NEW SKODA OCTAVIA vRS

Punchy performance and strong design credentials make the vRS wagon a clear contender for keen drivers.

The Octavia has come a long way in four generations and the vRS wagon now benefits from bolder looks and minor increases in width and length for even greater versatility. There’s terrific attention to design detail inside and out with an interesting mix of textures, materials and tech features, all cleverly integrated in a handsome, nicely-built cabin.

Shift-by-wire technology is now employed to operate the DSG transmission. The space-saving central control module has a small rocker switch for selecting drive modes as well as a button for the parking mode.

The instrument display is all digital and is contained within one large binnacle. And in the centre of the dash sits a 10.25in digital display for infotainment that is touch-sensitive and button-free. It can be operated via gesture control or by voice command with the Laura Skoda Digital Assistant, which is just as well because the left-hand side is quite a stretch if you set your seat well back to accommodate long legs. Meanwhile the leather three-spoke multi-function steering wheel has new control buttons and scroll wheels, allowing drivers to operate 14 different functions without removing their hands from the wheel.

The well-bolstered black fabric and Alcantara seats feature Rally Sport logos and red stitching, while an Alcantara-padded dash, carbon-look decorative strips, and chrome latches complete a suitably sporting effect.

Black 18-inch alloys are standard but this test car came optioned with the stylish two-tone 19-inch rims and slightly lower profile rubber. The brake calipers are as red as the paintwork but all other external detailing is gloss black, namely the bold grille, air curtains, diffusers and window frames. The slim headlights are LED matrix units that have an anti-dazzle quality when on high-beam.

Set the vRS a driving task and the DSG is typically fast-shifting in its work and the steering rack, at 2.1 turns lock to lock, is also super quick. There’s plenty of poke to sink your teeth into, with strong acceleration from standstill and an even more impressive mid-range. When the road twists and turns, you discover very good body control for an unladen wagon and plenty of grip from 245/40-series Goodyears. The standard 18-inch wheels would no doubt result in a slightly improved ride but they can’t match the bigger, arch-filling alloys for looks.

The Octavia cabin seems particularly spacious with a panoramic sunroof, as fitted, and while it shares its platform with the new VW Golf, a wheelbase stretch means superior rear legroom. There are acres of space in the load area, including 640L with the rear seats in place, and there’s also an adjustable floor.

Aside from the impressive practicality, the fact that the vRS is so comfortable and rewarding to drive briskly makes it a compelling option for those shopping for an upmarket all-rounder. This is a very well conceived, right-sized family wagon that fits into everyday life so easily, it’s hard not to fall for it in this juicy specification.

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OCTAVIA vRS WAGON

ENGINE 1984cc 4-cyl turbo

POWER 180kW (242bhp)

TORQUE 370Nm @ 1600-4300rpm

TRANSMISSION 7-speed DSG

DRIVETRAIN front-wheel drive

LENGTH 4.69m

WEIGHT 1360kg

WHEELS 19-inch alloy

TYRES 225/40 R19 (f, r)

0-100km/h 6.7 secs

FUEL CLAIM 6.6L/100km

PRICE from $57,990

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