The red-letter Škoda Octavia RS

by Petrol Mum

The all-new Škoda Octavia is now on sale in Australia and is available as a sedan or wagon. I recently drove the RS wagon variant and it was pleasantly noteworthy and memorable for many reasons and left my whole family feeling good about our experience with it.

The RS variants of the Octavia sedan and wagon have a lower chassis and feature glossy black elements and the RS badge on the grille is a nod to the racing tradition of Škoda cars. The 19″ ALTAIR anthracite alloy wheels and red brake callipers finish off the sporty look of the vehicle’s exterior.

They are powered by a 2.0 litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 180kW @ 6,500rpm and 370Nm of torque between 1,600-4,300rpm. This is good for a top speed of 250km/h, should you be driving in Germany, and a 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds, which is quick enough to keep the keen driver interested. Škoda are known for their handy features and there is one of these under the bonnet with a large flip out filler cap located on the washer bottle to make it easier to top up.

The engine drives the front wheels and there is only a small amount of traction loss from the front tyres under hard acceleration off the line and very little torque steer is present. When pushed through the corners hard the RS wagon handles well and the ride remains comfortable. The official combined fuel consumption is 6.8L/100km and for my week of spirited driving I used 8.8L/100km.

Seamless gear changes in the RS are thanks to a 7-speed DSG transmission with Tiptronic manual gear changing and a wet multi-disk clutch. Th Octavia RS is first vehicle in the Škoda range to be fitted with ‘shift by wire’ technology for the gearbox with the gear selection made using the minimalist and lovely looking selector on the centre console. For ‘manual’ gear changes you can use the paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel. My only complaint here is these paddles are made from plastic and are flimsy; metal paddles would suit the RS much better in my opinion.

As part of the optional Premium Pack fitted, my RS Octavia had Adaptive Chassis Control and five drive modes including Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual. Using Individual mode you can adjust the steering, drive, engine sound, active cruise control, light assistance and air conditioning to your personal preference. An interesting point here is when the augmented engine noise is switched on the RS sounds like a Subaru boxer engine in the cabin, but if you turn this off the engine is quieter and has a more natural tone.  

The cabin design of the RS Octavia also contributed a lot to my pleasant driving experience in this wagon. I liked the clean, stylish design of the dash and centre console combined with the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel covered with perforated leather, not Alcantara. A couple of notable things about the steering wheel are there is no button to pick up phone calls and the voice control button has the image of an androgynous silhouette on it rather than a masculine silhouette like many car companies.  

You can ‘wake up’ the voice assistant by saying “OK Laura” to which you can then say what you would like help with, from making calls, changing the media source or adjusting the temperature all of which work well. To set a destination on the sat nav you need go through the process step by step for suburb, street etc. Once Laura has entered your destination she says “No problem, have a nice journey.” She is such a polite voice assistant.

The other notable feature on the steering wheel is the cruise control is set and adjusted using a stalk behind the steering wheel rather than buttons on the front of the wheel. What I did discover this time around driving a Škoda is there are two ways to adjust the cruise control speed once it has been set. By tapping the stalk up and down the speed changes in 10km/h increments and previously I thought this was the only adjustment available. However, what I discovered this time round was if you pull the stalk towards you this adjusts the speed up in 1km/h increments.

The carbon fibre, stitched material and ambient lighting strip across the dash also adds to the sporty feel of the cabin and looks great. This incorporates the driver’s dash, which is a virtual cockpit that can be configured to your personal display preferences. My Octavia had a head-up display as well, which is fitted as part of the Premium Pack, and this displays speed, cruise control and sat nav directions in colour on the windscreen directly in front of the driver.

In fact, the RS Premium Pack ($6,500) should be an optional extra box that you tick as it includes features that finish off the Octavia nicely. These include the gorgeous looking and comfortable Alcantara covered RS front seats, electrically-adjustable driver and passenger seat including 2-way lumbar support with two memory positions, driver cushion depth adjustment, massage function for the driver’s seat and heated front and rear seats. The massage function is basic and as you don’t get an indication on the infotainment screen of what setting you are in; so, it can be hard to tell what massage you are getting. On the plus side the seat memory stores the rear mirror position and the mirrors are heated also and the driver’s mirror has an auto dimming function.

The clean dash design of the Octavia is a result of the majority on functions being controlled on the 10” Columbus infotainment touchscreen system. The system incorporates wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and this works very well and is easy to set up. You have to use the screen to adjust climate control and the front passengers can adjust the rear temperature and lock the temp so it cannot be changed by the rear control, if required. This means a lot of fingermarks on the screen as it is constantly being touched and if this bothers you, I suggest keeping a microfibre cloth under the arm rest.

You can change the background of the infotainment display and I chose the carbon fibre look to match the dash. The ambient light colour is selected using a sliding motion to pick an individual colour or you can select based on mood. Below the screen is a cool swipe control that adjusts the volume of the brilliant Premium German Canton sound system with 12 loudspeakers and a digital equalizer, which is part of the Premium Pack.

