The MOTOR team doesn’t need much of an excuse to go for a decent drive, but if we have a decent excuse it makes the decision even easier.
So when a friend invited us along to the first Drive Against Depression, aimed at raising awareness about mental health issues, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to not just hang out with like-minded enthusiasts and raise some coin for charity, but also stretch the Octavia’s legs along some of MOTOR’s favourite test roads.
The route will be familiar to keen Melbourne drivers, and if it’s not, it should be. Starting at Gembrook, we would head north to Launching Place, chuck a right and continue through Warburton to climb the sinuous twists and turns of Reefton Spur, glance longingly at Lake Mountain (another time) and continue on to lunch at Marysville. Suitably fed, it’s then back through the Black Spur to Melbourne.
Editor DC would be sharing the driving and it would be interesting to get another perspective on the Skoda. I’m a big fan of the RS230, however there’s a definite ceiling to its comfort zone. For the run up the Black Spur I have the unusual experience of watching the Octavia do its thing from the passenger seat of the following Renault Clio 182 Cup. The well-driven Clio sticks with the Czech chariot in the tighter corners, but at the first hint of a straight the Skoda’s turbo power easily pulls out a gap.
The Skoda Octavia RS230 is quite soft in its setup, resulting in substantial body roll as DC pitches it in to bends, the tail edging out just slightly on entry. It’s a fine line to tread, as even in Sport mode the Skoda’s ESP is quite conservative and quickly reins in any movements it deems over-exuberant.
The sight of an outwardly conservative family wagon being driven with enthusiasm is equal parts odd and amusing, but that’s the beauty of the Octavia RS package. In fact, our long-termer isn’t the only white Octavia RS wagon taking part today, and strange as it may seem, the RS230 scores plenty of admiring glances for its appealing mix of practicality and performance.
DC’s a fan: “For a wagon it shouldn’t be as fun as it is! It’s best enjoyed at eight-tenths of course, but you’d absolutely take it for a drive for the sake of it.” He’s right on all counts; the Skoda is good fun, possibly more fun than most would expect, but as mentioned earlier, there are limits to its ability. Push too hard and the un-killable traction control starts grabbing at wheels and the soft-ish suspension begins to lose control of the body.
It’s a problem the smaller, lighter, adaptive damper-equipped Golf GTI Performance, from which the Octavia RS230 nicks its mechanicals, doesn’t have, but if that’s the price that must be paid for wagon practicality, it’s not too steep. The manual gearbox adds an extra layer of interactivity and with familiarity even the variable-ratio steering – which initially can feel at odds with the Skoda’s quite large steering wheel – even begins to feel like second-nature.
So far the Skoda has ticked every box and answered every question asked of it. It’s practical and easy to drive day-to-day but plenty entertaining when the red mist descends. But is a track session asking too much of this family wagon? We’ll find out next month.
LIKE: There’s nothing like a good drive
DISLIKE: Intrusive traction control
FAVOURITE MOMENT: Seeing the Skoda being driven hard
Km this month: 1014km
Km Total: 1918km
Fuel this month: 8.76L/100km
Fuel Total: 9.44L/100km