2023 Skoda Octavia RS review

2023 Skoda Octavia RS review
2023 Skoda Octavia RS review

I love wagons, but I fast wagons even more.

I very nearly bought a previous-gen Skoda Octavia RS Wagon a few years ago, but finding my ideal specification (a fully optioned RS 245 in Rallye Green) meant spending a lot more than Golf GTI money, hence why I ended up with the VW.

While they may look completely different, there’s a lot in common between Volkswagen’s hot hatchback and this Czech performance wagon, particularly under the skin.

In their current iterations, both the Octavia RS and Golf GTI ride on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB evo front-wheel drive architecture, running the EA888 2.0 TSI turbocharged petrol engine tuned to deliver 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque.

Both have electro-mechanical limited-slip differentials on the front axle to help get the power down, and both come as standard with a quick-shifting seven-speed DSG automatic transmission – in Australia, at least…

These days the Skoda has fewer and fewer rivals – Volkswagen is axing wagons at the end of this year, and Peugeot is killing off the petrol-powered 508 Sportswagon (SW).

Really, the only natural competitor at this price is the Subaru WRX Sportswagon, which features standard all-wheel drive, and beyond that you need to start looking at something like an Audi A4 Avant 45 TFSI quattro (from $76,734).

Does that leave the Octavia RS Wagon as the default option for the select few buyers wanting a practical family wagon with some go-fast vibes?

How much does the Skoda Octavia RS cost?

At $57,490 drive-away, the Skoda Octavia RS Wagon is the most expensive variant of the brand’s popular nameplate in Australia.

The Octavia Wagon commands a $1500 premium over the equivalent Liftback in all specifications, which currently has dwindled down to just two variants. Over the base Style, the RS is $15,000 dearer.

You can get the Subaru WRX Sportswagon from $50,990 before on-road costs, though the mid-spec GT is arguably the equivalent spec to this Octavia RS and priced from $56,490 plus on-roads – or about $62,000 drive-away in Victoria.

Volkswagen is closing new orders of the Golf R Wagon following confirmation of its axing in Australia, and it was priced from $71,990. Cupra is mulling the Leon Sportstourer wagon for Australia, though it’s unconfirmed and we don’t know which variants would come Down Under – the 228kW VZx 4Drive shapes as a goer if it does, and would start closer to $70,000.

If you want load-lugging capability but can stomach an SUV, the Cupra Ateca ($68,990 D/A) and VW Tiguan R Grid ($71,295 D/A) offer similar passenger and boot space as well as more powerful engines with AWD.

2023 Skoda Octavia pricing:

Skoda Octavia 110TSI Style: $40,990Skoda Octavia 110TSI Style Wagon: $42,490Skoda Octavia RS: $55,990Skoda Octavia RS Wagon: $57,490

All prices are drive-away

What is the Skoda Octavia RS like on the inside?

The old Octavia was often described as a cheaper feeling relative to the Golf inside, but it’s the other way around now.

Where the Mk8 Golf has taken a step back in material quality and presentation compared to the Mk7, the Octavia now feels like a match for its German cousin while also still being a step forward compared to its predecessor.

Our optioned-up tester with the Premium Pack feels more upmarket with its diamond-quilted leather and suede seat upholstery, powered front chairs, and head-up display. It feels quite luxurious in this spec, and while not cheap at over $60,000 on the road as tested, it feels like it should cost more.

The perforated leather wheel feels sweet in the hand, with soft leather and sporty red top-stitching to remind you that you’re in the go-fast RS. Other touches include the suede dash panel and door inserts, as well as the RS badge on the base spoke of the sports steering wheel.

Perhaps my favourite inclusion is the under-thigh cushion extender, something only the European brands seem to do. For leggy drivers like me, the extra support is greatly appreciated on longer journeys.

Behind the steering wheel is a 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, which has a clean look and a dial design that pays tribute to Skoda’s older models.

You can configure layouts including a map-only display and driver assistance systems, but it’s not quite as pretty as the Audi virtual cockpit. Clearly, Volkswagen is saving the best stuff for the premium brands in the Group.

The more impressive display is the large 10-inch central touchscreen, which has a row of hard shortcut buttons underneath and a cleaner look to the interface than the Volkswagen Golf.

It’s still largely touch-based, and can be a little convoluted to navigate, but wireless smartphone mirroring allows you to bypass the native system. I did experience the odd drop-out in areas with interference, but it’s otherwise pretty good and the high resolution makes everything look top-notch.

While our tester came with the standard eight-speaker sound system even with the optional package, MY24 models (available from the fourth quarter of 2023) will get a Canton premium audio system when specified with the Premium Pack. Even the base system is solid, with clear audio and thumping bass when you turn it up.

Being a Skoda, storage is a strong point in the Octavia.

