By on June 18, 2014

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All the way from Santiago, Chile, reader Carlos Villalobos invited us to drive his Skoda Octavia vRS. Sadly, none of us could make the 12+ hour flight to the other end of the globe, so Carlos sent us his review instead.

Lusting after forbidden fruit isn’t a concept known only to North Americans, salivating over diesel hatchbacks and hot VAG variants. Here in South America, we also are afflicted with the same problem every other human being has: wanting what they can’t have.

Except in my case, I am lusting after a Jetta GLI.

You might think I’m crazy – apparently, the GLI is not considered a “real” Volkswagen by many American enthusiasts, since it’s based on the unloved MKVI Jetta. But here in Chile, we don’t have the GLI. We do have the GTI, but it’s extremely expensive, and frankly, I prefer the practicality of a sedan to a hatchback, even though that statement is considered heresy by the B&B.

So when I heard that Skoda was bringing the vRS line to Chile, I started to think about how I can afford it without starving my wife and three children . I like to have cars for 5 years or 100,000 km. When my 2009 Jetta hit that milestone, I ended up replacing i with a 2011 Sonata. It was a great deal, but also impossibly boring. I even crashed it, which I attribute to sheer boredom. The next day, I saw a nearly new Octavia vRS with 7,000 km. Some groveling with the wife ensued, but I had my dream car.

I really only have two complaints. First the driver’s seat doesn’t go quite low enough. Even a couple of centimeters would be fine. The second annoyance is that in the position I use the steering wheel, it obstructs the lower part of the IP display, so I can’t see the fuel gauge except when it’s marked as full.

The rest of the car is amazing. It literally has everything the VAG parts bin has to offer, except for radar cruise control and massage seats. But it does have Xenon headlights that can angle the beam into a corner, LED DRLs, heated mirrors, heated front and rear seats (the fronts are Recaros), dual zone climate control and a bloody massive trunk with folding rear seats.

The fit and finish is excellent, the hard plastics are top notch, the fake carbon inserts look pretty nice and the handles to open the doors look like aluminum and feel solid. The floor mats are thick and the seats are very supportive, with lots of adjustments. The sound system is great for my untrained ears. In general the look and feel is business like.

But I can’t say it’s pretty. I preferred the long tail proportions I of the Mk5 Jetta, but I do love the stance it has, hunkered down in a way that reminds me of Skoda’s old WRC cars. The 17 inch wheels look right without disrupting the ride quality.

When I bought it, I used to work and they paid for the fuel, so I didn’t mind too much the fuel consumption and traveled along the country in 500 km trips eating 335s and A4s. Now it is a weekend car because I don’t need to drive to work, so I enjoy it in short trips.

It accelerates very well in straight line and once the turbo comes on at 2,000 RPM, the acceleration is very strong. The brakes are not progressive and the faster you go the better they work. I had to learn to modulate them, but the ABS just activates when it is needed. In medium to fast corners it feels very planted and neutral, without too much understeer. It is different in slow corners, where if you turn and accelerate at the same time, the boost comes in and the tires can’t manage the power and the push can be surprising. After that you learn to go in a higher gear and use the torque to pull you out of the corner. The car should use the brakes to act as a LSD under 50 km/h but it does not.

People who only want the brand recognition go for the BMW 114 or Audi A3/A4 with a 125 hp engine for the same price, but for me the intelligent choice it is this car, which has a lot more of equipment, more power and is more exotic, for the same money.  In the real world, nothing this side of an M3 can touch you, at the traffic lights, highways or B road. If you are smart the with throttle, it’s actually fairly economical too

Now, if only Skoda would bring the diesel vRS …

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57 Comments on “Reader Review: Skoda Octavia vRS...”


  • avatar
    VoGo

    We don’t get Skoda in the US, and I can see why: no American would buy a higher priced VW if we did.

    This sounds like a great car – I hope you enjoy it for many years, Carlos!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That was VW’s problem with Skoda in Europe as well: it’s eating into their own sales.

      VW has a bit—no, more than a bit—of Alfred Sloan Syndrome; they’re misunderstanding that “A Car For Every Purse and Purpose” doesn’t mean every one of your sub-brands has to have one of each.

      • 0 avatar
        spreadsheet monkey

        I’d say that the VW group is doing a good job of out-Sloaning Sloan.

        Here in England, Audi, VW, Seat and Skoda are all sold through separate dealerships with separate marketing campaigns, and (with the possible exception of Seat) all are selling well and have claimed their own segment of the market.

        The Octavia VRS is a nice car. Over here, it is seen as a “sleeper”, and is commonly used as an unmarked police car.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        psarhjinian –

        Five to seven years ago yes, this was a very legitimate problem. However, Volkswagen had made a very concerted effort at differentiating the cars enough that this problem has diminished. They’ve done this through product design and marketing with far better effect than GM ever did.

