Many years ago, I used to give the Skoda management team a bit of grief about all of their press vehicles being black, which is one of the most difficult colours to photograph and challenging to keep clean and shiny .
Now we have a different team (yet still friendly and helpful) of people at the helm of Skoda NZ and the press cars of late have tended to be white ones.
White cars with black wheels and black details seems to be a very common trend amongst other manufacturers too, of late we’ve had a MINI, BMW, two Range Rovers, two Mercedes-Benz, two Holdens and a Subaru WRX all arrive in this combination.
The Candy White Octavia RS TDI wagon pictured here arrived with 18-inch Gemini anthracite alloy wheels ($500), the Black design package ($150), it has a satin black interior with grey inserts, as well as a panoramic electric sunroof ($2500), tow bar preparation ($400) and the Canton sound system ($1250).
If you regularly cart children about, the panoramic sunroof is absolutely worth the investment, because it really does bring a different dimension to travelling long distance, but equally makes the car feel even more spacious inside.
The Black pack design package allows the RS wagon to be differentiated from its less sporting-siblings ,with gloss black roof rails, gloss black radiator grill, gloss black side mirrors, and gloss black chrome around the glass on the doors and rear side windows.
At the rear of the car, a bright red reflector strip graces the top of the rear bumper diffuser and the twin rear pipes have a unique shape to them, which gives the RS wagon a striking appearance
The addition of the options took the car from a list retail price of $52,200 to a total price of $57,000.
That may sound like a lot of dough for a medium sized car, but then the third generation Octavia RS gives you a lot of car for it in terms of sheet metal and also specification.
For starters although the Octavia wagon sits on the same MQB platform as the Volkswagen Golf, its 380mm longer, and has a 15mm longer wheelbase which translates into a very roomy cabin with an equally impressive boot with 588 litres of space.
In fact the rear passengers have legroom that is comparable to its bigger sibling, the Superb.
As a comparison because the Octavia has now grown into a big mid size car, Skoda have introduced the new Rapid which is comparative in dimensions to the first generation of the modern Octavia which arrived here in 1993!
With the rear seat backs folded, there is 1718 litres of space available in the RS wagon and you can easily lay a child’s bicycle inside the RS, or as I did, a bunch of tackle bags and other rugby gear that belongs to the team I manage. Skoda’s simply clever philosophy extends to putting a very nice rubber boot liner in the cargo bay, which is fantastic for those folks who regularly visit the garden centre, or for people such as me who cart rugby players and their wet and dirty gear to and from matches.
The RS is equipped with a sports suspension package that sees it sitting 13mm lower to the ground than the standard Octavia wagons in Elegance and Ambition specification. Not only does it give the RS a more meaningful stance, it also contributes to that limpet-like road holding that these performance-orientated Skoda models have become renowned for.
Other features include a new progressive steering rack that quickens the ratio as more lock is applied, and an electronic differential lock (XDS+) that brakes both inside wheels to give the effect of a mechanical locking diff.
There are different driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport, Individual) selectable via a centre console-mounted RS button, with a sharper throttle, weightier steering and a rather vocal sound synthesiser activated when Sport mode is chosen.
Under the bonnet is the latest 2-litre 135kW/380Nm four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, which has the most un-diesel like engine note I have as yet come across. Thanks to the vocal sound synthesiser the RS diesel really sounded much more like a hot five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, and it certainly performed in much the same way.
All 380 Newton metres of torque are manfully applied to the front wheels through a 6-speed DSG dual clutch transmission, and changes in all driving modes are smooth, crisp and clean.
Skoda quotes combined fuel economy of 5.1L/100km for the RS wagon and this would be achievable on a long trip but unfortunately my test week was mainly urban commuting in stop/start traffic and the car sat on a solid 8L/100km.
The RS Octavia’s cabin is well executed with good quality tactile surfaces, from the top of the dashboard to the door trims while the doors themselves close with a nice firm thud, and it feels well put together. I especially liked the iPhone holder that so neatly slotted into the cup-holder, that was a very Simply Clever touch.
But most importantly for a performance orientated car, the bucket-style sports seats are easily adjustable and are really comfortable.
For some bizarre reason I normally don’t comfortably fit in the seats in many of vehicles from the Volkswagen Group stable, but the RS was a pleasant exception, my lower back was well supported, there was good lumbar adjustment, and it was nice to have adjustable seat heating as well!
In summary, if you want a performance orientated car, but you also need a practical wagon then the Octavia RS wagon will definitely suit your needs. To quote Skoda, it is simply clever.
Price: as tested $57,000
- Great engine, overall handling and performance
- Lots and lots of practical touches
- Good boot space and load flexibility
- Interior feels a little dark and sombre
- Air conditioning is too efficient
- Not sure about this fashion for Black Packs, it is becoming passé ?
Words and pictures: Robert Barry
Engine Type: Turbo Diesel
Power output: 135 @ 3,500 – 4,000 rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1,750 – 3,000
C02 emissions: 132g/km
Fuel economy: 5.1L/100km combined
Zero to 100kph: 8.3 secs