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Skoda Octavia RS First Drive Review

What is it?

Why would I buy it?

Because it is a cracker of a deal - a sportscar, a sedan and this price tag

Why would I avoid it?

If you are only chauffeured, the 1.8 TSI has enough bite and better fuel economy 

Cars are an expensive hobby, especially if you are a driving enthusiast who loves a potent machine. And rarely, in India, you get something so powerful and yet practical at the same time. Welcome the Skoda Octavia RS.  

The Octavia RS is a full-blown performer that matches the international car except for the adaptive dampers. No, Skoda is not to be blamed here, it's our roads that need a raised suspension. This is the third time that a Skoda has adorned the RS badge, the first being a 150bhp Octavia more than a decade ago and then the Laura which only got stiffer springs. 

Like always, this RS is also a sleeper and looks exactly like the standard Octavia except when you go for the details. The air dam gets a honeycomb mesh grill and is larger than the stock car with all LED headlamps. The stylish 17" alloys and red calipers peeking out of them accentuate the profile while the twin exhaust tips and the spoiler add visual speed to the rear.

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How is it on the inside?

Step in and you are greeted by the plush Alcantara-clad racing bucket seats. The RS badged seats are excellent and allow you to melt into them. The thigh support, lumbar support and the lateral support are just perfect for both - a cross country cruise or a day at the race track. With powered seats and the tilt and telescopically adjustable steering, finding the sweet spot is just moments away. 

It shares the dashboard with the standard Octavia, but the RS gets it in black, just like the upholstery. The waterfall center console is dominated by a large touchscreen that is easy to operate and accesses all the vehicle functions for you. Highlighted with a red stitch, the interior layout is classy. 

Being a D-segment sedan, it has a generous cabin space for both the rows while the humongous notchback boot will eat up all the luggage you can dare to carry. The rear seats are comfortable as well even for three occupants at the back. Since the RS is based on the top-spec Style Plus trim, it gets a large sunroof, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, parking sensors with camera and the hands free parking assist. For safety, you have eight airbags and a comprehensive ESP that still has your back even when you switch it off.

How is it to drive?

Haven't you been waiting for this? Well, it's a dream. I can confidently claim this to be the perfect performance saloon for less than half a crore rupees. Here is why. 

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is marvelous. Pumping out 227bhp of power at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque at 1250rpm, the four cylinder engine feels seamless as it works in tandem with the six-speed DSG. 

The power delivery is relentless with the torque kicking in right from the start and the power taking over as you move up the rev range. You step on it and it pushes you back into the seat till you get well past 100kmph. The gearing is tall as the RS tops out at a limited 250kmph but works rather well in the city limits thanks to the torque. As you rev it hard, the throaty thrum from the exhaust becomes audible. 

The cabin is well insulated and we are happy it lets a few things through. For example, through the purry braap when you hit the limiter sounds engineered, it adds to the sportiness of the RS. Also, you won’t miss out on the generous tyre squeal that the Hankook tyres emit. We would have loved to hear the turbo whistle, but I might be getting a bit carried away now.

Back to the RS, despite its weight, it feels nimble thanks to its variable rate steering that weighs up well at high speeds. At low speeds, it is quick and goes from lock to lock in two turns. At higher speeds, it becomes slower to aid the stability. 

Speaking about which, the Octavia RS is rock solid at any given speeds, be it the straights or around the corners. The suspension has been lowered 15mm as compared to the stock car and it reflects in the composure of the car when you flick it from one corner to another. It is stiffer than the standard car but the ride is surprisingly pliant in spite of the absence of the adaptive dampers even at low speeds. 

With such potent power and dynamic ability, stopping prowess becomes crucial and the Octavia RS excels here as well. The brakes are bigger and bite hard to drop anchor quickly and do not fade easily as well. They are progressive and offer enough feedback despite the brake assist.

Why should I buy it?

If you are a car nut and can spend close to Rs 30 lakhs, just walk into the dealership with a checkbook and you will never regret it. Because, even your mom or wife will be as comfortable in it on a family weekend as you were when you were blasting down the main-straight on the previous weekend.

If you are someone who is chauffeured around but like getting behind the wheel, you will be impressed by how much the RS gives you over the 1.8 TSI in terms of performance. Also the sportier poise and black interior will make your car stand out.

Where does it fit in?

Rather than fitting in, this one prefers to stand out. At over Rs 30 lakhs on road, the Skoda Octavia RS sits way above its competitors like the Toyota Corolla Altis, the Hyundai Elantra or the Volkswagen Jetta. It almost steps into the league of its bigger sibling, the Skoda Superb in terms of price, but in terms of performance, the Octavia RS is unmatched.


Photography: Kapil Angane

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