Car review: Skoda Octavia vRS 4×4 – a reliable shade of grey
Although it is already a little long in the tooth, and will soon be superseded by a revised version with some important improvements to the suspension, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try out what must be the zenith of the Octavia range – the vRS 4×4 model, DSG gearbox, diesel variant. Power with economy and quality is the idea.
This, after all, is an Audi in all but name, complete on this occasion with what would otherwise be called a “Quattro” drivetrain, as well as the DSG dual-clutch automated manual gearbox that the VW group (who own Skoda and Audi of course) set so much store by.
Well, it is an impressive machine with just the one flaw, which I shall get on to in due course. First, though, the lavish praise. I enjoyed the sense of humour in painting this most lively of Skoda models with the dullest shade of paint in the Skoda palette – a sort of solid grey that hasn’t been fashionable for many a long year. What’s more, you can only have a non-metallic grey Octavia if it’s a sporty vRS variant, it’s that special a shade. It is unusual, I grant you. In fact, I was trying to think of the last mainstream car to come out in this colour and settled on a Renault 8 from about 1970. Before that grey was entirely respectable, even fashionable, and I will recall Austin Cambridges and the like turned out in a shade known as “Dove Grey”, which is a posh way of saying they were the same colour as a pigeon. While black paint made a comeback in about 1977 and white returned to favour in about 2012, grey has been left behind. Until now, and Skoda calls their colour “Meteor Grey”, which, for a moments thought, doesn’t really work, does it? A bit oxymoronic to me.
Anyway it is very smart and eye-catching and sets off the “anthracite” (i.e. grey) alloy wheels very well. Skoda have developed an origami-ish straight line school of styling that has become more distinctive in recent times, taking over from where Volvo left off I suppose. It looks sober, sensible and safe, which of course Skodas are.
It goes well enough and returns impressive economy. The 4×4 system endows the Skoda with excellent road holding, and it’s a co-operative partner on twisty roads. It’s rorty enough to scare the pigeons on the A47 at any rate, even if it is the same colour as them.
But this is a diesel powered vRS, and that is the car’s principal flaw. Its rortiness shades into coarseness when extended in the way its petrol sibling doesn’t. For most purposes this 142 mph hatch is capable enough, but its acceleration isn’t quite as dramatic as the billing. In my grey car, wearing a grey suit and with my greying hair, I felt like the Spitting Image puppet of John Major trying to make himself look cool by hoofing a hot hatch all round East Anglia. Like a Nigel Farage Leave poster, it makes me shudder to just to recall it.
That aside, this sporty Octavia retains all its nice domestic touches, such as the cavernous boot (couldn’t resist the old motoring writer’s cliché there), the little ticket holder clip on the front windscreen and an ice-scraper in the fuel filler cap. At a significant discount to roughly equivalent VWs and Audis, it is just the sort of thing that appeals to the grey pound.
So there we are then: the Skoda Octavia vRS; Sing if you’re glad to be grey. Sing if you’re happy that way.
Price: £27,315 (£28,750 as tested)
Engine capacity: 2 litre 4cyl diesel
Transmission: 6-spd DSG 4×4
Power output (PS @ rpm): [email protected],500-4,000
Top speed (mph): 142
0-62 mph (seconds): 7.6
Fuel economy (mpg): 57.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 129
BIK: 25 per cent
Length (mm): 4,463
Width 9mm): 1,814
Boot (litres): 1,740