THE SKODA Octavia vRS may not have quite the same emotional appeal as some other hot hatches, but its blend of practicality and performance is something that really grows on you.

In a highly-competitive field of tuned-up family hatchbacks that includes the VW Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST and Honda Civic Type R, it could be argued that the Octavia vRS is a bit of an underdog.

But that’s clearly a tag it relishes, as it goes about its business in a more subtle way than its rivals, delivering composed performance.

In many ways, it’s a sensible choice for those who desire a spacious, good value and solid vehicle with a reasonably punchy engine.

Indeed, the Octavia vRS is one of the roomiest vehicles in its class, with its capacious dimensions boosting its appeal for family buyers.

Not only is it more spacious for passengers, it can also carry more luggage than almost anything in this price range.

Of course, one reason for this extra space is that the Octavia vRS is significantly longer than the hatchbacks that it competes with, boasting a saloon-like profile.

But it carries that extra length and weight well, not feeling overly cumbersome when manoeuvring or cornering.

The current version of the Octavia, which hit the showrooms in 2013, received a facelift in 2017, at which point the vRS was given updates to its drivetrain and engine.

And buyers are given quite a bit of choice when it comes to the vRS. There’s either a hatch or estate body style, as well as either a 227bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol or a faster 242bhp version.

There’s also a 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel version, with either front or all-wheel drive.

The 227 petrol version, tested here, provides swift acceleration, being capable of travelling from 0-62mph in less than seven seconds.

That engine is mated with a six-speed manual gearbox, which is slick to use.

With an official fuel economy figure of 43.5mpg on the combined cycle, the vRS is capable of eating up the miles on a long distance journey without costing a fortune in petrol.

It’s a car that offers tidy handling, with the steering becoming heavier and nicely weighted in sport mode.

Those selectable driving modes are the secret to the vRS functioning well as a daily driver. For instance, once you move down to comfort mode, the ride becomes more compliant and forgiving over bumps, the fuel economy more efficient and the car’s demeanour less rigid and tense.

In terms of looks, it’s a handsome car, although somewhat understated in many ways.

When viewed from the front, the most notable feature - and probably the most divisive - is the split headlights.

The bodywork benefits from some subtle styling flourishes, while an understated rear spoiler, twin tailpipes and 18-inch alloys offer further hints as to the car’s sporty credentials.

The vRS variants also come with some more extravagant paint jobs, with the test car looking resplendent in metallic ‘Rallye Green.’

Once inside, the interior is a little dull, with some of the materials built for durability rather than luxury.

The vRS offers a good range of adjustment of its steering wheel and seat, and the pedals are nicely placed.

An impressive new 9.2-inch infotainment system, which is now entirely touchscreen, is bright, clear and responsive - easily matching anything else found in this class.

In conclusion, the Octavia is a good all-rounder, with the ability to transport a family in great comfort while also having a pleasing turn of pace that could allow, for example, an overtaking manoeuvre on a tractor to be completed swiftly and more safely than in a lower-powered vehicle.


Skoda Octavia vRS hatch

PRICE: £25,700 on the road


PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and max speed of 155mph

ECONOMY: 43.5mpg combined and 149g/km emissions

TRANMISSION: Six-speed manual