Given the calibre of the products in recent years, it is a damn sight easier now more than ever to dispense with misplaced brand snobbery when it comes to Skoda.
Not only that, but fail to see past the badge and you might even unwittingly cheat yourself out of owning one of those rare ‘sweet spot’ cars that effortlessly melds many talents, because the latest Octavia vRS Estate is essentially the Mk8 Golf GTI wagon that Volkswagen won’t build.
To varying extents, this has been true since the very first Octavia vRS Estate landed in 2005. But now in its fourth generation, Skoda’s hot wagon shadows the Golf GTI’s make-up very closely indeed – perhaps more closely than ever, both inside the elegant cabin and beneath the bodywork.
Available in estate and hatchback forms, the 2021-model-year Octavia vRS uses the same 242bhp engine as its GTI cousin (and in an identical state of tune), offers the same six-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) gearboxes, and uses the same modular VW Group platform, although the wheelbase has been extended by around 5cm for Skoda, so there’s more rear leg room. There’s also the same 15mm drop in ride height compared with regular models in the range and, of course, the typical array of visual tweaks.
You can now also have the Octavia vRS with the same adaptive dampers as the Golf GTI, whose ‘digital slider’ selection tool allows you to choose not merely between two or three settings for damper response but dozens, ranging from extra soft to extra firm. Both cars also use the same VAQ ‘limited-slip differential’, which is actually an electronically controlled clutch pack mounted outside the differential housing and on one of the driveshafts, although it achieves the same aim of nixing wheelspin and variably distributing torque. An Octavia vRS with four-wheel drive is coming, but the sole powertrain option will be a 197bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel.
As ever with Skoda, the really interesting bit concerns price. At £32,695 in DSG form, rising to £33,620 if you choose the optional Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers (and you should), the Octavia vRS Estate costs £1340 less than Volkswagen asks for the DSG-equipped Golf GTI hatch. It’s this, more than anything, that makes the Skoda impossible to ignore.