Being this is a Škoda it is jam packed with many thoughtful touches starting with the good-looking key fob that you can keep in your handbag because the Octavia has keyless entry and start that Škoda calls KESSY. I like that the start button is located on the steering column where you would insert the key if you had one. To the righthand side of the steering wheel is a pullout storage cubby and up on the driver’s side of the windscreen there is a parking ticket holder. The glove box can be cooled and there is a pen holder in here too.

This list goes on with an umbrella located in the driver’s door, Rolls-Royce style! There is also a removable bin that can be located in the driver’s or passenger side door cubby. These cubbies are cloth-lined to prevent rattles and can fit a large rigid drink bottle in them. In one of the cup holders in the centre console there is a removable mobile phone holder that rigidly locks your phone into place. At the front of the centre console there is a large flat area that has wireless phone charging for compatible devices and two USB-C ports, but no 12V outlets.

Rear seat passengers in the Octavia RS are just as well catered for as those travelling in the front and there is ample head and leg room for two adults to sit back here. There are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but in all likelihood only two car seats would fit here. The centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two small drink holders at the front and a pen holder. There is room in the door cubby for a large drink bottle, if one doesn’t fit here. For protecting small children from the sun there are manual blinds on the rear windows.

The rear outer seats are heated and there are central air vents with manual open/close functionality, and digital temperature control. Below the central vents there are two USB-C ports and I liked that in the back of the front seats there were two pockets with one being the size of a smart phone to hold it. My children noted that the light ‘switches’ were actually controlled by sliding your finger across a sensor, which is the same as a Bentley. The same sliding control is used for the lights at the front of the cabin and for opening the panoramic sunroof ($1,900 option).

All these fantastic features on the Octavia RS and then we get to possibly the best part of this wagon, it’s boot! I could almost write an essay on the boot alone, so here we go. To start with it has gesture open and close or can be opened/closed using the key fob, the button under the boot lid or from the button in the cabin.

There are three cargo nets, one on the boot floor with six tie down points and one each side of the boot and these can all be removed if not in use. There are fold out hooks on each side of the boot, plus two lights and a 12V outlet. On the boot floor there is a two-sided mat with one side being hard plastic for easy cleaning and the other side is carpet and under the boot floor proper is a space saver spare tyre.

The boot is very large and would easily accommodate a pram and the weekly shop. There are storage cut aways behind the wheel arches and in one of these was a Škoda microfibre blanket. If you need additional storage space the rear seats have 40:60 split folding mechanism or the centre seat can be folded down separately so a long item can be fed through while the two outer seats are still in use. One thing I noted though was when the rear seats are folded down, they do not lie flat to the boot floor.

There is a cargo cover that easily slides forward and back in its tracks and when I was testing this, I noticed something else hanging behind the rear seats. Under the cargo cover there is a hammock-like storage area that you can unhook and place items weighing up the 3kg into and then you can hook it back up and these items are up out of the way. I envisage this feature could be used to store paper plans that you don’t want to be crushed.

All variants of the Škoda Octavia range (excluding the Scout) have a 5-star ANCAP (2019) safety rating. The wagon is fitted with driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags, curtain airbags – front and rear, driver’s knee airbag, central airbag, and rear side airbags. The ANCAP Adult Occupant Protection score is 92% (35.32 out of 38) and a Child Occupant Protection rating of 87% (42.67 out of 49). The Octavia RS has a 360o rear view camera with front and rear sensors and auto lights and high beam headlight dimming.

The Octavia RS is fitted with a full array of modern driving aids including Front Assist with City Emergency Brake, Pedestrian and Cyclist Protection, Multi-Collision Brake, Side Assist – Blind Spot Detection, Lane Assist with adaptive lane guidance, rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. ANCAP tests of the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system in highway speed scenarios showed GOOD performance with collisions avoided or mitigated in all scenarios. Overall, effectiveness of the AEB system performance in highway speed scenarios was rated as GOOD. While ANCAP tests of lane support system (LSS) functionality showed GOOD performance, with the system intervening in some of the more critical emergency lane keeping test scenarios. Overall performance of the LSS system was classified as GOOD with a score of 79%.

All new Škoda vehicles come with a 5 year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a one-year complimentary roadside assistance membership, from the warranty start date. The roadside assistance will remain complimentary if your vehicle is returned to an authorised Škoda dealer for scheduled maintenance, as per the Škoda Service Schedule milestones and is in a roadworthy condition. The service interval for the Škoda Octavia is 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first and using the Škoda website I calculated the first five services would cost $2,392. Or you can purchase a five-year service pack upfront at a cost of $1,400.

The Škoda Octavia RS Wagon is one of the most impressive vehicles I have reviewed to date. So much so when it came to identifying three ‘Cons’ for the summary below my family and I struggled to think of them.  The Octavia RS wagon starts at $49,090 plus on-road costs and as tested with the special colour – Velvet Red, $1,100, RS Premium Pack $6,500 and Panoramic sunroof $1,900 my Octavia RS was $58,590 plus on-roads. Visit your preferred Škoda dealer or build your Škoda Octavia online now.

The boot and all of its great featuresPlastic paddle gear shifters
The interior design and functionalityCruise control is set and adjusted via a stalk behind the steering wheel
The Canton sound systemGets a lot of fingermarks on the infotainment screen

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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