Skoda Octavia vRS long-term test review: a suitable load-lugger?
A cross-country mission to collect magazines tests its mettle
I was on a mission to drive from my home in Basingstoke to Shropshire, to pick-up a 50-year collection of Autocar back issues.
It’s a three-and-a-bit-hour trip each way, so I needed a car that was adept at covering ground quickly and able to carry a fair load. Our Octavia vRS Estate ticked those boxes.
As an added bonus, it was an absolute hoot to thread along the dry A-roads north of Shrewsbury, and both comfortable and secure during the drive back down the M6 and M5 in horrendous monsoon conditions.
The only area that showed up the Octavia was its infotainment. I’m somewhat spoilt by a modern car that seamlessly hooks up to my smartphone, but I ran out of patience trying to work out how to pair my phone to the Octavia, even though a sub-menu on the main screen teased me that it was possible. The car’s regular keeper, Alex Robbins, later explained that you pair your phone via the multi-function display on the instrument panel. Of course you do.
Another blow was the lack of DAB radio. I’d forgotten what it was like to listen to the Saturday afternoon football on BBC Radio 5 Live as waves of static wash over the medium-wave signal.
Minor quibbles both, though; we managed without such things for decades, and it just means the engaging manner in which the Octavia drives is the real focal point.
Well, that and its load-lugging ability. As it was, I was only able to carry half of the collection. The Skoda had plenty of space to spare, but I’d underestimated just how heavy the stash of mags would be. As each large box was loaded into the boot, I checked the clearance between rear wheel arch and tyre and wondered whether I would have been better off using a less-potent load-lugger with a standard ride height. Mind you, that wouldn’t have been half as much fun.
SKODA OCTAVIA 2.0 TDI VRS ESTATE
Price new (2011) £19,905 Price now £15,000 Economy 47.3mpg Faults Starting glitch Expenses None
The last time the Octavia featured on Autocar, I was singing its praises as a consummate all-rounder. And since then it has set about proving my point.
First, snapper Will Williams nabbed it for a weekend in Cornwall, a trip from which he returned with a washing machine lodged firmly in the Skoda’s sizeable boot. Will reports that the Skoda was the perfect tool for the trip: fuel economy was distinctly respectable, the automatic gearbox made the inevitable traffic jams a breeze and, of course, the vRS’s gutsy diesel pulled well even with a domestic appliance sequestered within.
It was the weekend after Will’s return, though, that really highlighted just what a fantastic jack of all trades the Skoda can be. I quite fancied going for a drive on one sunday and I could have taken my old BMW 635 CSi but it was about time the Octavia got the chance to get its teeth into something other than my daily commute.
The tight, twisting B-roads of the North Downs proved ideal. The pace was slow, given the possibility of black ice, but even so, the Skoda’s ability to inspire confidence through faithful steering and prodigious grip shone through.
Granted, traction was an issue when the going got slippery, but feathering the throttle slightly would tuck the Skoda’s nose back in obediently without any hint of tailend lightness or body wallow.
No, the vRS doesn’t feel quite as sharp as some smaller hot hatchbacks. But then again, neither can you sling white goods into, say, a Volkswagen Golf GTI or Seat Leon Cupra with such abandon. The Octavia’s ability to carry all your stuff one minute and make you smile the next is quite a rare quality.
SKODA OCTAVIA 2.0 TDI VRS ESTATE
Price new (2011) £19,905 Price now £15,000 Economy 42.8mpg Faults Starting glitch Expenses None Last seen 7.12.16
Source: Autocar Online