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Expert Review

SKODA Octavia vRS (2021 - ) review

The perfect car for fast-moving families, the Skoda Octavia vRS adds petrol, diesel and hybrid options to traditional values of style and value

The Auto Trader expert verdict:

4.5

Available in both hatchback and estate bodies and with two- or all-wheel drive, Skoda’s popular vRS range of high-powered Octavias now includes petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options to suit a wide range of driving styles and tastes. All look good thanks to the various vRS styling upgrades and are, in their different ways, fun to drive while also being excellent value for money and hugely practical too.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickValue for money
  • tickStylish and practical
  • tickWide choice of engines

At a glance:

Running costs for a SKODA Octavia vRS

The beauty of having the option of petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid engines means you can choose the vRS that best suits your circumstances
The vRS models are the top of the Octavia range so more expensive to buy than the regular models, but then you are getting a much faster, better equipped and more prestigious car. Although it’s based on the same foundations as the VW Golf (and Audi A3, Seat Leon and various others) the Octavia is considerably larger so you’re literally getting more for your money, especially when comparing against the equivalently quick Golf GTI. The option of petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid engines means you can choose the vRS that best suits your circumstances, too. The petrol and diesel engines are cheaper to buy but pretty poor on CO2 and tax, so will cost you on those scores. That’s where the hybrid – known as the vRS IV – comes in, opening the door to vRS ownership for company drivers who like the style but want to keep Benefit In Kind costs down. If you have the option to plug in and charge at homeyou can also save on fuel with this model by using the 32-mile electric range, these factors more than offsetting the additional cost.
Expert rating: 4/5

Reliability of a SKODA Octavia vRS

The Octavia’s long-standing popularity with various emergency services is indicative of its tough, no-nonsense image
The Octavia shares its foundations, engines and electronics with various models across the Volkswagen group, including Audi, Seat and Cupra and these pooled resources hopefully count in its favour, though much of the kit is new and it’s too early to say if there are any known issues. Historically Skoda has a decent reputation for reliability, though, and the Octavia’s long-standing popularity with various emergency services is indicative of its tough, no-nonsense image.
Expert rating: 4/5

Safety for a SKODA Octavia vRS

You have to pay extra for blind spot alerts, lane-keeping interventions and other functions
Automated emergency braking, rear parking sensors and cruise control with a speed limiter function are among the standard features but you have to pay extra for blind spot alerts, lane-keeping interventions and other functions (many bundled in the Travel Assist package) while two levels of Crew Protect Assist – again cost options – add a central airbag and prepare the car if it thinks a crash is imminent by closing any open windows and pre-tightening the seatbelts. If you want a rear-view parking camera you can only have it as part of an expensive bundle with LED headlights, ‘dynamic’ indicators and directional fog lights that illuminate according to which way you’re steering.
Expert rating: 3/5

How comfortable is the SKODA Octavia vRS

To set them apart from other Octavias the vRS models also get figure hugging sports seats up front and branded upholstery
The Octavia has always been a spacious car and that helps make it a comfortable one for the driver and front seat passenger and those in the back alike. To set them apart from other Octavias the vRS models also get figure hugging sports seats up front and branded upholstery with red stitching for a more upmarket feel. Boot space is also massive, both in the hatchback versions of the vRS and the estate, while the optional Simply Clever package adds practical features like a waste bin and a double-sided boot floor. The latter offers a wipe clean surface perfect for muddy boots, paws or outdoors kit and replaces the variable level boot floor option, which isn’t available on the hybrid version anyway. All vRS models get handsfree boot opening (with the keys in your pocket you simply wave your foot under the bumper) while the estate gets the option of a panoramic roof, which helps lighten the otherwise dark interior. The distinctive alloy wheels look chunky, this and the stiffer sports suspension fitted to all vRS models improving roadholding at the cost of some of the easy-going refinement in regular Octavias. It’s still within the realms of acceptability and people choosing a sportier model like this accept some trade-off in comfort but we also tried a car with the optional adjustable adaptive dampers (branded as DCC), which feel a lot softer in their Comfort mode but stiffen up as you select the sportier ones. You can even configure your preferred setting via the touch-screen for your personalised Individual mode to suit your mood and the roads you’re driving on – the ability to make your vRS comfier when cruising with the family or more like a hot-hatch when you’re on your own makes this an option worth investing in.
Expert rating: 4/5

Features of the SKODA Octavia vRS

As the top trim level vRS also gets plenty of kit and feels a cut above other Octavias
We’re fans of the way the vRS styling upgrades give the Octavia a chunkier, sportier look both inside and out and it works in both the understated and more vibrant colours alike. As the top trim level vRS also gets plenty of kit and feels a cut above other Octavias in this respect, a fully digital instrument cluster coming as standard while the central touch-screen has built-in navigation among its many features. The lack of buttons means even the heating and ventilation are controlled through this, which is fiddly and means taking your eyes off the road in what feels like a backwards step from old-school rotary controls you can operate by muscle memory alone. Further cost option upgrades include a fancier stereo system, head-up display and more. It’s worth noting that if you plan to fit a towbar for carrying bikes or pulling a caravan this isn’t available as a factory option on the hybrid vRS models.
Expert rating: 4/5

Power for a SKODA Octavia vRS

The plug-in hybrid – known as the vRS iV – could save heaps on tax and fuel if you use it cleverly
With petrol, diesel or hybrid engines, front- or all-wheel drive and choice of manual and automatic gearboxes there are more options in just the vRS line-up than there are in many entire model ranges, and picking apart the various available combinations can be confusing. By the numbers performance is comparably sprightly across the board, though, which helps and all of them feel fast with plenty of power for overtaking and accelerating smoothly into fast-moving motorway traffic. The 245 horsepower petrol drives the front wheels through a clever power-shuffling system familiar from other hot VW group models, and it works very effectively. This version is available as a manual or with the familiar DSG-branded dual-clutch automatic and feels the sportiest of the three engine options. The diesel is impressively refined, just as fast against the clock, feels better suited for long-distance driving and also has the option of all-wheel drive, which makes it a great choice if you need to travel in all weathers. All diesels feature the DSG automatic. While it’s the most expensive to buy the plug-in hybrid – known as the vRS iV – could save heaps on tax and fuel if you use it cleverly, the combined power output exactly the same as the purely petrol-powered version. Performance is perfectly adequate up to around 50mph while using just the electric motor and when the 1.4-litre internal combustion engine joins in it feels properly sprightly and very refined.
Expert rating: 4/5

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