While it may be fair to assume that the Skoda Octavia RS is like the fastback version of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, it is not a fair conclusion to make.
For one, having the same drivetrain does not automatically make it a GTI derivative. There is also a difference in handling. The Golf GTI is a lithe and agile hatchback that’s eager to dance around tight corners, while the Octavia RS is more at home on wide, sweeping bends.
Therefore, if this was really a “GTI fastback”, then I imagine it would be as agile as its hatchback cousin, no matter the body style.
Instead, the latest Octavia RS is even more complete than its predecessor, and now feels like the grand tourer of the Skoda range.
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If you’re wondering why the Superb, Skoda’s flagship fastback, isn’t the grand tourer of the line-up, the answer is that while it is more refined, it does not have the sportiness that a grand tourer should possess.
Grand tourers should be comfortable and be fun-to-drive. Without it, long drives (yes, even in tiny Singapore) would be boring.
The Octavia RS has the most performance of the Skoda range. To this, it adds a longer list of standard amenities and improved comfort over its predecessor.
The wheels, for instance, are now 19 inches (one size bigger), and the tyres are stickier Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersports. The older Octavia RS was shod with Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres. They were good in their time, but have since been eclipsed by rivals.
Like its predecessor, this fastback sits 15mm lower than the regular Octavia and gets multi-link suspension at the rear instead of a torsion beam.
More importantly, the RS now has Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), an adaptive damping system with five main settings: Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual. DCC replaces RS mode, which was activated by a button in the older car.
Most drivers will tweak the Individual setting to get the Octavia RS to suit their driving style. Parameters such as the engine note, steering weight and damper settings can all be adjusted.
Slide the selector towards Comfort and the car becomes more compliant; put it in Sport and you’re in for a very firm ride. I found the middle setting to be a happy compromise.
The interior hasn’t been left untouched either. The 10.25-inch virtual cockpit, for instance, offers an additional fifth layout, which has a large digital speedometer and a bar for the rev counter.
Also unique to the Octavia RS are the Alcantara sports seats and three-spoke steering wheel, whereas “normal” Octavias have two-spoke units. In addition, the Columbus infotainment system has a 10-inch display with built-in navigation as standard.
There’s even an extra eighth airbag – between the driver and front passenger – to help mitigate injuries in the event of a lateral impact.
Of course, key to the Octavia RS is what resides under its bonnet. It’s a turbocharged 1984cc inline-4 that still produces 241hp (245PS) and 370Nm.
But this time, the motor has been given a new crankshaft seal, fuel injection pressure of up to 350 bar and newly shaped piston crowns.
Performance, however, is like before, with the Octavia RS finishing the century sprint in 6.7 seconds (okay, it’s 0.1 of a second slower, but you can’t tell).
What’s different is the power delivery – it feels more linear this time around. And the 7-speed dual-clutch seems to have taller ratios, which dovetails with the engine’s character.
The first three or even four forward ratios should have been shorter, which would have made the Octavia RS feel punchier at low to moderate speeds. The fifth to seventh ratios can be longer for more relaxed cruising.
But will taller ratios all round, the motor needs plenty of revs (not that it minds) if you want to pick up the pace. The dual-clutch gearbox could also feel snappier. It feels like it prioritises smoothness (and preventing premature wear) by easing into each shift. The previous gearbox felt quicker.
But it’s hard to complain since there’s no performance penalty. In fact, the more refined and less manic drivetrain suits the Octavia RS’ purpose as a grand tourer.
Part of the driving route included Old Upper Thomson Road, whose gentle winding curves suited the fastback just fine. Roadholding is excellent and there’s grip aplenty from the aforementioned sticky tyres. Even if you’re a bit ham-fisted, there’s XDS+, an electronic differential that helps maintain traction.
The progressive steering is decent and the nose provides some feel, but like most electric set-ups, it could be more communicative. It’s quicker than before, though, with 2.13 instead of 2.7 turns lock-to-lock.
While the preceding RS prompts you to naughtily toss it into corners, the new, more grown-up model invites you to take a more measured approach. The former is definitely more fun, especially after Skoda banished the mushy brake pedal in the previous RS. The one here has a firmer, more positive feel.
A SOFTER CHARACTER?
In a sense, the most powerful model in Skoda’s range is now a mellower one. But it’s hard to call this 245PS fastback “mellow”. The Octavia RS offers firecracker performance – even without the artificial engine note.
As mentioned at the start, it’s even more complete this time around, with more/better standard equipment, not to mention plenty of space for both passengers and their belongings. And it has its own character. It is not a “GTI fastback”. At least not in my book.
The only thing standing in the way of this capable grand tourer is its equally grand price tag. With Cat B and Cat E premiums at all-time highs, the $199k asking price could be too steep to stomach – even if the dish is delicious.
Skoda Octavia RS 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1984cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 241hp (245PS, 180kW) at 5250-6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 370Nm at 1600-4300rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 157.3hp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 6.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.4km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $199,900 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Skoda Singapore