The Skoda Octavia VRS Estate is one of those cars that is good at everything.
It’s fast. It handles nicely. It has space for five adults. The boot is enormous. It’s a diesel, so fuel economy is good. It’s even available with four-wheel drive.
The Octavia range starts at £20,125, and the sporty VRS versions cost from £30,290.
Buyers can choose from a hatchback body style or the estate version I’ve just spent a week with. In both cases they’ll be getting the roomiest cars with the biggest boots in their class.
Buyers have the option of petrol, diesel, mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid power, meaning there’s something for everyone.
I drove the estate model with the 2.0 turbodiesel engine and four-wheel drive. It cost £34,980, and my car came with around £4,000 of options including a panoramic sunroof and – unnecessary at this time of year – a winter pack.
Fast and frugal
The diesel engine pumps out just shy of 200bhp and is coupled with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. It’s no slouch. Zero to 62mph takes just 6.8 seconds and it doesn’t run out of puff until almost 150mph.
Because it’s a diesel the power comes low down in the rev range, making it feel even quicker. And – also because it’s a diesel – you can expect fuel economy of around 45mpg, or 50mpg if you drive carefully.
The seven-speed DSG transmission is excellent, switching smoothly through the gears. Steering wheel mounted paddles mean you can shift gear for yourself but after a brief play with these I was content to let the car do the work for me.
You can tell VRS models from their more humdrum counterparts by their bigger wheels, sporty alloys, twin exhausts and body styling kit. Anyone expecting a Sierra Cosworth will be disappointed, however – it’s smart but subtle.
Inside there’s more of the same. There’s a sporty vibe but with an emphasis on comfort. You won’t find rock hard bucket seats here. It’s a car that can and should be driven hard but that is also capable of covering long distances in comfort.
Passengers have plenty of room whether they’re in the front or the rear. Meanwhile the enormous 610 litre boot is big enough for a couple of large labradors or an entire family’s holiday gear.
The Octavia is equally at home being thrown around some favourite country lanes or sitting at 70mph with the family and the dog on board.
I was up in the Angus village of Auchmithie where my partner and I are renovating a holiday cottage. The Skoda’s huge boot – 1,700 litres with the rear seats folded – was put to good use transporting furniture, while its refined ride came into its own along the stretch of dual carriageway between Arbroath and Dundee.
Long distance cruiser
It proved a comfortable steed on a longer run from Fife up to Aberdeenshire. Take it down some back roads and while it won’t keep up with the very best hot hatches it supplies enough entertainment to satisfy most drivers.
My model came with four-wheel drive in place of the standard front-wheel drive. Not only does it mean the car can handle snowy weather or muddy camping trips, it also ensures smooth power delivery. It doesn’t matter whether the road’s bone dry or soaking wet, push the accelerator and the car takes off without so much as a whisper of wheel spin.
There are plenty of creature comforts, from heated seats and steering wheel to a panoramic glass roof. The 10.25in centre screen is easy to use, and the Octavia VRS comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can connect your smartphone.
The list of things to criticise is so short that I find myself reduced to mentioning the cup holders are too small for a standard travel mug.
The Skoda Octavia VRS is a car that satisfies the heart, the head and the wallet. Its breadth of talent really is impressive.
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 147mph
Economy: 45-6 – 50.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 147-162g/km