Long-term report: Can the Skoda Octavia vRS deal with the weight of expectation?

Who doesn’t like a practical performance estate car? Okay, I’ll admit that the ever-present popularity of SUVs currently washing across the UK has dented the number of fast estate cars on our roads but, to me at least, they’re pretty much all the car you could want.

And it’s the Skoda Octavia vRS that has, for many generations now, got the formula bang-on. More on the compact end of the spectrum, it’s been a car that has enabled drivers to get those practicality and family-friendly boxes ticked but without forsaking fun in the process.

Now, there’s a new one and I’ll be seeing how it shapes up over the next six months. But what have we got to work with?

Octavia vRS
The vRS uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine

Well, the latest Octavia is underpinned by the same platform that you’ll find on the new Volkswagen Golf and Seat Leon. It allows for more interior space but without overextending the car’s exterior proportions. In terms of powertrain, this petrol vRS – there are also diesel and plug-in hybrid versions available – uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a healthy 242bhp and 370Nm of torque. Though you can get a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, ‘my’ car is taking it back to the (relatively) old-school with a six-speed manual. Three pedals, eh? What a novelty in this day and age.

In terms of performance, we’re talking 0-60mph in a brisk-enough 6.6 seconds while flat-out, it’ll manage 155mph. But where efficiency is concerned, the Octavia really excels; Skoda claims up to 40.4mpg (more on this figure later) and CO2 emissions of between 159-177g/km.

The recommended retail price for the Octavia vRS in estate form is £31,850 and for that, you get a huge variety of standard equipment including 19-inch alloy wheels, a 10-inch infotainment system and front heated seats. If you were to completely avoid the options list, you wouldn’t be disappointed with what you get included on the Octavia.

Octavia vRS
The vRS is pleasantly compact in size

However, Skoda hasn’t avoided the options list for this particular car, adding a sprinkling of extras which bump the car’s price tag up to £35,285. These include a panoramic sunroof (£1,175) and wireless phone charging (£335) but, again, you could easily do without these if you were looking to keep costs down. I’ve also opted for roof rails and a bike rack which are, to me, pretty invaluable – even if you can get a full-size bike into the car itself with the rear seats down.

The big option here, mind you, is Dynamic Chassis Control. This is a feature I’d really opt for because it completely transforms the way the car rides – particularly on larger wheels – and enables it to more easily cope with the UK’s broken roads. At £945 it seems, to me, a bit of a steal considering how it uplifts the Octavia’s driving experience.

So how have the first few weeks with this car been? Particularly impressive, if I’m honest. The Octavia vRS is a car that just gets the job done – there’s no fuss, no real gimmicks and no features to get your head around. The turn of the pace brought on with that 2.0-litre engine is more than adequate enough and, despite the modern obsession with out-and-out straight-line performance, feels perfectly judged for this type of car. It’s good to be back using a manual again, too.

I’ve noticed the Skoda’s economy figures going well above and beyond the official claimed figures, too. Around town, it’s pretty much bang on the money, but during longer journeys, I’ve been nudging 50mpg which is hugely impressive for a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol.

It’s also very happy at a cruise. Sure, there is some noticeable road noise that interrupts the otherwise quiet cabin, but the vRS is really capable over long distances. The only gremlin I’ve noticed is with the adaptive cruise control; from time to time, it struggles to pass cars that are sat in the inside lane of the motorway without slowing down, as if it thinks it’s driving abroad on the right-hand side of the road. It only occurs from time to time, but it does frustrate me a fair bit when it does.

But the aspect which really shines through for me is the practicality. With a huge 600 litres of boot space, it outclasses cars from the segment above in terms of roominess, while the 1,555 litres available with the rear seats folded down have come in particularly handy during recent house renovations.

I’ve only really struggled with the material used for the seats. The fabric seems to be a magnet for marks and I’m trying hard to keep them clean.

I’m already excited to see how the Octavia gets on – I’ve got plenty of adventures in the pipeline to keep its wheels turning.

  • Model: Skoda Octavia vRS Estate

  • Model as tested: vRS Estate

  • Price: £31,850

  • Price as tested: £32,285

  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol

  • Power: 242bhp

  • Torque: 370Nm

  • Max speed: 155mph

  • 0-60mph: 6.6 seconds

  • MPG: 40.4-35.3

  • Emissions: 159-177g/km CO2