        VW’s bigger problem is SEAT, the weakest of their brands. They’re still on life support, but the new Leon, based on the new MQB kit, is doing exceptionally well.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      That, and there isn’t enough breathing room for a car that is nicer than VW but not quite as nice as an Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlos Villalobos

      Thank you!!!
      It is a great car indeed

  • avatar

    Hey Carlos, great review, glad to hear from you. It is difficult for many us, specially the ones of us who like cars, to adjust to so many cars out there that do not hail from Europe. No, not everything that is good or great in the autoworld comes from there, but they do know how to make an entertaining car. In the Andes in Chile this car must be a hoot!

    I so agree with your comment of a value proposition compared to the lesser vehicles of the lux brands. I too don’t see the reasoning. And yes, I understand your statement of the practicality of the sedan vs. hatch. I agree!

    The only thing I don’t agree is the diesel thing. I think that’s best left for buses and trucks.

    Muchas gracias.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlos Villalobos

      Hi Marcelo.
      How is the World Cup going so far?
      Thanks for the commentary.
      A couple of week ago I went through a hill, in the rain, with my wife and child in the back sleeping and it was a hoot. The best part, they didnt notice it.
      The design is quite (simply) clever. It looks like a sedan, but it is a hatchback and the boot is huge.
      That diesel engine is the one in the Golf GTD at the moment, lots of torque!!
      The streets are so congested now here in Santiago that the trade off is worthy.
      Regards

      • 0 avatar

        Hey Carlos,

        As to World Cup. fun! Lots of foreigners on the streets, only soccer on tv, problems swept under the rug. For our team, thinking we are doing what this team can. I think either Germany or Argentina will win. Chile by th way is impressing everyone. As I write, first half over, Chile 2, Spain 0. And Chilean fans are a great majority in the Maracanã. Looks like we could face off in the next round and I tell you, you guys really have a chance to knock us out.

        Abraço

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Brazil would be in a nice spot if it wasn’t for San Memo Ochoa. I’m suprised Neymar and the Brazilian offense can’t score more goals.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes I agree. I don’t think the team played half bad actually but it doesn’t seem that Brazil can generate overwhelming pressure (for sustained periods) like Germany, Argentina and maybe Holland and Italy can. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Brazilian team is better than Chile’s, but if they’re having a good day and we are having a so-so day (like against Mexico), Chile could realistically pull an upset. The thing is Chile has great ball control and a nice game plan. If their players were more physically imposing, they could be real contenders (like maybe France and even Belgium are, not to mention the real contender mentioned above).

        • 0 avatar
          Carlos Villalobos

          The team has great confidence and we won fair and square to Spain.
          Un abrazo

  • avatar
    salhany

    This is still a 5 door, right? Seems perfect for both hooning and practicality. I want one, but I’m in the US, so it’ll never come here. :(

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Never mind, you guys still get the Jetta Sportwagen and the Audi A3 Sportback (both probably for less $$$ than Europeans or South Americans would pay for a new Octavia VRS).

    • 0 avatar
      Carlos Villalobos

      Yes, it is a 5 door. Looks like a sedan though

      • 0 avatar
        ekaftan

        It looks like my Xantia… God I miss that car. All of them. I bought the first one in 2002 and the last one in 2011. I upgraded all the way from a 2.0 manual to the TurboCT but they stopped making them in 2002 so they are already over the 10 yeas and insurance and parts are starting to get scarse…

        I will have a look at a Skoda vRS. I used to be a big VW fan, but got fed up with the local distributor and their price gouging on parts and switched to Citroens. I understand the distributor is no longer Maco, right?

        (yes, I am also in Santiago, Chile, and celebrations from the match win are just now starting to quiet down…)

        As for a TTAC invite, if one of you guys ever come down here, come prepared to review strange cars. I can get you in what ever you like from a Chinese made Changan MiniTruck to a Big Peugeot or Citroen and you can spend weeks reviewing only cars that would never, ever get into the US…

  • avatar
    imc

    I’ve had a serious crush on the latest generation Octavia wagon since spotting it on vacation in Europe….but have never got closer then staring from the sidewalk. Thanks for the reminder!

  • avatar
    Vega

    That is not the current Octavia anymore. The new one (Ocatvia III) has been out since 2012 and is based on the MQB-platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      …which to me outclasses the Jetta in several ways. It’s got projector headlamps, the VW “premium” door handles, and a much nicer interior. I like Volkswagen a lot (esp. from a mechanical standpoint), but I’ve been pricing out some of their products and it’s hard to turn a blind-eye to the way that they nickel-and-dime you for things that other manufacturers include as standard, and how they continue to support uncompetitive/subpar components (like the worst-in-class RNS-315 and RNS-510 navigation head units). I still don’t see how they’re any less-expensive than their predecessors compared to the competition.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    There are so many hot VAG variants.