There’s a rubberised slot ahead of the shifter which holds all sizes of smartphones, a modular cupholder area, and a cubby under the front-centre armrest.

The door bins are large and can fit 1L bottles, and there’s a little bin attachment for the driver’s door that’s a good spot to throw wrappers or gum to stop cluttering the cabin with rubbish.

Rear passenger space and boot space are likewise usual Skoda strong points, and the Octavia embodies them perfectly.

For what is billed as a ‘compact’ wagon, the Octavia Wagon feels quite large in the rear, with heaps of room for even larger occupants to fit comfortably, and there’s plenty of space for kids and child seats.

Amenities include directional air vents, map pockets behind the front seats and USB-C charging ports behind the centre console. Opting for the Premium Pack adds a third zone of climate control as well as heated outboard rear seats, pretty luxe!

Circling back to the kids, there are ISOFIX anchors on the outboard seating positions as well as top-tether points behind all three rear seats.

The Octavia’s boot – regardless of body style – offers segment-busting boot space that puts most SUVs to shame.

In wagon form, there’s a huge 640 litres with the seats up, and 1700L with them folded. For reference, a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid quotes up to 580L with the rear seats in play. All versions of the Skoda Octavia feature a space saver spare wheel.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Octavia RS is powered by the Volkswagen Group EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, shared with the likes of the Audi S3 as well as Volkswagen Golf GTI and R.

In the Octavia, it runs the same 180kW (6500rpm) and 370Nm (1600-4300rpm) tune as the Golf GTI, driving the front wheels via a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.

Skoda quotes a 0-100 time of 6.7 seconds, which is only a few tenths off hot hatches like the related Golf GTI and Cupra Leon VZ (both 6.4s) with the same engine.

Combined fuel use is listed at 6.8 litres per 100km. The Octavia is homologated to Euro 6 emissions standards (the Australian baseline is EU5), with 95 RON premium unleaded required as a minimum for the 50-litre fuel tank.

How does the Skoda Octavia RS drive?

Where the Golf GTI or Leon VZ feel angry and overtly sporty, the Octavia is a more grown-up GT.

In keeping with its segment-busting dimensions, there’s a sense of increased size compared to its hatchback cousins.

While only a four-cylinder unit, the 2.0-litre turbo makes peak torque at just above idle, and the quick-shifting DSG automatic rifles through ratios with no interruptions to acceleration.

The Volkswagen Group has really refined these transmissions, particularly in performance applications, to the point where the low-speed jitters once associated with their dual-clutch automatics have nearly entirely been ironed out.

Performance is strong right through the low- and mid-range, with the Octavia RS only feeling like it runs out of steam as it approaches its 6000rpm redline.

The effortless torque and smooth shifts translate to a easy daily experience, with the Octavia easily able to keep up with the ebbs and flows of traffic, with the synthesised engine note piped through the speakers adding a bit of drama.

There’s the odd moment of delay as the idle stop-start re-fires the engine as you set off again, but it’s otherwise a smooth operator.

It’s even better on the highway, where it can stretch its legs and lean on its capable chassis setup which keeps you glued to the road and inspire plenty of confidence.

At 100km/h the Octavia is spinning quietly at about 1800rpm in seventh, and if you need to quickly overtake it’ll knock down a couple of gears and fire you at the horizon with surprising pace. I find that the front-wheel EA888 products (i.e. Octavia RS, Golf GTI) give their strongest acceleration when already rolling.

When things get twisty you’re best to flick the Octavia into Sport mode to firm everything up and prime the controls for maximum response, and it’s a pretty fun thing to punt up a backroad.

Given its larger size and softer setup compared to something like a Leon VZ, this isn’t the sharpest corner carver, but it’s got plenty of play and performance to have a bit of fun without trying to set records.

In its most focused mode the engine sound becomes more amplified in the cabin, and it has a more burbly and bassy tone than the fake five-cylinder noise played in something like a Golf R. It’s not convincing as the pure exhaust note that’s coming out the back, but it’s not an unattractive sound regardless.

Wind noise is pretty well suppressed, but you do get a bit of tyre roar over coarser surfaces. Perhaps one differentiating factor between Skoda and its Volkswagen parent is sound deadening, as the Golf feels better insulated.

The Octavia is also decked out with the latest assistance systems, headlined by the clever Travel Assist function that combines adaptive cruise control, adaptive lane guidance and traffic jam assist to provide essentially Level 2 autonomy on the highway.

It’ll accelerate, brake, maintain a set distance and centre you in your lane provided your hands are on the steering wheel – and it’s a touch capacitive rim so it won’t notify you to put your hands on the wheel constantly if you don’t put any inputs but your hands are on the wheel.

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are handy inclusions given the long body, and I love the Matrix LED headlights, which intelligently light up the road ahead without dazzling oncoming traffic. Plus, the adaptive high-beam moves and bends like a cool light show.

