THE Skoda Octavia vRS hatchback has always been a favourite with those wanting to experience some sporting thrills while unwilling to sacrifice any practicality. After all, having a family shouldn’t mean you need to wave goodbye to driving pleasure.

And if that family includes a dog there is always the Octavia vRS Estate. I say “a dog” but it could just as well be a large tent and the vast amount of paraphernalia that goes with that scenario . . .

Whatever your lifestyle choices though you’ll find the Octavia vRS Estate slots in quite nicely, with comfortable seating for five and a sizeable 610 litres of boot space which can be extended to a grandfather-clock-carrying  1,740 litres with the rear seats folded down.

This new 2017 version has had some improvements too, although you’d be hard pushed to spot them from the outside.

The most obvious change is the quad-lights at the front, which is a feature common to the entire range and reflects one of the main design features of Skoda’s all-conquering large SUV, the Kodiaq.

There is a new, sportier, front bumper and 18in. “Gemini” alloy wheels while round at the rear there is also a new bumper, LED light clusters and rather smart looking chromed exhaust outlets. However, you won’t be blown away by this subtle face-lift – which is absolutely fine as the previous model is a good looking estate car anyway.

Inside the vRS you’ll find Skoda have fitted an 8in. Bolero touchscreen with Sat Nav which is bold and clear to look at as well as responsive to the touch and intuitive to use. It’s SmartLink+ equipped too which means you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.

There is now selectable LED ambient lighting and the general feel of the interior appears to have been raised a notch with plenty of soft-touch material where you would expect, mixed with some carbon fibre-effect material around the gear-lever and door tops.

The Supersport 3-spoke, leather multi-function steering wheel is particularly nice to hold and has the vRS logo stamped into the lower spoke. Mine, having the DSG auto gearbox, also featured paddles for if you wish to get more involved in the driving dynamics – something I always try a couple of time before resorting back to fully-auto mode.

The part-Alcantara front sports seats are well bolstered and hold you very well as well as being comfortable on longer journeys. They featured grey double-stitching although you can specify red stitching if you wish. The rigid headrests feature an embroidered vRS logo which adds a splash of colour, which isn’t a bad thing as the black and grey combo with a dark headlining does make the interior a little dull. Thankfully, my car came with the optional sliding panoramic sunroof (£1,150) which brightened things up no end.

The Skoda vRS Estate, like before, is available with two engine choices – one petrol and one diesel.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine now produces 230PS as standard (+10PS over the previous model), and can accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds (6.8 seconds for DSG) before reaching a top speed of 155 mph. Combined fuel consumption for the petrol-powered Octavia vRS is 43.5 mpg for the manual version, and 42.8 mpg for the DSG-equipped model.

There is also the vRS 245 model with a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 245PS, extra equipment and an improved 0-62mph time of just 6.6 seconds.

Diesel models are equipped with a 2.0-litre engine producing 184PS, and can be specified with either front or four-wheel drive, the latter exclusively equipped with a DSG automatic gearbox.

The powerful diesel engine accelerates the Octavia vRS from 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds – or 8.4 seconds for the DSG equipped model. The 4×4 model is even quicker at just 7.4 seconds.

Fuel consumption for the diesel models is impressive with the manual capable of 62.8mpg on the combined cycle while the DSG and 4×4 models are a little further behind at 57.7 and 55.4 respectively.

Prices start at £26,385 for the petrol with a manual gearbox and rise to £30,185 for the vRS 245 with DSG.

Diesel prices start at £26,520, rising to £29,400 for the 4×4 with DSG auto – which would be my choice as the combination of performance, practicality and all-wheel drive is unbeatable in this price bracket.

You may be tempted to go the SUV route – and the Skoda Kodiaq would be a viable alternative – but you would be shelling out more money for the 4×4 capability and, in my opinion, would be missing out on the terrific driving experience that the Octavia vRS has to offer.

There are quicker cars out there but the vRS has things sewn up when it comes to compromise – because you don’t have to make many as this estate is certainly quick enough to satisfy 99% of enthusiastic drivers.

The 184PS diesel sounds okay for a performance car although you won’t be turning down the radio to listen to it like you might in say, the Ford Focus ST Estate. It’s the performance rather than the sound, though, that really matters and the Octavia vRS Estate certainly entertains.

It feels quicker than its 0-60 time of 8.4 secs and I suspect the manual version will feel quicker still as the DSG auto does sap a little of the sportiness. Having driven the manual in hatchback form I can say that the 6-speed shifter is a delight to use and would be a great choice – unless you really want 4×4 capability also.

Lowered by 15mm over the standard Octavia and with stiffer suspension, you might expect the vRS to be quite a jarring ride – especially with the optional 19in wheels fitted – but in reality the Octavia vRS Estate rides very well indeed, cancelling out all but the worst of road imperfections without fuss.

Show it a winding A-road and the vRS will devour bend after bend without fuss either. There is plenty of grip to be had and with the Driving Mode Selection set to Sport, the throttle response is improved along with steering feel. My car also had the optional Dynamic Chassis Control fitted (£850) which can improve damping feel even more – automatically too if the system detects enthusiastic driving inputs.

The Octavia always felt comfortable though, whether in Sport, Eco, Normal or a Custom setting of the drive mode selector and noise levels were better than expected although not up to the very best offerings from the Germans.

This latest version also has some useful driver aids available in the shape of new-generation electronic assistance systems such as Trailer Assist, Front Assist with Predictive Pedestrian protection function, Blind Spot Detect and Rear Traffic Alert which are all new to the Octavia. Finally, Park Assist comes in a new, enhanced configuration that makes even lighter work of tricky parking manoeuvres.

All-in all the new Octavia vRS Estate is a very capable sporting load-lugger that should be practical enough for most families while still providing a great driving experience that rivals some of the best hot-hatches out there. In this diesel form it also makes economic sense and is a truly comfortable long-distance cruiser. It looks the part too – especially in Rallye Green metallic or, my favourite, Race Blue metallic. Resist the SUV urge because this sporting estate is a cracker.


RATING: *****

Skoda Octavia vRS Estate 2.0 TDI DSG

OTR Price: £27,910

Engine: 2.0 turbo diesel

Power: 184 PS

Transmission: 6-Speed DSG

0-62mph: 8.4 secs

Top Speed: 142 mph

Combined Economy: 57.7 mpg

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