Group Therapy

Skoda enjoys a day out with friends


MONTH three


Thereís nothing like a good drive


Intrusive traction control

MOMENT favourite

Seeing the Skoda being driven hard HE MOTOR team doesnít need much of an excuse to go for a decent drive, but if we have a decent excuse it makes the decision even easier. So when a friend invited us along to the first Drive Against Depression, aimed at raising awareness about mental health issues, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to not just hang out with like-minded enthusiasts and raise some coin for charity, but also stretch the Octaviaís legs along some of MOTORís favourite test roads.

The route will be familiar to keen Melbourne drivers, and if itís not, it should be. Starting at Gembrook, we would head north to Launching Place, chuck a right and continue through Warburton to climb the sinuous twists and turns of Reefton Spur, glance longingly at Lake Mountain (another time...) and continue on to lunch at Marysville. Suitably fed, itís then back through the Black Spur to metropolitan Melbourne.

Editor DC would be sharing the T driving and it would be interesting to get anotherís perspective on the Skoda. Iím a big fan of the RS230, however thereís a definite ceiling to its comfort zone. For the run up Reefton Spur I have the unusual experience of watching the Octavia do its thing from the passenger seat of our hostís following Renault Clio 182 Cup. The well-driven Clio sticks with the Czech chariot in the tighter corners, but at the first hint of a straight the Skodaís turbo power easily pulls a gap.

The RS230 is quite soft in its setup, resulting in substantial body roll as DC pitches it in to bends, the tail edging out just slightly on entry.

Itís a fine line to tread, as even in Sport mode the Skodaís ESP is quite conservative and quickly clamps down on any movements it deems over-exuberant.

The sight of an outwardly conservative family wagon being driven with enthusiasm is equal parts odd and amusing, but thatís the beauty of the Octavia RS package. In fact, our long-termer isnít the only white Octavia RS wagon taking part today, and strange as it may seem, the RS230 scores plenty of admiring glances for its appealing mix of practicality and performance.

DCís a fan: ďFor a wagon it shouldnít be as fun as it is! Itís best enjoyed at eight-tenths, of course, but youíd absolutely take it for a drive for the sake of it.Ē Heís right on all counts; the Skoda is good fun, possibly more fun than most would expect, but as mentioned earlier, there are limits to its ability. Push too hard and the

un-killable traction control starts grabbing at wheels and the soft-ish suspension begins to lose control of the body, particularly in right-left combinations (or vice-versa), where it feels slow to react to the quick change of direction.

Itís a problem the smaller, lighter, adaptive damper-equipped Golf GTI Performance, from which the Octavia RS230 nicks its drivetrain, doesnít have, but if thatís the price that must be paid for wagon practicality, itís not too steep.

The manual gearbox adds an extra layer of interactivity, though doesnít always like to be rushed, and with familiarity even the variable-ratio steering Ė which initially can feel at odds with the Skodaís fairly large steering wheel Ė begins to feel like second-nature.

So far the Skoda has ticked every box and answered every question asked of it. Itís practical and easy to drive day-to-day but plenty entertaining when the red mist descends. But is a track session asking too much of a family wagon?

Weíll find out next month. Ė SN

The MOTOR team doesnít need much of an excuse to go out for a decent drive