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Stephen Walker with the Skoda Octavia RS. This car was driven 313 kilometres around suburban Melbourne. (copyright image) (copyright image) (copyright image) (copyright image)

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ROAD TEST:   Skoda Octavia RS  (diesel/manual)

by Stephen Walker

24th June, 2010

Home > Road Tests > Skoda

Skoda has been back in Australian showrooms for over two years now. Although, it cannot be said that the Czech company has had an easy time in establishing itself down under. In reality, it is a 'given' that Skoda will not make it to the local best-seller list any time soon.

Sure, the brand is established in some 100 markets around the world. In fact, Skoda is an admired marque in Germany and the UK where a wide range of models has made the Volkswagen owned brand a success.

However, any study of Australian automotive history will promptly determine that even today's successful brands (such as Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan, for example, took some time to establish themselves when they arrived during the 1960s. Later success stories, such as Kia and Suzuki, also took a number of years to firmly establish themselves in our marketplace.

The complexities of the market and the expansive nature of our new car market during the past two decades or so has seen car buying as a lifestyle choice more so than ever. Decades ago the acquisition of a vehicle was solely a transportation or convenience (personal and/or business) issue, with a heavy emphasis on the vehicle price and the related operating costs. But today's market has people buying a vehicle/s for lifestyle choices as well as the traditional reasons.

Skoda should be viewed as an easy 'fit' into the local market for quite a number of reasons. This is particularly the case with the Octavia range of liftbacks and wagons. History reveals 'Aussies' gain a great deal of satisfaction from a largish car that features a roomy interior with good performance. Value has also been a factor, too. But an even more important consideration these days is the perceived style that a car offers. That is, many folks want a car that is "cool", trendy in other words. Hence the external styling, the pose value if you wish, is often the number one item on the shopping list for some buyers. Nothing wrong with that, car companies are falling over themselves to appeal to all manner of buyers, with all manner of products. That's why the market is so expansive. Sellers are looking for buyers and buyers are looking for sellers. Supply and demand working at its best, in our free market environment.

The Skoda Octavia offers an appealing mix of traditional Australian values. For example, reliability, durability, roominess, comfort and value have been sought after attributes for generations of Australian motorists. The Octavia offers each of these qualities in abundance.

Past exposure to the Skoda Octavia has impressed me greatly. The drive experience is pleasing, no doubt about that. But the highlight of two previous experiences with Octavia had me witness 44 degree days in both Perth (2007) and Melbourne (2008). Yet, in the Octavia, the air conditioning worked so well that I was sure it was just 19 degrees! This impressive performance of the air conditioning has convinced me that "cool" takes on a new meaning in the Skoda Octavia.

Our recent drive of the new Skoda Octavia RS wagon sees us benefit from exposure to the new version of Skoda's sporty number. The performance orientated RS is still available with the VW Golf GTI engine, but a high performance diesel is now on the company's product list. Our drive car, on this occasion, was the diesel (TDI) engined, 6 speed manual transmission equipped Octavia RS wagon.

This engine is utilised, in the traditional manner for VW brands, across a broad range of models.

Whilst diesels are popular in Europe, even in performance models, petrol engines still remain in favour locally. However, recent swings to diesels and the ever increasing availability of diesel engined cars will continue to see a switch in preference to the more fuel efficient diesel cars. Of course, reduced CO2 emissions is another benefit of the modern day diesel. However, the diesel models are $2,000 more expensive than the identical petrol powered models. That alone will be a deciding factor for many buyers, especially those that don't cover a lot of kilometres and, therefore, they will no doubt stay with petrol power. However, those covering big distances will quickly see the benefit of lower daily running costs with the fuel efficient diesel.

The Octavia RS's high performance diesel engine is a 1,968 cc 4 cylinder turbocharged unit mounted transversely in the front and driving the front wheels. This engine puts out 125 kW of power at 4,200 rpm, whilst the torque is a very handy 350 Nm at 1,750 to 2,500 rpm. Satisfying performance is readily available, although those wanting 'real' performance will probably still go for the petrol engine. Factory figures suggest a 0 to 100 km/h time of 8.5 seconds for the diesel wagon whilst the petrol version has a 7.5 second time. But the diesel offers a 5.9 litre/100 kms fuel consumption rating on the widely accepted "combined cycle", compared to 7.7 litres/100 km for the petrol model. So a handy degree of performance is available with a decent fuel consumption figure for the RS TDI. But this car is 'kitted out' as a sporty number! That being the case, the image of a sporty car is still available, but this time with a more "sustainable" emission level of just 155 grammes per kilometre (179 g/km for the petrol/manual RS wagon).

At 4.6 metres long, the Skoda Octavia is an appealing size that offers close to the traditional sizing for Aussies.

On the road, the height adjustable front seating proved quite comfortable and heating is available if required. Lumbar support is a standard feature, so too are the thigh and hip bolsters. The seating is nicely presented in a dashing grey. The ride quality is pleasing degree of firmness, not at all harsh, whilst the steering, suspension and brakes do a good job. The steering wheel has a good strong feel to it, but it doesn't have any audio controls on the 'spokes'. You adjust the volume and change stations the old fashion way, by reaching to the radio facia controls. But the 4-way adjustment mechanism for the steering wheel is always appreciated. This is an important feature that assists in providing comfort for drivers of varying stature, as well as making for safer control of the car.

During our drive we couldn't help but notice that the daytime running lights are dominant. Too dominant for my liking. There doesn't appear to be a great need for bright lights in broad daylight when you're driving at 15 km/h in heavy city traffic. Perhaps we need a speed senstive brightness control that considers the light sensitivity of the natural daylight.

Standard equipment for the Octavia RS, which is known as vRS in Europe, includes climate control air conditioning, AM/FM radio with 6 disc CD stacker, MP3 input socket, trip computer, power windows, heated external rear view mirrors, auto dimming internal rear view mirror, auto windscreen wipers, driver's footrest, alloy look pedals, reading lights front/rear, sunglass holder, height-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, heated front seats, sun visors with vanity mirrors and pockets, ticket holder on A pillar, coat hangers on B pillar, front armrest with cooled storage space, cooled and illuminated glove compartment, storage box under steering wheel, storage compartment on dashboard, 'twin' cup holder in centre console, storage compartment under passenger seat, storage 'pockets' in side doors front and rear (one litre bottle holders upfront), map pockets in front seat backs, 60/40 split and fold rear seats Flexible cargo area cover for the wagon, 12V-socket in luggage compartment (wagon only), illuminated cargo area and cruise control, bag hooks in cargo area (wagon), silver roof rails (wagon only) and cargo net. A very handy list of equipment.

The Skoda Octavia RS wagon (diesel/manual) is priced from $$41,490 without options (manufacturer's list price, excluding dealer delivery charges and the various statutory charges imposed by state and territory governments).

In summary, the Skoda Octavia RS wagon offers a very good combination of sportiness, roominess and value. It's reasonable to expect that Skoda will be a brand that we will all see and hear more of in the years ahead.

More Skoda News ..... here


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