If ever you were in any doubt as to whether advertising works, czech... sorry, check out how many Skodas you see with roof racks attached, usually with a bicycle sticking out of them.
Skoda has been the official car of the Tour de France since 2004 and sometimes it seems as though a love of lycra is a prerequisite for a Skoda purchase. Thankfully, that’s not the case, as it would be a shame if the Octavia was restricted to MAMILs (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra, for those curious).
That the RS230 found a happy home with MOTOR is not surprising, as it joined our fleet having trounced the Subaru Levorg in our March issue. What perhaps is surprising is how much this rear-drive-loving scribe enjoyed piloting a front-drive family wagon.
It actually got to the point that I was disappointed when test cars needed driving as it meant I couldn’t drive the Octavia. But what makes it so good? Firstly, there’s its practicality.
During its stay with MOTOR, DJT-72Y hauled towels and boards to the beach, furniture for house relocations, go-kart tyres, bicycles and more. At 588L seats up and 1718L seats down, the boot is both extremely roomy and hard-wearing; about the only way to improve it would be to find a way to make the rear seats fold completely flat or perhaps away completely.
Up front some hard, scratchy plastic lets the side down and the seats could do with more lateral support, but then they look fantastic and given the level of equipment available, I’m happy to excuse some cheap materials. I may be late to this party, but Apple CarPlay was a godsend, making most other infotainment systems – including Skoda’s own – seem needlessly unintuitive.
Massive points for the manual handbrake, too. One of the Octavia’s strengths is its ride quality. It can get jiggly over poor surfaces, an inevitable consequence of 19s with 35-profile tyres, however the ease with which it absorbs bumps and lumps is rare among performance models in this day and age.
This softer setup did result in a slight lack of body control when really driving hard, but the times I wished for the adaptive dampers’ Sport mode were few and far between. One thing I often wished for was the ability to deactivate traction control.
Even with the ESP switched to Sport mode, the slightest hint of wheelspin would awake the electronics and cut engine power; frustrating on a quick take-off from the traffic lights, let alone a weekend thrash on your favourite twisty road. Please fix this, Skoda, and if you can allow ESP to be deactivated at the same time, all the better.
The RS230 is a manual-only proposition, limiting its appeal in auto-loving Australia, but it’s difficult to see how a dual-clutch would make the car more amenable. The clutch and gearshift are light and the engine has easily enough low-down urge to walk off the line.
The 2.0-litre turbo four-pot backs this up with heaps of mid-range grunt and only begins to feel breathless towards redline. Fast, practical, good value – the RS230 ticks almost every box, which might make the fact just 70 were imported into Australia seem like bad news.
Fear not, for the updated Octavia RS245 is set to appear from mid-2017 with the potential to fix most of the RS230’s few foibles. A stronger 180kW/370Nm engine arrives, as does the option of adaptive suspension and a dual-clutch ’box (though we’d stick with the manual), while the clever front diff and choice of sedan or wagon remains.
We’re not too keen on the new split headlight look, but if we had to choose between that and wearing lycra...
Liked: Manual; ride quality; space
Disliked: Non-killable ESP; cheap plastics