SKODAíS nailing it with the Octavia RS. The Czech brandís performance hero is such a popular cocktail of performance, value and practicality that itís had to boost production to meet demand. And customers are still willing to wait more than six months for their car to arrive.
Imagine how our mouths watered, then, when news of this even faster RS 230 version reached our ears.
Like the regular RS, strip away the 230ís body and it has the same basic bones as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. Itís a bigger car, though, thanks to a 60mm longer wheelbase and around 100kg of extra heft brought by its chunkier, and more practical, liftback-sedan or wagon bodystyles.
What the 230 adds over the regular RS is a 7kW power hike for its strong, free-revving 2.0-litre turbo four, and more signficantly, a new, electronic front differential.
Itís the same recipe used by the excellent VW Golf GTI Performance, but the Skodaís killer blow is its price tag. Skoda Oz is still deciding on spec levels, but expect the RS 230 to cost less than $45K when it lands Down Under next year. Thatís a healthy saving of almost $5000 compared to the Vee Dub.
As youíd expect the 230ís fatter footprint means its dynamics arenít quite as sharp as its German cousin, but the improvement over a regular Octavia RS is sizeable.
Most of this is down to that clever electronic front diff.
Throw the 230 at a corner, feel the front begin to slide and at the exact moment most will think ďOK, time to back offĒ, you pin the throttle to the floor.
What happens next is totally counter-intuitive. Instead of washing wide, the front tyres bite and the nose pulls tighter towards the apex. Thereís no fuss, no howling tyres or smoke, only grip and electronic trickery.
The steering is sharp, accurate and nicely weighted and while you do notice the 230ís extra heft during frenzied changes of direction, the weight transfer is so predictable it actually adds to the driving experience. Where a GTI Performance is taut, the Skodaís lazier body control sees it move around more at the limit, which can make it feel more involving.
Importantly, Skoda has also fiddled with the exhaust system to give the 230 the aural fireworks that are lacking in the regular RS.
Punch the throttle hard and the 230 cracks, pops and snarls in ways the RS simply canít.
All this makes the 230 the best Octavia Skoda has ever built, and one worth the price hike over the regular RS if sharper dynamics are a priority. More than that, though, the 230 is a genuine, and arguably smarter, alternative to the mighty Golf GTI Performance.
Still not as sharp as a Golf GTI; interior feels dated; no DSG for Oz Value; practicality; superb electronic front diff; individuality; quality Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Skoda Octavia RS 230 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 169kW @ 4700-6200rpm 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm 6-speed manual 1397kg 6.7sec (claimed) 6.2L/100km $45,000 (estimated) 2016
Skoda Oz says the 230 will likely be offered solely with a six-speed manual when it arrives Down Under next year. Itís a decision dictated by factory limitations and gives the 230 another point of difference to the DSG-only VW Golf GTI Performance.
As for visual changes over a regular Octavia RS, the 230 sports a blacked-out grille, black mirror caps and unique 19-inch black wheels. The cabin scores a flat-bottomed steering wheel.