TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The Skoda Octavia RS230 is slightly more powerful and sharper handling version of the petrol turbo Octavia RS162, which is the sporty version of the Czech brand’s roomy small liftback/sedan and wagon.
The six-speed manual transmission-only, limited edition RS230 squeezes an extra 7kW from 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, an electronically controlled limited slip differential, 19-inch wheels wrapped in sticky tyres, and other extras compared with the RS162.
- Space. Ample rear legroom makes the Octavia accommodating for adults in the back and the capacious cargo bay is roomy enough for all the stuff that comes with family life. The seats in the front are generous and supportive, and stay comfy over longer trips.
- Equipment. The Octavia gives you a lot of features for the money in every version, and the RS230 adds performance features and niceties for about $3500 compared with the RS162. Standard in the RS230 are an electronically controlled limited-slip differential, body styling additions and black 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tyres, a city emergency braking system, a reversing camera and tyre pressure monitors.
- Surprise and delight. Skoda calls these ‘simply clever’ features, and they include the multiple tie down points in the cargo bay, reversible boot mat, A-pillar ticket holder and air-conditioned glove box. They’re only small things, but when you use them and appreciated the thought that’s gone in, it makes you like the car.
- Quality. The neat design, tactile feel and high quality finish of the Octavia RS230’s cabin sets it apart from similarly priced sedans and wagons. In the RS230, you get a lot of luxury for less than $45,000.
- Waiting. Skoda has limited initial supply of the RS230 – only 70 of them – so you might miss out if you’re not quick, which would leave you waiting in the queue.
- There’s no automatic gearbox. We’re loathe to criticise the RS230 for only coming as a manual, because there are increasingly few manual performance cars available. So we won’t knock it, we’ll just point out that if you want an automatic sports wagon, you’ll have to have the RS162.
- Bump ride. The inevitable trade-off for firm suspension and low-profile tyre sidewalls is that the Octavia RS230 is less supply to ride in than the RS162, which is already a step shaper in the ride department than the Style version. The ride trade-off is not undue given the handling ability and grip the RS230 has, but it’s worth being aware of if you’re considering the Skoda as a fast family wagon, rather than as a performance car in a hugely practical body.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The RS230, like other Octavias (and other Skodas), is about delivering more space and equipment than you would get from other brands for the same price. It goes about this with Volkswagen Golf underpinnings topped by a bigger body that gives you the space of a medium car rather than a small one. The alternatives, as a result, come from both the small and medium car classes, and struggle to match it on room or value.
The Subaru Levorg GT-S and GT-S Spec B are the nearest alternatives to the Octavia RS230 wagon, with nearly as much room inside, but the Subaru Impreza on which the Levorg is based is not really an alternative for the spacious Skoda liftback/sedan. The Levorg has similar power, but is not as much fun to drive sportily as the RS230, in part because it’s a CVT automatic only model. The Levorg engine is more subdued (and noticeably thirstier) and the steering and handling aren’t as involving.
The smaller, lighter Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance (which uses the same turbo engine and electro-differential) accelerates a bit more quickly than the RS230, and handles more responsively, but it’s a conventional small car with much less room in the back and the boot.
Medium cars such as the Mazda 6 and Ford Mondeo duly offer equivalent space (or more) for a similar price, but in these cases you’re buying a highly equipped model rather than a high performance flagship version.