For two generations, the Skoda Octavia RS has been the Golf GTI you have when family duties and/or large pets and load-lugging demands conspire to take over your life. Be it a liftback sedan or deeply alluring wagon, the quirkily handsome RS blends quality, practicality, affordability and puntability like few other machines.
But how does a pumped-up brood hauler fare under the scrutiny and intensity of a 12-car sporting fest? Better than you’d probably expect, certainly from a performance perspective, though perhaps without the athletic edginess that Skoda’s ‘RS245’ moniker and ‘wicked’ marketing speak might imply.
With 180kW/370Nm at its disposal (11kW/20Nm more than a stock RS) and an electronic limited-slip front diff dealing with output distribution, there’s the basis of a terrific Q-car here. Only the RS245’s Porsche-inspired 19s (wrapped in pricey 225/35R19 Pirelli P Zero rubber) betray this Octavia’s latent performance potential, though even with that footprint, the hot Skoda doesn’t quite manage to put into practice what its on-paper spec promises.
Our hired gun Renato Loberto thought as much when electronic intervention impeded the RS245’s wallop over Haunted Hills’ mountainous circuit, throwing the ESC into a fritz. Yet its inherent goodness still shone through – “down the back straight and up the hill, it was [nearly as quick] as the Type R; really fast, great braking, really good chassis,” noted our pro.
On the road, the Octavia RS245 ultimately proves better than initial brisk driving suggests, once you push beyond a layer of relative disinterest (curiously, in contrast to the agility the RS245 conveys at urban speeds). As long as you resist the desire to be brutal with it – guiding it onto its outside rear tyre and allowing its weight to settle – then the Skoda feels poised and determined.
There’s a satisfying handler lurking beneath the Skoda’s dapper dress sense (and beyond the howl of its Pirellis), though the steering lacks intimacy around straight ahead and never feels as immediate as 2.1 turns lock-to-lock might suggest.
Traversing a challenging mid-corner hit on our test loop (tackled deep into three figures), the Octavia RS245 showed what it’s really capable of. Even in Sport mode – the firmest of three settings – the Skoda’s damping and body control absorbed the disruptive ridge with effortless efficiency, though at other times, the Skoda’s ride treads an unremarkable middle ground, regardless of suspension mode.
Even loading it up with four adults fails to smooth out the rough edges of a lumpy road, compounding the impression that the RS245’s suspension doesn’t match the standard set by Volkswagen’s A-grade hatches. And the axle tramp that blights the front-drive Superb so badly is still in evidence here, albeit less severe.
That’s no surprise given the strength of the Octavia RS245’s engine. With a guttural growl at low revs and mountains of easily surfable torque, the Skoda is a relaxing car to drive quickly. And if you do start to have a go, it’s an easy car to thrill with its deceptive rapidity. This Czech chariot is fast.
The Octavia RS245 is a better car than its genetically related big brother, the Superb Sportline. A lower and far more suitable driving position (on excellent Alcantara-clad highback seats), much better rear-seat packaging, less frumpy design – particularly around the hip area – and a more cohesive feel say this is the car Skoda spent time and money developing.
Space, warranty and individuality; it’s a compelling combination. The most complete Skoda may not be as sinful as ‘RS245’ says it should be, but as all-rounders go, this Octavia shines.
Skoda Octavia RS245
LAP TIME: 1:07.5sec
Engine: 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Power: 180kW @ 5000-6700rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 1600-4300rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Tyres: Pirelli P Zero 225/35R19 88Y
Fuel consumption: 13.6L/100km (tested)
Power to weight: 129kW per tonne
0-100km/h: 6.6sec (claimed)
Hot Hatch Megatest Contenders
12th, Score 6/10: Mini Cooper S JCW
11th, Score 6.5/10: BMW 125i
10th, Score 6.5/10: Subaru WRX Premium
9th, Score 7/10: Subaru WRX STI
8th, Score 7/10: Skoda Octavia RS245
7th, Score: 7.5/10: Ford Focus ST
6th, Score: 7.5/10: Renault Clio RS220 Trophy
5th, Score: 8/10: Volkswagen Golf GTI Original
4th, Score: 8.5/10: Volkswagen Golf R Grid
3rd, Score: 8.5/10: Peugeot 308 GTi 270
2nd, Score: 9/10: Honda Civic Type R
Winner, Score: 9/10: Hyundai i30 N
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