  • avatar
    Silence

    This is a great commercial of the Octavia:

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Call me crazy but I see the GLi as more of a semi-budget Audi A4 than a Volkswagen, seeing how they share parts with one another.

    To me, the most bizarre thing about these variants are how the GLi is cheaper, and gets a slight hp boost over the GTi. Heck even the turbo Beetles quicker than the GTi.

    • 0 avatar
      Perc

      You lost me.

      How is a Volkswagen GLI a “semi-budget A4 more than a Volkswagen” when it 1) wears a volkswagen badge and 2) shares most if not all greasy bits with the Golf?

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        At Perc: You read my comment too literally, it shares its engine, platform, and quite a bit with the A4 along with the Golf GTi, its also the cheapest of the three.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Ryoku, the Jetta is on the PQ35 platform, same as Golf Mk6 (Mk7 is MQB architecture). The A4 is on Audi’s MLB architecture, with a longitudinal engine rather than the transverse setup on PQ35 and MQB.

          Engines, of course, are widely shared between Audi and VW.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I like the GLI, but it only had a power advantage over the GTI because VW was showing the MKVI Golf chassis the door and they probably didn’t want to put in a new engine in a last year model. Now that the GTI is back in MKVII trim it actually enjoys a significant torque advantage over similar motors in the Beetle and Jetta. I agree though that the current Jetta is under-appreciated in general. It was always a lighter car per vehicle footprint than the Golf MKVI and, as a committed hatch/wagon guy, I have to admit the Jetta has a much more useful back seat. Most of the complaints people have about the “US Jetta” are really trim level issues, especially since so few people have actually driven a current gen GLI.

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    “So when I heard that Skoda was bringing the vRS line to Chile, I started to think about how I can afford it without starving my wife and three children”

    So *Skodas* are aspirational cars these days? What’s the world coming to…

    • 0 avatar
      Carlos Villalobos

      Absolutely!!!

    • 0 avatar
      TangoR34

      Skoda is the intelligent choice. The car runs on VW mechanics. It may be last gen mechanics but that means it is less hassle to maintain because all the problems have already been detected on the VWs before and there are loads of replacement parts. Also it is not viewed as a street racer car like the VW so the insurance is much cheaper. It is the ultimate sleeper car and I would never pay the extra for a VW even if I have money to burn.

  • avatar
    TorontoSkeptic

    I must be dense, can someone explain why compact sedans are more “practical” than hatches? I have a compact hatchback and consider it much more practical for everyday things like putting in strollers and baby gear, moving furniture, loading gardening supplies etc.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m not a hatch or small sedan man myself, but you’re are absolutely correct hatch > tiny sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        It depends on the layout though. If the sedan and hatch aren’t even on the same chassis (in VW’s case particularly) then the sedan can have a totally different interior dimensions wise. I would call the Jetta as the clear winner practicality wise unless you have dogs or tall cargo for those cars. Then there’s the Golf wagon/Jetta Sportwagen which totally confuses things with it’s bigger cargo area. However, it still doesn’t have as big a backseat as the sedan option as it is Golf based (I own one.)

        Other brands do it differently. Mazda and Ford always did same chassis but torsion beam rear on the sedans instead of the IRS the hatches got (VW did that as well on the Jetta but has since reversed course.) This let them nail a lower price point and increase cargo area on the mass market sedan but made the hatch choice a clear enthusiast priority.

        I would love to see numbers from a manufacturer on chassis stiffness between these C segment sedans and hatchbacks. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the sedan bodystyles had the most raw potential but simply weren’t always chosen as the basis for performance variants (like the GLI, Si, SRT-4, SS) because of the dominance of the hot hatch phenomenon from European markets.

    • 0 avatar

      For B segment sedans that are morphing into C segment sized cars, the trunks are huge. 500L is the norm and that beats many larger cars like Civic or Corolla. A segment hatches hover around 290L while larger hatches like Focus are around 400. The back seats do collapse also. Small sedans are not so small anymore and have very usable trunks that give families a lot of practicality.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “I must be dense, can someone explain why compact sedans are more “practical” than hatches?”

      Let me take a swing at that from personal experience.

      When my kids were younger I could fit their seats and all the various and sundry other items (stroller, pack&play, diaper bags etc.) that go along with a toddler and an infant and still have room to spare. If you don’t need the back seats, a hatch is fine. But for my situation, the GLX was far more useful than a GTI because with the back seats occupied I still had a ton of room in the trunk.

