Skoda Octavia RS230

A bit like a hot Golf, with room for more clubs

JAMES WHITBOURN

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

IF THE passing of the baton from the WRX to the Golf GTI was VW’s work of the past decade, now its Czech offshoot is working on former Subaru Liberty buyers.

The Octavia got off to a slow start on the back of its Easternbloc look and unknown status when, with the oddball Roomster, it heralded Skoda’s return to Australia in 2007.

But the post-2013 third-gen model works with rising cred and more appealing style. And the RS230 – the hottest Octavia so far – should continue the push with something to please forlorn Liberty wagon and GT buyers.

For $3600 more than a regular Octavia RS162 you get a real electronically controlled limitedslip diff (as opposed to a quasi- LSD ESC function), a 7kW peak power boost, handling and styling tweaks, and equipment extras.

Yes, the badge is a bit deceptive because on the RS162, the numerals stand for kilowatts, while the RS230’s signify metric horsepower – it has 169kW.

If you want to understand the mechanical changes in the VW Group’s hierarchy of hi-po machines, this represents the insertion of the Golf GTI Performance’s engine and LSD – and a manual ’box – into its bigger, heavier platform buddy.

The RS230 is a limited edition – Skoda initially only has 70 of them in manual-only, liftback/sedan and wagon form.

So, despite the mild power-up – at 6.7sec it’s only officially a tenth quicker 0-100km/h than the 162 – the changes make the Octavia RS230 better in every area, especially its low-speed powerdown and aggro aesthetics, while strengthening its ever-impressive value for money credentials.

The throbby low-rev rort carries over from the regular petrol RS. There’s no need to go cog-swapping in search of grunt, though the oiled six-speeder is sweet, and the hint more pep up top is a joy to deploy.

The clever differential makes the biggest dynamic difference, letting you get on the right pedal sooner when exiting corners thanks to an adroit ability to sling 100 percent of torque to an individual front wheel.

As a GTI Performance crossshop, you’d notice the additional weight and seemingly softer suspension in a bit of squirm and initial understeer on turn-in and during hard braking, but then Skoda’s closed-road launch venue perhaps took the RS away from where it does its best work.

Back on the road – a quiet, twisty one – the RS230 impressed with its able, entertaining and practical personality, which few family cars can match – certainly not with this much room inside, for less than $45K.

What makes an RS

The RS230 exterior package opens with 19-inch gloss black Xtreme alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zeros, with matching glossy black bits including the rear spoiler, exterior mirror caps, grille and tailpipes. Inside, you get black leather, perforated on the three-spoke multifunction wheel, and plenty of RS logos and red stitching. And there are powered front seats with memory function for the driver, a lap timer, adaptive cruise, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Model Motor Max power Max torque Transmission Weight Economy 0-100km/h Price On sale Skoda Octavia RS230 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 169kW @ 6200rpm 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm 6-speed manual 1391kg 6.3L/100km 6.7sec (claimed) $41,490 Now Softer than a Golf GTI Performance, which provides the engine and LSD PLUS & MINUS Clever diff helps front-drive power-down; features for the money; space