Since becoming a part of the Volkswagen Group in 2000, Skoda has carved a niche selling clever cars that punch well above their price range. The new Octavia RS might not have a VW badge, but it shares a turbocharged engine and basic chassis with the Golf GTI. The biggest difference? Given the Octavia RS will likely offer more space for similar (or less) money, the question is – do you really need that Golf GTI?
If you can look past the unappealing badge (and maybe that new nose, but more on that later), the Octavia RS really is a smart alternative to the ubiquitous Golf GTI. Power comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 169 kW (230 hp) of power and 350 Nm (258 lb.ft) of torque, matching the recently-refreshed Golf, and drivers are able to choose from a seven speed dual-clutch or a six-speed manual gearbox. And the refreshed engine sips just 6.5 l/100 km (36.1 mpg) on the combined cycle.
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Just as Volkswagen sells a Golf GTD, Skoda will also release a diesel RS with 135 kW (184 hp) and 380 Nm (280 lb.ft) of torque. Although it isn't as quick as the petrol version, the diesel does sip just 4.5 l/100 km (52 mpg) on the combined cycle, and can be specced with four-wheel drive.
The car sits 15 mm (0.59 in) lower than the regular Octavia, and Skoda has widened the rear track by 30 mm (1.2 in) compared to the existing RS. Although 17-inch wheels are standard, many owners will want to stump for the optional arch filling 18 or 19-inch offerings from Skoda. Not only do they add a bit of extra menace to an otherwise plain design, they give passers-by a better look at the red brake calipers hiding within.
There is one elephant in the room, however. Compared to the simple nose on the old car, the new lights on the Octavia make it look fussy and unresolved. Someone at Skoda HQ clearly likes the new look, but it's a step backward in our eyes. Thankfully, the rest of the car hasn't been messed with, which means the angular rear end and subtle spoiler still look as good as ever.
Inside, there's a 9.2-inch central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for infotainment, while the driver looks at regular analog dials rather than a Virtual Cockpit. After all, Volkswagen can't be passing all of its flagship tech down to Skoda, can it? Tech aside, the cabin is logically laid out and – if previous VW Group cars are anything to go by – should be well put together.
Pricing information for the Octavia RS has yet to be announced.