First Drive

Skoda Octavia vRS iV 2020 UK review

What’s it like?

The drivetrain is a sporty one in performance terms. This is a very brisk car, most notably off the line but also able to deliver plenty of torque for in-gear acceleration. 

Yet performance means a lot more than simply accelerating quickly; it’s how you use that performance to involve the driver. And in the case of the Octavia vRS iV, there’s little else dynamically to really get your teeth stuck into.

It’s the chassis that lets the car down. It can neither cope with all the extra power and torque through the front wheels, which spin quite aggressively even with more benign throttle inputs and not just off the line at that, nor does it do too good a job in disguising all the extra weight of the hybrid system and battery. (The iV weighs almost 200kg more than the petrol vRS.) It crashes over the worst bumps, and rolls plenty around corners. All mouth, and no trousers, as one might say.

Lowering the suspension should help with the handling issue a bit (although lowered sports suspension is not an option here, remember), leaving ticking the DCC adaptive damper option box as the only way in a buyer’s gift to improve things, something our test car did without. We’d be very keen to try one to see what it can do to the vRS iV’s dynamics. 

What are you left with, then? A car that’s still likeable in plenty of ways, it must be said, due in part to the appeal of the Octavia as a car itself. The steering is light and direct (should you temper those throttle inputs) for one. The acceleration is impressive when the full performance of the drivetrain is liberated in Sport mode, even if the way it’s deployed is less so. The DSG gearbox is precise in its upshifts. And on smooth motorway roads, it’s a quiet, comfortable car to cover the miles in.

We’ve praised the quality of the new Octavia’s cabin before, and this vRS iV version is no exception. The front seats in particular are quite brilliant; they look great, grip well, and are very comfortable, too. There’s a nice mix of comfort, quality, technology, and sportiness. 

Should I buy one?

The vRS iV sits quite awkwardly in the Octavia range. Skoda’s usually impressive vRS models have always been more of the thinking person’s hot hatch (or estate) in gaining extra usability and all-round ability without the need for razor-sharp handling, yet the vRS iV’s appeal is stunted by actually doing the opposite of those things, and there are clearly better options for its two main prospective pools of buyers even within the Octavia’s own range.

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