Is it any surprise that the new Octavia RS knocked its twin-under-the-skin Golf GTI Performance Pack by two places in the group standings when the Skoda’s sharp $36,490 ask is a cool $12K more affordable? Not if you’d read the form guide closely.
The Czech assassin lacks the VW’s primo sheen, offers no adaptive dampers or front diff trickery, and concedes seven kilowatts (on paper at least) and 33 kilograms to the GTI.
As a larger, roomier car, too, its wheelbase is some six centimetres longer, which no doubt colours its agility. But little of this really hamstrung the Skoda once the bell rang and it came out swinging.
Down the dragstrip, the Skoda pulled a strong 6.30sec to 100km/h, half a second quicker than the GTI, and was 0.3sec up (with 14.6sec) at the 400m mark.
On the move, the Octavia’s 3.90sec was shy of the VW by just two-hundredths for the 80-120km/h dash. And their terminal 400m speeds – both 166s – were within one kilometre of an hour of each other.
Oh, and under emergency braking, both cars pulled identical 38.52m stopping distances.
And that’s the Octavia RS’s clever deception: GTI goodness and pace wrapped in the most unassuming package, partly in solid primer grey. It’s got massive Q-car appeal, impressively value-laden and offers little compromise in family-friendly utility.
Behind the wheel, the VAG DNA is as familiar as it is welcomed, though the Skoda does display shades of character all its own once you bring corners into play.
Around the Winton circuit, the RS isn’t quite as quick or as agile as the GTI. Its laptime of 1:05.50 is slower, but at 0.6sec its only marginally so.
Corner speeds, too, are a little off the VW’s pace, but not nearly as much as you might expect given the top-spec GTI’s performance enhancements.
In the context of the 13-strong category, though, the Skoda was off the pointy end pace. It was a second off the class-leading pace for the 0-400m sprint, a full four seconds slower around the circuit than the $50-$100K benchmark time. A strong result then, but one quite a bit short of a fight for the win.
The Octavia did, however, dispatch the well-regarded WRX, which surprised many on the BFYB crew.
The real surprise, though, is that the Octavia RS remains off many petrolheads’ radars. It’s comfortable, accomplished, unassuming, want-for-little motoring that quicker and more fun that you might expect.
If this was All Round Goodness For Your Modest Buck, this’d be a clear favourite.
$0-50K placing – 6th
Overall placing – 8th
Judges’ ranking – 12th
0-100km/h – 6.30sec (12th)
0-400m – 14.60sec @ 159.80km/h (12th)
Lap Time – 1:45.50sec (10th)
Pricing - $36,490 (8th)
Engine: 1984cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 162kW @ 6200rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1500-4400rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Suspension: struts, A-arms, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: 340mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (f); 270mm solid discs, single-piston calipers (r)
Wheels: 18 x 7.5-inch (f/r)
Tyres: 225/40R18 92Y Contisportcontact 2 (f/r)