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Skoda’s hottest Octavia detailed

Czech this out: The new Skoda Octavia RS will be a more spacious and likely cheaper alternative to the forthcoming Golf 7 GTI.

New-generation 162kW Skoda Octavia RS emerges at Goodwood

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Skoda logo12 Jul 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

IT’S not just niche British sportscars making their premiere at this week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed – Skoda’s new Octavia RS joined the party too.

The hotted-up Czech sedan and wagon made its first public appearance at the famous hillclimb in Britain this week, well ahead of its Australian launch in the first half of 2014.

Unlike the current, soon-to-be-superseded version that has proved a surprise sales hit Down Under, this new version uses up-to-the-minute Volkswagen Golf mechanicals including the innovative new MQB platform and re-designed 2.0-litre turbo from the Golf 7.

And just like the existing Octavia, the new one delivers more space-for-your-bucks than its fancier Golf sibling, with a class-leading 980mm of rear headroom and a 590 litres storage space in hatch guise (610L for the wagon with the seats in use).

Once again front-drive, the new RS remains available as both a petrol and a diesel – akin to Volkswagen’s GTI/GTD twins. But the new versions are more powerful than their predecessors across the board, and more fuel-efficient too.

Customers can choose between a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine borrowed from the Golf GTI hatchback, producing 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque (the 169kW upgrade available as an extra on the Golf is nowhere to be seen on the Skoda, though).

This petrol version is the quickest road-going Skoda to date, with its claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.8 seconds (down 0.4s) breathing down the smaller Golf’s neck.

Top speed for the wider, longer RS is rated at 248km/h when mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, while a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is an option for both versions.

If petrol is not your thing, there is also the optional 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine borrowed from the Golf GTD, the newest member of VW’s oil-burning performance stable.

The 135kW diesel engine produces the same 350Nm of torque as the petrol version, has a top speed of 232km/h when mated to the six-speed manual gearbox, and does the 0-100km/h sprint in 8.1 seconds.

Despite all the improvements in performance, Skoda says the new engines are up to 19 per cent more fuel-efficient than the powerplants they replace.

All that poke to the front wheels is backed up with a sports suspension tune featuring a new multi-link rear axle, and a clever electronic front differential that helps limit understeer, where the nose of the car tries to push wide while cornering.

As before, the Octavia RS has electrically assisted power steering, although this time around Skoda says it has remapped it to allow the driver to make smaller movements in steering to achieve the desired turning radius. That means less grip is needed for tight corners, it says.

Other drivers on the road who may have paid more bucks for their bang will pick the new RS by its honeycomb grille, a restyled front bumper and fog lights, red brake callipers, and bi-Xenon headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. RS versions also sit more than 10mm lower than their more pedestrian showroom counterparts.

Inside, the sports seats are redesigned, and the colour instrument panel carries a unique RS design.

The RS also takes a big step forward in safety. The airbag count steps up from six to nine, and the car even gets access to a self-braking function that can detect if the driver is too close to the car in front, and automatically jump on the brake pedal if it thinks a crash is about to happen.

The Mark 3 Octavia will play a key role in the Czech brand’s stated aim of shifting 1.5 million vehicles per year globally by 2018 – up from a best-ever 939,200 last year.

Skoda says it will launch eight new or revised cars this year, including fresh-look versions of its entire range and additional models for for important segments by the end of 2015.

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