Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Skoda Octavia RS liftback and wagon
Sporty Skoda
February 2010

SKODA is far from a household name in Australia, but is a big seller in Europe.

It is a Czech brand that dates back more than a century and its wares have been an on-again, off-again proposition Down Under.

There were el-cheapo entries in our market in the 1950s and 1960s and then another foray in 1974 followed by an absence until 2007.

Now, as a subsidiary of VW, Skoda is back with a wonderful array of quality cars.

The mid-sized Octavia, a favourite overseas, is one of the stars and we had the chance to test the new sports version of the range, called the RS.

The RS has been given a new look and is available as a spacious liftback or wagon.

Drawing on the technology of its cousin, the Golf GTi, the RS offers thrilling performance, design flair, great refinement and high levels of equipment.

There is plenty of firepower in the form of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, called a TSI, or optional 2.0 turbo diesel (TDI) that is now the most powerful in the Skoda range.

They propel the Octavia from rest to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds (petrol) and 8.4 seconds (diesel).

Transmissions are a slick 6-speed manual, or smooth 6-speed “dual-clutch’’ (DSG) automatic.

Economy is another of the car’s strengths, with the petrol consuming a modest 7.7 litres every 100km and the diesel a frugal 5.9 litres.

Standard features include dual-zone air-conditioning with air quality sensing, stability control, six airbags, ABS, 18-inch alloys, remote central locking, 6-stack MPS audio system, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, and rain-sensing headlights.

The latest model comes with lowered and stiffer suspension for a sportier driving experience.

Options are sunroof, sat nav, front parking sensors, Xenon headlights and leather seats.

Buyers face a difficult decision because both the diesel and petrol are brilliant.

For us, the petrol wagon emerged a close winner because of its performance, poise, and space.

Appealing to women and younger drivers is one of Skoda’s aims with this model - and the marketing appears to be going to plan.

The wife fell in love with the car, which surged into her top three best ever family chariots, thanks to its style, ease of handling and versatility.

Those looking for economy will be better served by the TDI, which is slightly heavier than the petrol but almost as lively.

Pricing for the new Octavia RS starts at $37,990 for the liftback, with the wagon setting you back $39,990. The optional 6-speed DSG gearbox is an additional $2300.

For a European import with top-notch build quality and such an impressive list of standard equipment, the RS is an absolute bargain.

Expect to hear more about Octavia RS and Skoda, which is steadily making a name for itself in Australia.



ENGINES: 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol TSI, or 2.0 turbo-diesel

POWER: 147kW at 5100-6000rpm (petrol), 125kW at 4200rpm (diesel)

TORQUE: 280Nm at 1800-5000rpm (petrol), 350Nm at 1750-2500rpm (diesel)

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual or optional DSG sequential auto

ECONOMY: 7.7 litres/100km (petrol), 5.9 litres/100km (diesel)

0-100km/h: 7.3 secs (petrol), 8.4 secs (diesel)

PROS: Stylish, comfortable, excellent build quality

CONS: Question over resale due to lack of awareness about Skoda

BOTTOM LINE: From $37,990 for liftback petrol. Add $2000 for wagon, $2000 for diesel engine and $2300 for automatic transmission.