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Driven: Skoda’s hot Octavia RS races in

Hot couple: Skoda's zippy RS version of the Octavia has arrived in both 'liftback' and boot-boosted wagon, with diesel and petrol engine choices.

Third-generation Skoda Octavia RS range arrives with more power and a lower price

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18 Mar 2014

SKODA’S more powerful and more fuel-efficient Octavia RS high-performance model line has blasted in to Australian showrooms, undercutting the previous generation with a starting price of $36,490 plus on-road costs.

The go-fast version of Skoda’s redesigned mid-size range that launched in Australia last year is again available with a choice of turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel powertrains across two body styles – ‘liftback’ sedan and station wagon.

The $36,490 entry point applies to the petrol-powered liftback with a six-speed manual gearbox, while specifying a six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic adds $2300 for a price of $38,790.

The pricing for both transmission variants represents a $1500 drop compared to the previous second-generation model.

The diesel-powered RS is available only with a DSG gearbox and kicks off from $39,790 for the liftback, which is $2500 less than the previous equivalent RS TDI.

For buyers who require more cargo space, opting for the wagon body style will add $1350 to the bottom line.

Skoda Australia has positioned the Octavia RS below the mechanically related Volkswagen Golf GTI, which retails for $41, 490 plus on-road costs.

The previous-generation RS accounted for 30 per cent of all Octavia sales in Australia, with the wagon making up 70 per cent of those.

About 10 per cent of all sales were skewed toward the diesel model, and while Skoda Australia would not discuss targets for the RS at its national launch this week, it is expected to follow international trends and develop a small waiting list upon launch.

There are few direct competitors for the Octavia RS in the mid-sized performance-car segment. Subaru’s sports-focused Liberty GT comes to mind, although it costs $52,990 plus on-road costs, a $16,500 leap over the Skoda.

The Opel Insignia OPC was also in the mix before the brand withdrew from Australia last year.

Skoda has boosted power outputs for the 2014 RS but has managed to cut fuel consumption in both the petrol and diesel variants.

Built on the same flexible MQB platform that underpins a number of models including the Audi A3, the front-wheel-drive Octavia RS is powered by a pair of engines that also propel the VW Golf GTI and oil-burning Golf GTD hot hatches.

For buyers that prefer a traditional petrol engine, a 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit is on offer, delivering 162kW of power (up 15kW) and 350Nm of torque (up 70Nm) between 1500 and 4000rpm.

The turbo-diesel is a new 2.0 TDI four-cylinder unit pumping out 135kW and 380Nm from 1750-3250rpm, which is a 10kW/30Nm increase over the previous model.

The power and torque outputs of both the petrol and diesel variants match that of their Golf GTI and GTD cousins, however the straight-line performance is not quite as quick as its smaller counterparts.

Dashing from a standing start to 100km/h in the petrol RS can be completed in 6.8 seconds with the manual gearbox, 0.3 seconds shy of the Golf GTI, while the oiler covers the same distance in 8.2 seconds with a DSG, seventh-tenths behind the Golf GTD.

However, these figures are an improvement over the previous Octavia RS, with the TSI petrol variant half a second quicker, while the latest diesel is two-tenths faster.

The improvements to the ‘EA888’ Volkswagen Group engines extend beyond straight-line performance to fuel consumption, with the manual petrol RS sipping 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle – a 17 per cent improvement over the previous model.

Fuel economy is also 13 per cent better in the latest RS diesel, with an official figure of 5.2L/100km, down from 6.0L/100km.

CO2 emissions are also down to 147g/km in petrol guise and 134g/km in the diesel.

The RS has shed weight thanks to Skoda’s use of high-grade steels in the production of the new multi-link rear axle, while further weight savings were achieved on the front suspension with high-tensile steel used on the transverse arm.

Skoda has equipped the RS with a lowered sports chassis that brings the liftback down by 12mm and 13mm for the wagon compared to regular versions.

A “high performance” sports suspension is standard on the RS. In addition to the new multi-link arrangement at the rear, the front end includes new lower wishbones which Skoda says makes for “highly stable and agile handling performance”.

A standard ESC ‘Sport’ mode switches off the anti-slip regulation, causing the system to react later, which Skoda says makes for more agile handling when engaging in more spirited high-speed or track driving.

Also part of the ESC is an extended electronic differential lock, ensuring neutral turning behaviour, while a softer braking action on the inner wheel is said to allow for a torque increase on the outer wheel.

Skoda has fitted the RS with ‘progressive’ steering which allows drivers to use smaller steering wheel movements to achieve the “a desired curve radius”. The company says this is particularly effective on winding roads.

Differentiating the RS from its more sedate siblings is a restyled front bumper for a more aggressive look, air inlets with a honeycomb pattern, unique foglights, bi-Xenon headlights, integrated LED daytime running lights and RS badging on the grille.

At the rear, Skoda has included a black diffuser in the bumper, two trapezoidal chrome tailpipes on either side of the diffuser, LED tail-lights and a spoiler for both the liftback and wagon.

Further highlighting the performance pedigree of the RS are red brake callipers, with 18-inch bi-colour alloy wheels as standard, while 19-inch aluminium alloy rims in black are optional.

An exclusive RS-only ‘Steel Grey’ body colour is available alongside six other hues that include ‘Magic Black’ with pearlescent effect, ‘Race Blue’, ‘Brilliant Silver’, ‘Metal Grey’ and ‘Moon White’.

As seen in the regular Octavia range, the RS is 88mm longer and 45mm wider than the previous version in liftback guise, while the wheelbase is 102mm longer than the outgoing RS.

Boot space is also ample and matches the regular Octavia, with 568 litres available in the liftback and 588 litres in the wagon.

The sporting theme continues in the cabin with specially designed RS sports seats with either cloth-leather or Alcantara trim, while contrasting red stitching features on the seats, the three-spoke multi-function steering wheel with perforated leather, the gearshift knob and parking brake.

RS graphics feature on the instrument cluster and the logo can be found on the front door sill plates, while pedals are brushed stainless steel.

Skoda has based the specification on the previously range-topping Elegance variant which includes dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, power windows, full-colour multi-function display, an eight-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, a DVD player instead of CD player, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio with voice control and a 64 GB flash memory.

A Driving Mode Selection will be standard from vehicles arriving in April, and allows drivers to switch between Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual modes that adjusts the steering, air-conditioning and transmission depending on preferences.

An optional tech pack includes adaptive cruise control, park assist with reversing camera, advanced keyless entry, a premium 10-speaker ‘Canton’ sound system and the Front Assist with City Emergency Braking which is a forward collision mitigation system.

Skoda has not revealed pricing for this and it is only available from mid-year.

Other options include an electric panoramic sunroof in the wagon or an electric sunroof in the liftback, automatic tailgate in the wagon and Alcantara trim.

A ‘Black Pack’ is also on offer with 18-inch ‘Gemini’ alloy wheels and black glossy panels replacing the chrome at the front for an extra $500, or the 19-inch Black Pack with ‘Xtreme’ wheels for an additional $1000.

The Octavia range was awarded a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating last year and it comes standard with nine airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and Isofix child seat anchors.

Skoda launched the third-gen Octavia in late November 2013 and in the first two months of 2014 it has sold 135 examples of the mid-size contender, marking a 24 per cent drop over the same period last year.

2014 Skoda Octavia RS pricing*
TSI liftback$36,490
TSI liftback (a)$38,790
TSI wagon$37,840
TSI wagon (a)$40,140
TDI liftback (a)$39,790
TDI wagon (a)$41,140
*Excludes on-road costs.

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