What is it?
It’s a car with an actual manual gearbox. It says something about the current state of the market that it’s almost a bit surprising to jump into a hot hatch and be greeted by a stick gear change, but Skoda still does it and the world is all the better for it.
It’s attached to the same Octavia vRS hatch that we drove here (albeit in Estate form), with 242bhp and 273lb ft from the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol that VW uses in the Golf GTI. Not only that, the two cars also share the same modular platform, although in Skoda’s case the wheelbase has been pushed out by 67mm to 2686mm – the resultant bonus being a bit of extra rear legroom.
The Octavia also shares the Golf’s adaptive dampers – Dynamic Chassis Control – costing £945 and essential speccing if you’re ticking boxes. There are five settings in total, all controllable via a button in the centre console.
As you’d expect, the looks have been breathed on for this hot version but not so much that you feel self-conscious driving it. I particularly liked the little Gurney flap at the rear; in the optional Quartz Grey metallic (£595) on our test car, it was a subtle addition on the boot lid.
Inside is dramatic, with swathes of Microsuede across the dash and upper door cards. The steering wheel has dimpled leather, there’s plenty of red stitching and vRS badges adorn the seat, gear lever and steering wheel. This all leaves you in no doubt that this is the sporty one, but it’s tastefully done. None of it feels token or out of place.
What’s it like?
Happily, the Octavia vRS has the performance to back up those tweaked looks. 0-62mph is seen off in 6.8 seconds, helped by the VAQ ‘limited-slip’ differential that limits wheelspin. Strictly speaking, it’s an electronically controlled clutch pack, but when it achieves largely the same effect, we’ll let the technicalities go.
Fire the car up for the first time and you’re greeted by a synthesised exhaust note, attempting a rorty warble to make sure you know you’re in the hot hatch. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s too fake for my liking. It does bring an edge to the Octavia but it starts to drone after a while, like an A-level physics teacher who’s trying to make electrons sound exciting. You can turn it off, though.