter, piezo injectors and a separate catalyst to make it one of the cleanest of its type available, while a relatively low compression ratio of 16.5:1 also helps to create on of the smoothest and quietest.

This 1968cc unit delivers 125kW of power at 4200rpm and 350Nm of torque from between 1750 and 2500rpm. This compares to the 1984cc RS TFSI engine output of 147kW from 5100 to 6000rpm and 280Nm from 1800 to 5000rpm.

The DSG is a six-speed unit using two input shafts, with first, third, fifth and reverse on one clutched shaft and second, fourth and sixth on the other.

It can be used either automatically or manually with the Tiptronic lever mode, features Normal or Sport shift modes, and is a $2300 option in lieu of the standard six-speed manual gearbox.

On the combined average fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions output front, the EU4-compliant TDI returns 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres (DSG: 6.0L/100km) and 155 grams per kilometre (DSG: 159g/km) respectively, compared to the TFSI’s 8.1L/100km and 193g/km results.

Conversely, the RS TDI Liftback manual trails the RS TFSI Liftback in the sprint to 100km/h from standstill by 1.1 seconds, at 8.4 seconds (wagon: 8.5 seconds) at 225km/h (and 224, 223 and 222km/h for the DSG, wagon and wagon DSG respectively), it is also 15km/h slower than the petrol-powered equivalent.

Keeping the performance in check are an array of acronym-packed driving aids, including electronic stability control (ESC), anti-slip regulation (ASR or traction control), an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD).

The Octavia’s engine is mounted transversely, and – in the RS models – drives the front wheels. It is built off the current, Mk5 Golf-based ‘A5’ platform, so uses MacPherson strut front suspension and a complex independent multi-link arrangement at the rear. Steering is by electro-mechanical powered rack-and-pinion.

Like its TFSI sibling, the Octavia TDI’s chassis is tuned for greater dynamic response, as reflected by its 12mm-lower ride height, modified shock absorber and spring rates, and larger disc brakes.

The body has been reinforced in the rear section to improve torsional strength, while laser welding the roof to the body sides also beefs up rigidity.

This is backed up by visual titivations such as integrated spoilers, a larger air intake and fog lights in the redesigned front bumper, 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/40 R18 tyres, red brake callipers, dual exhaust pipes, a rear spoiler on the liftback, reflector strips incorporated into the rear bumper and – on the wagon – silver roof racks.

Step inside, and the five-seater cabin’s RS regalia runs to two-tone ‘sports’ front seats, a unique leather-trimmed steering wheel, a chilled glovebox, and what Skoda calls ‘premium grade’ materials – including ‘aluminium effect’ fascia and door trim, alloy pedals and chrome-plated door-handles.

Practicality and size remain an Octavia strong point, with 560-1350 litres of cargo volume in the liftback and 580-1620 in the wagon, as well as a tilt and reach-adjustable steering column and high levels of interior space.

Among the RS’ standard features are six airbags, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control, six-disc CD/MP3/Aux-input audio, a multi-function trip computer, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, delayed auto-on/off headlights, remote central locking and power windows.

The options list includes HID high-intensity discharge headlights, a sunroof, front parking radar and (new and improved for 2009) satellite-navigation.

The latter introduces a 6.5-inch touch screen, a 30GB hard disc with MP3/WMA storage capability, bird's-eye navigation view and a DVD function.

In its first 12 months on sale in Australia, around 620 Octavias (including the recently introduced Scout 4x4) have been sold, with the sole RS TFSI manual accounting for up to 20 per cent of the model’s volume.

Skoda hopes to see that percentage rise to around 40 per cent with the dual-whammy DSG/TDI offering.

Interestingly, when the petrol-powered TFSI gains the DSG gearbox next February to complete the RS range, it will have the new-generation seven-speed unit, and not the existing six-speeder.

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