An iconic name returns for the good. | Photos: Paranjay Dutt
Enthusiasts knew they were in for a treat when Skoda first brought out the Octavia vRS back in early 2002. Based on the tough-as-a-tank Octavia, the vRS with its four-pot turbocharged goodness and sleeper looks, was (and still is) a genuinely fast and wickedly sought-after sedan.
Nearly a decade later in 2011, Skoda introduced another car wearing the hallowed vRS badge – the Laura vRS. The carmaker, however, did not bother to add a more potent engine and a bit more grunt, much to the disappointment of the enthusiasts.
Wind the clocks forward a couple of years and the Czech carmaker has brought back the Octavia moniker with the all-new model you see on this page. Now in its third incarnation, the 2013 Octavia is not a far cry from its predecessors and continues to impress us with its solid build quality, comfortable and feature-rich cabin as pointed out in our review of the 2.0-litre diesel version.
Now, as impressive as the new Octavia is, there is one thing the car is missing – a much sportier vRS version. Having said that, enthusiasts needn’t fret because Skoda is also offering performance-focused TSI-engined models with two engine options – 1.4-litre TSI and the 1.8-litre TSI. We drove the 1.4 TSI with the slick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox which just happens to be more rewarding to drive compared to the 1.8 TSI with the DSG unit.
All-new for 2013, the Octavia carries all of the modern Skoda design traits in its appearance. Upfront, the pair of distinctively shaped headlamps, modern-looking grille and the massive fog lamps all add up to emphasis the car’s presence on the road. Move onto the side and the design element to get your attention first is the upswept dynamic window line in the rear door, adding an air of distinctiveness to the side profile.
Compared to the Laura, this new model boasts of a far bigger footprint. The new Octavia, in fact, is 90 mm longer and 45 mm wider with the wheelbase too having grown by 108 mm. Overall, the Octavia looks arguably impressive although what makes the design truly special is how effectively it hides the added length, making the car look more compact than its predecessor.
Skoda’s empathy for luxury shows through the moment you make your way past the solidly engineered door to step inside the cabin. Even in this moderately-specced Ambition trim (remember, Skoda isn’t offering the 1.4 TSI in the top-spec Elegance trim) the cabin reeks of luxury and quality.
Be it visual appeal, practicality or creature comforts, the interior of the new Octavia is bound to leave even high-end luxury car buyers mighty impressed. The design of the dashboard, though not particularly enticing, is well laid out with the buttons and knobs all at the right places. There are also plenty of soft touch materials throughout, making the cabin that little bit more special to be in.
Skoda has done really well to offer a fairly impressive list of features as standard. There’s a 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system which lets out good quality audio, multifunction steering wheel, rear parking sensors, dual zone climate control, rear AC vents, leather upholstery, rain-sensing automatic wipers, dual front airbags, ABS, EBD, ESC and lots more.
The cabin is just as good when it comes to space and comfort. Upfront, there’s plenty of space allowing even tall drivers to get comfortable behind the wheel. The seats as well are quite comfortable and are apt for long journeys.
The new Octavia is bigger than ever before and the fact is apparent when you look at the other half of the cabin. The rear seat is generously comfortable and offers good support at all the right places. As for the legroom, the Octavia is now amongst the longest sedans in its class and this reflects in the amount of legroom which is not too far off from what’s on offer in the Superb. Better still, if its boot space you are looking for, look no further. There’s simply no matching the Octavia’s 590-litre boot which if needed, is extendable to a mahoosive 1,580 litres.
The petrol-powered Octavia comes with a choice of two turbocharged engines: 1.4-litre TSI and the more powerful 1.8-litre TSI. While the latter comes with the super quick DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox complementing the abundance of Powerrr! it’s the adequately potent 1.4 TSI with the slick-shifting 6-speed manual which is more of a hoot to drive.
The 1.4-litre 4-cylinder TSI motor makes use of turbocharging and direct injection to produce 140PS of power and 250Nm of torque. The same engine also powers the Volkswagen Jetta TSI but makes 20PS less. What also works in favor of the Skoda to offer better performance and fuel economy is its lighter kerb weight with the car weighing around 140kg less than the VW.
On the road, the engine provides plenty of pep in slow moving traffic despite the turbo lag which sticks around up till 2,000 RPM. Up the pace and the Octavia starts to make serious progress with the 1.4-litre TSI exuding dollop of power. Like all turbocharged engines, mid-range performance is simply frenzied and it is remarkable how quickly the Octavia picks up speed considering 140PS is a pretty modest output especially for a car this big.
In spite of the impressive high-speed performance, the Octavia feels quite at home doodling around town in higher gears, thanks to all of its 250 torques coming in from as low as 1,500 RPM. Speaking of refinement, the noise coming from the engine gets a bit vocal under hard acceleration, but it is never intrusive. Cruising in excess of triple digits speeds is also pleasantly quiet. Not surprising.
Also worth noting is how well accomplished the new Octavia is on bad roads and on the twisties. A near-perfect blend of ride of handling and exceptional stability at all speeds means the Octavia suffers from very little body roll and easily maintains its composure even when driven hard. Speaking of which; driving with a heavy foot will result in fuel efficiency dropping below 10 kmpl, as against 16.8 kmpl claimed by Skoda. However, keep things sane and the Octavia will run for at least 13 kilometer to the litre.
Enthusiasts who have really enjoyed the last two generations of the vRS lineage have been let down with no sight of the 2013 Octavia vRS in the foreseeable future; however it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be left disappointed with the TSI-engined Octavia.
The Octavia 1.4 TSI, on the contrary, has proved to become the best all-rounder in its segment with its potent yet economical petrol engine, sturdy built quality and comfortable interiors, even though it might never be the ideal evolutionary step for those who grew up driving the original sleeper.