Last week, a nice chap from DHL came and took away the Race Blue Skoda Octavia vRS estate that’s been on my driveway since August. And I have to admit: I felt a little sad. In that time my colleagues and I clocked 5389 miles in the thing (well, minus the 40 or so delivery miles it had upon arrival).
We’ve been through a lot in that time, and with its departure came the end of eight months of Octavia long-term testing, once you factor in the Candy White vRS hatchback we ran before it, in which we covered a further 2500 or so miles.
So, with both cars now returned to Skoda UK, we’re looking back on what we discovered over those 8000+ miles:
We’ve said before that some cars just don’t suit a manual gearbox, especially when modern dual-clutch transmissions and conventional automatics are often bloody impressive. However, we were never overly fond of the slightly hesitant six-speed DSG in the hatchback we ran, and after making the switch to a manual estate, it was pretty clear that the stick-shifter suited the car much better. And as a bonus, you can save yourself nearly £1400 by not ticking the DSG option box.
Just a few weeks after we took the keys, CT Features Editor Darren gave ‘our’ estate vRS a jolly thorough test by taking it on a 2134 mile road trip across Europe. It ploughed through seven countries - including its very own Czech homeland - and did an amazing job. Why? Because it has a massive boot, has loads of interior space, is comfortable, relatively economical and happy to hit 140mph on the autobahn without breaking a sweat. And it’d have gone even faster if it wasn’t for that pesky traffic…
Prospective Octavia vRS owners are given the option of the £800 ‘Black Design Package Plus’ which - along with some gloss black trim bits - includes a set of 19-inch ‘Xtreme’ alloy wheels. We thought a set of these would look great on our estate, however when it came to it, we received a set of black wheels rather than the Anthracite ones we were expecting, as the latter wheels were no longer available.
The problem? They didn’t quite look right on our Race Blue vRS. They also exaggerated the already high-riding look of the car, so it’s no wonder the reception to the new rims from you guys wasn’t exactly warm when we had them fitted at Progress Skoda in Letchworth.
We’re not saying don’t buy the things, but if you do, make sure you’re fitting them to an Octavia with the ‘right’ colour. The rims would look great on a Candy White or Meteor Grey vRS, especially if a small suspension drop (make sure you look into potential warranty ramifications first) is factored in to reduce the considerable arch gap.
With a facelifted Focus ST arriving in 2015, we thought it was time for a ‘rematch’ of a twin test we’d run a year or so before with the Ford and an Octavia vRS hatch. Oh, and while we were at it, we threw in a Seat Leon Cupra ST for good measure to make it a triple test. Despite being outgunned by both its competitors, the vRS fared pretty damn well indeed. Head over here to see our verdict.
When running the hatchback and the later estate, I always got the sense the Octavia vRS was lacking a little something in the driving department. It can cover ground very quickly indeed, but there’s just some spice missing. To a large extent, the new vRS 230 (above left) provides that thanks to the presence of VW’s VAQ locking front differential, which can shove up to 100 per cent of the engine’s torque to either front wheel.
Sure, there are still more exciting hot hatches out there than the 230, but it’s a very capable, fun-to-drive package that’s not terribly expensive. Also, the £2120 increase over the standard petrol vRS is more than made up for in equipment alone, before you even consider the VAQ diff.
So, while I’ll miss the Race Blue vRS estate I clocked many thousands of miles in, and the Candy White hatch before it, I wouldn’t recommend either. Instead, it’s the 230 that gets our stamp of approval. You’ll struggle to find something that blends pace and practicality quite so well for the cash.