Forget those tired old Skoda jokes!

Daniel Franklin in Barcelona to test drive a new Skoda

SKODA didn’t use to be a name people associated with well-built, roomy, competent performance saloons. But with the new VRs variant of the popular Octavia, the company has proven comprehensively that the cars are most certainly no laughing stock any more – they can cut it with the best. I was fortunate enough to be invited by Skoda to the launch of their latest VRs in Barcelona recently, and found the car to be excellent.

The VRs offers 200bhp from its 2-litre turbocharged engine, making this the fastest production car the company has ever produced. My first impression of the car was of its interior space – as a six footer, I found that there was ample head and leg room, and even with the drivers seat pushed quite far back there was still plenty of leg space in the back seat. And with a massive boot, the VRs version of the Octavia is bound to appeal to families who want something a bit more sporty than the usual run-of-the-mill school run wagon.

Following Skoda’s planned route to the venue for lunch in the Catalan mountains, I took a wrong turn out of the airport, only to find myself in busy Barcelona rush hour traffic. Needless to say, I was very glad of the optional satellite navigation in my launch Octavia VRs!

Out on the open road finally, the torque from the turbocharged 2-litre engine proved to be understated yet incredibly useful in slightly sticky overtaking situations on twisty Spanish mountain roads. There was no appreciable ‘kick’ from the turbo- the power was smooth and progressive, always there when you need it. Even in top gear, the VRs pulls well up hills. Externally, the Skoda Octavia VRs features green painted brake calipers, a bigger front air intake than the standard Octavia, a spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels. I found the styling of the car to be understated rather than outwardly aggressive – it’s no Mitsubishi Evo, but rather more subtle.

After driving the car for several hundred miles over the next two days across a variety of Spanish roads, I could not really fault it. With a 149 mph top speed, the VRs Octavia will appeal to enthusiastic drivers, and the ample space and generous specification is bound to win over families and people who need to lug a lot of kit around. Safety is also high on Skoda’s agenda, with four airbags, ABS, ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) and EBC (Engine Braking Control) fitted as standard. With a UK list price of around £20,000, the latest Octavia VRs offers immense value – it’s great fun, has a generous specification and as the quickest production Skoda ever continues the company’s proud rallysport heritage. Truly a car bound to put to rest forever those tired old Skoda jokes!


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