The Skoda Octavia vRS is fairly unusual in the world of hot hatches in that it is available in several configurations. You can, for example, have front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, and even hatchback or estate.
It follows that there should be an Octavia vRS for every requirement, which makes this a compelling option for anybody in the market for something a bit more interesting than a standard family hatchback. Better still, being a Skoda it also represents good value for money, as evidenced by the fact our half price hot hatch budget of £12,000 will buy a four-year-old, third-generation vRS with 60,000 miles on the clock, whereas spending the same amount on a Volkswagen Golf GTI would mean settling for a six-year-old example of the same mileage.
That comparison is particularly apt, because the Mk3 Octavia is based on the same MQB underpinnings as the Golf. As ever with Skoda, however, practicality is key, which is why the wheelbase is longer to create more space for passengers, and the boot is significantly larger too.
Being a vRS it is also equipped to a much higher specification than most other Octavias, with items such as a sporty body kit, figure-hugging seats and a three-spoke steering wheel adding a sense of occasion, while practical touches on all models include rear parking sensors, DAB radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity and hill hold assist.
As mentioned, the Octavia vRS is available with either petrol or diesel power. Both engines are 2.0 litres in capacity, with the petrol unit carried over from the Golf GTI and producing a healthy 217bhp and 258lb ft of torque (later versions get 227bhp and even 243bhp, but don’t fall within our half price hot hatch budget). The diesel is taken from the Golf GTD and produces 181bhp and 280lb ft. While ultimately it’s not as quick (0-62mph in the diesel takes 8.2 seconds compared with 6.8 seconds in the petrol) it’s still a rapid cross country companion on account of its abundance of mid-range pulling power.
Pace is helped by the decent body control that comes from the vRS’s sports suspension, which lowers the ride height by 15mm and also features a multi-link arrangement at the rear in favour of the standard Octavia’s torsion beam. The front axle meanwhile features an XDS electronic differential to help drag the vRS out of corners when you put your foot down.
It’s still nowhere near as overtly sporty as something like a Ford Focus ST, with more body lean when you turn into a corner before the car settles, but as a result the Octavia is also perfectly comfortable when you just want to get from A to B without any fuss, although there is a fair bit of road noise to contend with.
As you’d expect of a modern hot hatch, you can sharpen up the throttle response and add more weight to the steering by putting the car into its Sport mode, which boosts the enjoyment factor without transforming the car into a hardcore track machine.
The earliest examples of the third-generation Octavia vRS landed in 2013 so will now be out of their original three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, but still well within the time frame where you can expect to see a full service history and a car free from scrapes, dents and kerbed wheels.
Whether you opt for petrol or diesel power will come down to personal preference and the type of driving you do. The petrol engine is smoother, quieter and quicker, but will only return around 35mpg in normal driving to the diesel’s 50mpg. The inclusion of a diesel particulate filter means the diesel vRS isn’t really suited to doing lots of short journeys, although there are admittedly few reports of problems to date.
Other points to consider include that the Octavia’s water pump can fail leading to a loss of coolant, and if you choose a car with the dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox you’ll need to get the oil changed every 40,000 miles. The diesel will also need a new timing belt every five years at a cost of about £500.
Skoda Octavia vRS Mk3
Power: 217bhp @ 4500rpm (petrol)/181lb ft @ 3500rpm (diesel)
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds (petrol)/8.2 seconds (diesel)
Top speed: 152mph (petrol)/144mph (diesel)
See examples of the Skoda Octavia vRS for sale on CarGurus (just follow the link and use the filter to select the correct model).
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