In case the Auto Loons haven’t mentioned it enough, we really like fast four-door cars. We love the combination of daily use and performance at the beckoning of your right foot. While the West is excited about the new sixth gen BMW M5 F90 with 592bhp, 4WD with the option of 2WD mode, we in the subcontinent are greeting the faste…well, the second fastest Skoda yet, the new Octavia RS 230.
It was actually the fastest when we talked about it in December last year, but Skoda then brought out one earlier this year, the RS 245 which is now the fastest Skoda. Doesn’t make the RS 230 any less quick though. I’ll also clear the air about the badging. It’s got VRS badges, but in India Skoda are listing it as the just the ‘RS’ variant. The 230 stands for the power output, in PS, which is 227bhp with 350Nm of torque from its 2.0-litre turbo-petrol power unit. It’s paired to the 6-speed DSG which directs power to the front wheels for a claimed 0-100kph time of 6.7 seconds and having driven it, sounds about right.
I have driven a reasonable variety of cars till date but this was the fastest one yet, so mind the perspective. When I collected the car, the first thing I noticed was how clean and understated it looks since the standard Octavia is such a lovely looking car in itself. On the surface for distinction, the RS gets a decklid spoiler, twin exhaust pipes and the red brake callipers behind those 17″ alloys. You can also spot the VRS badging, of which there is plenty, at the rear and on the front grille. Things get a bit more noticeable when you step inside, with the sportily styled Alcantara leather seat upholstery with VRS emblems, the default red mood-lighting and dashes of red cross stitching like along the gear knob and on the flat-bottom steering wheel which also had a prominent VRS badge, Audi-like. It was a pretty nice place to be, with the black dashboard stretching out in front of you, the stainless steel paddles behind the wheel and the clean look of the centre console which also housed the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
It’s all decently spacious and comfortable and looks promising. There isn’t as much drama however when you turn on the engine and give it a bit of rev in neutral, and isn’t particularly loud, playing the understated card pretty strong then. Driving through the city roads on my way out of Mumbai, I was tentative about the seemingly low ground clearance as we cleared the potholes and broken roads given that the chassis was lowered on the RS by 15mm. The ride was surprisingly smooth and pleasant over the usual undulations though I don’t know what it’d be like for those in the back seats. The top-spec suspension with McPherson up front and the multi-element axle at the rear working well in city driving conditions too.
The DSG box is worthy of praise, even before we hit the expressway it offered plenty of go and was happy to rev to give you the acceleration you’d need in a tight overtake spot. Out on the wide highway with little traffic, we really got to see what this RS can do and most surprisingly, it can gurgle, crackle and pop when going up the gears in high revs, both while using the pedals and when you leave the gearbox alone. Then there’s the handling. This thing is plenty sharp and responsive through fast bends for a four-door with more than 200bhp and front wheel drive. That’s where things like torque vectoring and the limited-slip differential really start coming into play. I did occasionally come across some degree of understeer when taking fast corners, though I’d put that down to inexperience and bumpy roads as my highly experienced peers stated that this new Octavia RS doesn’t suffer from those ailments. I hadn’t even turned the traction control off.
When you put your foot hard down, the box shifts you down a gear and takes you all the way to 6000rpm before changing up. Do it on purpose with the paddle shifters and it’ll keep climbing till 7000rpm, pull the paddle to go up, hear the exhaust pop and let the speedo needle climb. While the claimed top speed is 250kph (limited probably) and I can confirm that you’d hit 235kph on a clear stretch no problem. If you’re not in a mood to push the engine to its limit, you can just use the clever cruise control to cover the miles and let the auto box do everything you might need it to and enjoy the smooth drive.
Once you’re off the expressways and on some nice twisty roads, you can go along at decent speeds through the turns and really enjoy the handling of the car. You can enjoy your tunes on the excellent stereo system and use the ergonomically designed steering mounted controls to navigate through most of the entertainment functions while making your way through the hills. You can still get that exhaust pop when you accelerate hard from second to third without having to go stupidly fast, something I enjoyed a lot while darting through traffic and it never failed to put a grin on my face.
There’s all the performance and the theatre when in the cockpit with open roads ahead, but then there’s the other side, the typical Skoda sedan with all creature comforts and plenty of safety features that will more than work as a practical family car. The proportions are manageable through some really tight lanes (as I found out to my relief) and offers plenty of bootspace too. It’s got some nice practical touches in the form of tiny trash bags in the front door bins, driver armrest and more cubby holes in and around the cabin, choice of colour lighting in the footwells, comfy seats, 12V and USB ports and the like.
Skoda’s launched the RS 230 in India for a price of Rs 24.6 lakh (ex-showroom) and that’s barely a premium of approximately Rs 4 lakh over the top spec 1.8-litre turbo-petrol variant which only makes 177bhp and 250Nm with the DSG transmission. Also, it comfortably undercuts the German premium saloons like the Audi A3 and the BMW 3 Series. The entry-level 3 series with an output of 188bhp and 400Nm gets a price tag of Rs 36.3 lakh, while a Merc CLA petrol is listed at about Rs 33.3 lakh and only offers 188bhp and 300Nm while only being front-wheel drive too, these prices ex-showroom anyway so add another few lakh for taxes and options to the final cost.
The Octavia has been a popular driver’s car in India and now with the sporty interiors, lowered suspension and 227bhp in the RS230, you’ve got a factory-built and company insured daily-drive quick sedan. Hopefully, we’ll see quite a few of these knocking about soon enough and have it fly past us on the freeways, the exhaust popping and everything.