Fast Skodas are more popular than ever. The manufacturer has sold 163,000 Octavia vRS models worldwide since 2001, with 57,000 of those accounted for by the current-generation car.
To further boost sales, Skoda is adding what is effectivelyVolkswagen’s GTI Performance Pack to the already potentOctavia vRS. It accounts for a 10bhp jump in power - up to 227bhp - as well as a new exhaust, bigger brakes, and an electronically controlled limited-slip differential.
The upgrades cost £2,520 across the board, whether you opt for manual or DSG, hatchback or Estate. However, in addition to the performance tweaks listed above, vRS 230 buyers also benefit from a set of unique 19-inch alloy wheels, gloss black details, leather sports seats and a trip computer with lap timer. Park assist is also included, as is sat-nav – the regular vRS geta a touchscreen but no navigation.
The increase in power knocks a tenth of a second off the 0-62mph time (now 6.7 seconds), while also claiming the title as the fastest road-going Octavia ever in the process with a 155mph top speed. It returns exactly the same fuel economy (45.6mpg) and emissions (142g/km) as before, but there is no upgrade for the super-frugal vRS diesel.
In theory, the differential alone should be worth the premium. The same setup in the Golf GTI is outstanding, and the idea of a faster, grippier Octavia sounded like a winner. The fact it adds loads more kit – yet still comes in at £1,050 less than a standard five-door GTI – only adds to the 230’s appeal.
The problem is, while these upgrades probably translate into a really flattering road car, our test was restricted only to the track at the Slovakia Ring race circuit. Long, fast corners resulted in excessive understeer and fidgeting under hard braking. The track felt a long way from this car’s natural habitat.
Ease off, though, and you’ll notice the steering is well weighted and the six-speed manual gearbox is just as precise as before. The benefit of the diff should also be far more noticeable on the road too, helping to fire you out of slower corner with greater precision.
There’s no option for adaptive dampers like there is in the Golf, but you can use the car’s vRS button to change the steering, diff, engine and exhaust from ‘Normal’ to ‘Sport’ modes. Selecting the latter firms everything up and makes the car more eager, but we found the steering offered a degree more feel in its default setting.
On smooth tarmac the ride was nothing short of sublime, but with no tweaks the suspension and even larger 19-inch wheels it’s likely to feel firmer on pitted UK roads. We’ll reserve judgment on whether or not the upgrades come at the expense of the Octavia’s normally compliant ride until we try it here in the coming months.
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