What do you get?

Octavia Style highlights:

18-inch alloy wheelsSpace-saver spare wheelMatrix LED headlightsLED fog lights with cornering functionLED tail lightsLED puddle lightsRain-sensing window wipersPrivacy glassChrome window frame surroundsSilver roof rails (wagon only)Power tailgate with hands-free openingElectric, heated and power-folding side mirrors10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster10.0-inch ‘Columbus’ infotainment systemSatellite navigationTwo USB-C portsWireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto8-speaker sound systemWireless phone chargerKeyless entry and push-button startDual-zone climate controlLED ambient interior lightingLeather-wrapped steering wheelPaddle shiftersRear door window sunshadesShift-by-wire gear selectorElectric park brakeAuto-dimming rear-view mirrorFabric upholsteryPower child locks*Auto-dimming mirrors*

*Available MY24 production from Q4 2023

Octavia RS adds:

19-inch alloy wheelsElectronically locking limited-slip front differentialSports suspensionProgressive steeringBlack window surroundsDual exhaust tipsGloss black exterior highlightsAuto-dimming driver’s side mirror10 airbagsAdaptive cruise control with stop & goLane Assist with Adaptive Lane GuidanceSide AssistBlind-spot assistRear cross-traffic alertDAB+ digital radio5 x USB-C portsDrive mode selectorAluminium pedalsBlack fabric upholsteryRed contrast stitching

Options

Premium Pack: $5400

Dynamic Chassis ControlHead-up displayHeated front, rear seatsSide mirrors with memoryPassenger side mirror tilt functionSuedia/leatherette upholsteryPower front seatsCushion depth adjustmentLumbar adjustmentMemory functionTri-zone climate controlCanton premium audio system*

*Available MY24 production from Q4 2023

Colours

Standard:

Mamba Green

Metallic/Pearl Effect: $770

Moon White MetallicBrilliant Silver MetallicGraphite Grey MetallicMagic Black PearlRace Blue Metallic

Premium Metallic: $1100

Velvet Red Premium

Is the Skoda Octavia RS safe?

The Skoda Octavia has a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP in 2019.

It scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 73 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 79 per cent for safety assist.

Standard safety equipment includes:

8 airbags incl. front-centreAdaptive cruise controlincl. Follow to StopAutonomous emergency braking (AEB)Pedestrian, Cyclist detectionForward, ReverseDriver fatigue monitoringLane AssistLane departure warningLane keep assistParking sensors front, rearReversing cameraTyre pressure monitoring

Luxury Pack (Style) adds:

Blind-spot assist with exit warningEmergency AssistLane Assist incl. Adaptive Lane GuidanceRear cross-traffic alert

Octavia RS adds:

10 airbagsadds rear-side thorax airbagsAdaptive cruise controlStop & GoTraffic Jam AssistBlind-spot assist with exit warningCrew Protect AssistLane Assist incl. Adaptive Lane GuidanceRear cross-traffic alert

How much does the Skoda Octavia RS cost to run?

The Octavia, like the wider Skoda range, is covered by a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Logbook servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.

Skoda Australia currently offers five- and seven-year service packages. They cost $2600 and $3400 respectively for the Octavia RS.

As for real-world fuel consumption, we saw an indicated 7.4 litres per 100km over a week’s worth of mixed driving, including peak-hour commuting and a blend of city and freeway driving.

That’s barely half a litre up on the brand’s claim, and pretty impressive given the performance on tap and the fact it was occasionally driven in a more spirited manner.

CarExpert’s Take on the Skoda Octavia RS

It’s easy to see why the Octavia RS has such a cult following.

The fast Skoda brilliantly balances pace and dynamism with everyday comfort and practicality, in some ways better than its better-known Golf GTI relative, as well as a slew of other similar cars for the money.

With the optional Premium pack for just over $60,000 on the road, the Octavia RS packs more kit than you’ll ever need and offers a level of luxury and technology you’d normally expect of a car costing far more.

Really, if you’re considering something like an Audi A4 Avant – which with the same engine is nearly $20,000 more – it could be worth having a look at the Skoda has a wallet-friendly alternative. It’s all from the same family anyway.

Gripes include the fiddly infotainment and touch-based climate controls, and the fake engine sound won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

While we’re here, while the contents of the Premium Pack are desirable and welcome, over $60,000 for a nameplate that was once $50,000 may be a step too far for some.

But even as a base package, the Octavia RS has a lot to offer. Up until recently it was cheaper than a Golf GTI which made it a bargain, and now it’s the same price as a Cupra Leon VZ – sporty wagon or focused hot hatch?

With fewer and fewer attainable wagons on the market, let alone high-performance ones, this is almost shaping as the default choice.

Click the images for the full gallery

MORE: Everything Skoda Octavia

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