The RS 230 adds speed and traction to the Octavia equation. Is it a better buy than the Golf GTI?
Skoda’s Octavia is the practical choice in its segment with oodles of space, smart powertrains and pricing that must make VW sales staff squirm when asked to explain the differences between it and a Golf. Yet when it comes to the performance variants, the Octavia RS is the Golf GTI’s poor cousin, the VW getting all the good bits to make it faster and sharper in the handling stakes. But finally Octavia RS buyers can now have added practicality with a dose more speed in the recently arrived RS 230. A limited edition model, the slightly spunkier 230 can be had as a liftback for $53,500 or $55,990 for the wagon as seen here. It has the usual 2.0-litre turbopetrol but tweaks to the ECU and exhaust system deliver 169kW (230hp, hence the name) and 350Nm of torque.
If you’re familiar with the Skoda price list, that looks like they are trying to charge an extra $2500 for just seven more kay-dubs but the RS 230 has also been uprated with a similar electro-mechanical diff to the VW GTI Performance model. Working with the traction control, this Haldex-type unit, mounted up front, can send up to 100 per cent of the drive to either wheel, working quickly and progressively to deliver as much torque to the fronts as the rubber can deploy. While short of a proper mechanical LSD like that employed in the Peugeot 308 GTi, this is mighty impressive all the same.
Given the time of year, we drove this on a mix of dry and drying surfaces. It can struggle for ultimate stick when there’s a bit of moisture below, the inside wheel starting to spin as you try to power out of bends with the TC called on to actively snuff it out. On dry paths though it works admirably, helping the Octavia to scurry off the curves with determined drive, grounding all the power and with precious little torque steer.
While it’s been granted access to the better drive technology, variable dampers still remain off limits for this Skoda. Still, it does a decent job on its fixed rate jobbies. There’s probably more compliancy than necessary. While the ride is perfectly pleasant there are some body movements to manage at speed, especially dive under heavy braking. Its steering is quick with a variable ratio that helps swing the front in swiftly and easily.
While ultimately it’s not that involving -the steering is a quiet achiever, and though the engine is a willing rever, there’s no real need to – the RS 230 does the business easily. Along with a few kilowatts they’ve added some sound too. Synthesised it may be but it lends some character to the drive.
The six-speed twin-clutch is the only ’box offered, and it does its usual fine job in Sports mode or you can flap the paddles, with shifts delivered quickly. And with the broad spread of torque, the six cogs suffice. The RS 230 is said to reach 100km/h in 7.0sec and though all our recorded runs went under that mark, the times can vary depending on the initial hook up off the line. Skoda reckons on a combined average of 6.5L/100km, but somewhere between 8 and 12 is what you should expect.
During regular type running the RS 230 is a charmer too. As mentioned, the ride is most agreeable on its 19s, there’s no waiting around in terms of boost response, the transmission is well sorted and with the steering set to Comfort and with just 2.1 turns lock-to-lock, little effort is required in the car park. Again, it just does things easily.
The RS 230 is marked out by black detailing; darkened lights and grille surrounds and other blackened appendages as well as the 19-inch Xtreme alloys and the leather-clad RS seats. It’s big on boot space, wide, long and deep thanks to a space saver spare underneath. There’s a powered tailgate which is slow in operation, and while the Octavia has remote releases for the split folding seat, the array of fitted net partitions and cargo covers makes the operation difficult. If you’re after a flat load space once the seats are folded, you’re out of luck, you’ll have to pay for the variable false floor board. But otherwise it’s a good-sized wagon with enough room for the ‘average family’ and the dog too.
The spec sheet is reasonably replete but we’d want for a few of the options like a smart key ($1000), reversing camera ($750, which should be standard) and adaptive cruise ($2000). Adding 19s and leather to a regular RS is $4000, so the 230 should be viewed as good value in that regard. That it now has the goods to run with the GTI makes it a great allrounder too.
|Skoda Octavia RS 230
|1984cc, IL4 TDI, 169kW/350Nm
|6-speed twin clutch, front-wheel drive