2017 Subaru Levorg GT-S Spec B vs Skoda Octavia RS230 wagon review

By James Whitbourn, 10 Mar 2017 Car Reviews

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2017 Subaru Levorg GT-S Spec B vs Skoda Octavia RS230 wagon review

Skoda's Octavia RS230 is stiff competition for Subaru's Liberty replacement - the Subaru Levorg. We compare the two to determine which fast family wagon is best.

2017 Subaru Levorg GT-S Spec B

Price & Equipment | 18/20

At $52,890, the Levorg costs $9700 more than its Czech counterpart, but justifies some of the cost with its standard CVT automatic, AWD, sunroof, heated front seats and metallic paint. You also get keyless entry and pushbutton start, and active safety such as lane assist and rear cross traffic alert as part of Subaru’s Eyesight system. 

Interior & Versatility | 16/20

Both get leather trim, metal pedal covers and door sills, and infotainment systems with sat-nav and Bluetooth; the Subaru adds Pandora internet radio. There are seven airbags including one for the driver’s knees. The Levorg’s 30mm-shorter wheelbase translates into less rear legroom, and it can’t match the Octavia’s shoulder room.  

Performance & Economy | 14/20

A stout 350Nm apiece sees the pair deliver equivalent real world performance, but the Subie’s 197kW 2.0-litre flat-four turbo lugs about 150kg more, so ultimate performance is similar too, despite the Levorg being 28kW meatier. Extra weight contributes to 8.7L/100km combined cycle economy, which is officially 38 percent more than the Skoda. 

2017 Subaru Levorg GT-S Spec B

Ride & Refinement | 15/20

The Levorg is quiet inside – a bit too quiet in the engine compartment – and feels solid, though the doors don’t thud shut as satisfyingly as the Skoda’s. Spec B brings Bilstein dampers which help, but fail to completely fix the basic Levorg ride/handling compromise, which delivers low-speed jiggle with a lack of body control at high speed. 

Steering & Handling | 15/20

Balance and grip are part of the package, but won’t smack you in the face on your drive to work. Steering remains aloof during normal driving, yet gets better at faster speeds, while grunt helps the torque vectoring all-wheel-drive make its presence felt. A lack of body control undermines Levorg’s hard-driven ability and the CVT saps involvement. 

Skoda Octavia RS230 wagon

Price & Equipment | 19/20

The $43,190 six-speed manual-only Octavia matches the Levorg for much of its key equipment, including city emergency braking and fatigue detection systems, reversing camera, dual-zone air-con, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlights and rain-sensing wipers. You also get tyre pressure monitors and power adjustment for the front seats. 

Interior & Versatility | 17/20

The RS230’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is an inch bigger and features Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. Rich red-stitched trim and fine plastics top the finish, while the A-pillar ticket holder and chilled glovebox are a plus. You get a bigger cargo bay at 588 litres behind the seatbacks (or 1718 litres in van mode); the Levorg carries 522–1446L. 

Performance & Economy | 17/20

The Octavia’s 2.0-litre turbo four wins out on every front. It sounds grunty, musters its 350Nm from 1500rpm (2400rpm in the Subie) and sprints just as hard, satisfying manual changes and all (though it’s officially a tenth slower to 100km/h at 6.7sec) while using 6.3L/100km. It will go 100km further on a 50L tank than the Levorg will on 60L. 

2017 Skoda Octavia RS 230 Wagon

Ride & Refinement | 17/20

Solidity and refinement underscore good cabin finish and terrific long-haul seat comfort to make the Skoda the nicer car to drive and ride in. The ultimate Octavia RS – on even bigger, lower-profile tyres than the 162, or its rival – is tauter than any regular family wagon yet manages a better smothering of bumps than the Subaru, from the urban crawl up. 

Steering & Handling | 17/20

With an electronically controlled LSD and a tweaked engine, the RS230 is the Golf GTI Performance of the Octavia line-up – it gets the same engine and diff. The extra weight compared with its hot-hatch donor conspires to remove a bit of agility, but this is a well-balanced, involving and fast front-drive family wagon that puts its power down. 

Verdict

As buyers – and brands – flocked to the SUV, Subaru dropped the fast family wagon from the Liberty line-up, and Skoda took the baton and ran with the Octavia RS. This ensured that Subaru’s re-entry to the fast-family wagon realm would be bumpy. As it happens, a busy urban ride is one of the let downs in the Levorg – a sort-of WRX wagon by an odd name – as is a lack of high-speed body control, engine character, a manual option and, ultimately, driver involvement. The Octavia RS230 has each of these qualities – and a manual transmission – while offering superior value, space, perceived quality and a longer service interval. An RS-badged Subaru wagon defined this niche in Oz, but now it’s an RS-badged Skoda that has it stitched up.