      • 0 avatar
        Victor

        If you can spare the rear seats for a while, a hatchback will be more practical. I’ve just moved and I could fit massive amounts of stuff on the back of my C3 after I put the rear seat down. A sedan wouldn’t allow me to do that.

        Only if there was a form factor that could combine the best of both the hatchback and the sedan… Maybe if they made it in a nice shade of, say, maroon… While keeping the third pedal…

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “When my 2009 Jetta hit that milestone, I ended up replacing i with a 2011 Sonata. It was a great deal, but also impossibly boring. I even crashed it, which I attribute to sheer boredom”

    This made me laugh

  • avatar
    Perc

    Interesting to see someone elses opinion of the Octavia. I have a 2012 TSI Estate myself.

    It sounds to me like you’re fairly short and prefer to sit really REALLY low when driving. I’m personally stupid tall, and it’s both my legs AND my torso that are to blame. There’s enough headroom with the seat in the lowest possible position (like in every other car I’ve ever driven) and the steering wheel has plenty of adjustment. And unlike most cars, I don’t even have to have put the seat all the way back. I could use a bit more width inside the cabin, but that’s my only complaint as far as space goes.

    Also, how is a sedan in any way or shape or form more practical than a hatchback? Your Octavia counts as a hatchback, btw. Or a liftback. But it certainly isn’t a sedan.

    Sedans are miserable when you need them for anything other than transporting people since someone put a parcel shelf and some glass in the way of everything.

  • avatar
    dartman

    …I’m confused, I went to the UK site for Skoda and they show a 184ps diesel and 220ps gas engine as being the highest ps engines offered. You are saying either of these is quicker/faster than a BMW 335 (300hp US) or BMW M3 (414/425hp US)? Could you clarify please.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlos Villalobos

      In a circuit, of course a 335 or a M3 are faster. In the real world, with traffic, and using the fabolous DSG box, if you know how to drive it, there are few cars faster. Maybe the 335s I ve passed were poorly driven.
      I hope this clarifies my comment.

      • 0 avatar
        dartman

        Good point. I read this other review online: http://www.evo.co.uk/carreviews/evocarreviews/290305/ skoda_octavia_vrs_review_price_and_specs.html

        If what they say is true 3,000 English pounds less than an equivalent GTI, one would be loco to go with VW. I like the look and love a “sleeper”. Does your Skoda have the same noticeable absence of torque steer that we hear the Golf
        GTI does?

        • 0 avatar
          Carlos Villalobos

          Yes, the difference here is the same, around 3.000 pounds. Yeah, it doesnt have torque steer. What it has is understeering under power even in straight line if you are not judicious with the throttle, or just adjust the steering angle and keep the foot planted.

  • avatar
    dartman

    Chile inicia Españas culo!

    .. Además, la bandera de Chile se parece a Texas … Viva
      Chile!

  • avatar
    Victor

    Chileans can play around with not only Skodas, but Opels and several other models that don’t make into Brazil. They also get diesel cars and gasoline that is not plagued by 25% of ethanol. The roads are better, so european cars can ride on their actual suspension setup.

    It is with a bit of an envious feel that I congratulate you, Carlos. Nice reading.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlos Villalobos

      Thanks Victor. Yeah, we have a hugely competitive market. From Chinese cars to Rolls Royce, Bentleys, Ferrari, Mclarens, you name it. If you have the money you can get it

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    How’s your speed enforcement por allá?

    That thing must be plenty of fun. I like them, but for some reason they seem to style the wagons better.

    Your car has a MASSIVE boot. Almost Saab 900 (new or old) grade.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlos Villalobos

      In highways the maximum speed is 120 KM/H. I use the Cruise control religiously at that speed. Enforced by Carabineros with radar guns. But they always are at the same place so if you know the place you can slow down. Besides, there always is an idiot in a SUV going at 140 or 160, so I use them as shields. The cops stop and fine them and I pass without a problem.
      A couple of Carabineros stopped me a year a go, because some way they recognize the car. After the usual control, they started to ask questions about the car for 15 minutes. Very friendly chat with them.
      Funny situation.

      • 0 avatar
        ekaftan

        You can be warned of about 99% of the police checkpoints just by turning on Waze on your smartphone. I have a holder for my phone
        at eye level. Never go on the road with out Waze on.

        As far as speed, I set the cruise at 125-127 and still do not get stopped. There are tolerances built in the law (5kph) and in most speedometers.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlos Villalobos

          Thanks. I was about to edit the comment and add Waze. I dont use it. I will try the 127 kph thing. Please send me your address to send you the ticket if the advice is wrong :)


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