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 …