With 220hp, the RS is the most powerful Octavia you can buy.

The RS (vRS) badge has always been special. In this case it denotes an Octavia that is basically built around a VW GTI.

Over the years, Škoda's parent Volkswagen has knocked the historic Czech carmaker into very good shape. In fact, VW has done such a good job that it needs to keep upping its own standards if it wants to continue to be seen as the superior manufacturer.

When we first reviewed the new Octavia in February 2013, we witnessed a more confident Czech firm step out from the shadows of VW. Octavia, with its more sophisticated styling and even subtle monochrome badging, has now clearly moved away from being a budget alternative.

These days, Škoda owners are less likely to be the butt of jokes, and more likely to be the ones having the last laugh at other carmakers. One automotive testament to Škoda's build quality is a 2002 Octavia currently on the Irish press fleet that has over 825,000 kilotmetres on the clock!

It's a given that Octavia offers great value for square footage. It sits on an extended version of VW Group's MQB platform and benefits from a long wheelbase. The five-seat hatchback is very spacious, and you'd be wrong in thinking the boot suffers at the expense of all that cabin space as it holds a massive 590 litres.

Octavia RS is all about performance and while the 184hp, two-litre RS TDI (diesel) version (€32,745) is a hoot, the petrol-powered version (€34,445) can really get your pulse moving. Key new party tricks featured in the fastest ever Octavia include 'progressive steering', an electronic diff-lock and a lowered sport chassis.

The two-litre TSI, four-cylinder engine powers the front wheels and sits on menacing 18-inch alloys. The 0-100kmh sprint takes 6.8 seconds (8.1 diesel) and in-gear performance is impressive, too. Top speed is an autobahn-friendly 248kmh (232kmh diesel). Emissions are low for a performance machine at 142g/CO2 (tax band 'C'/€390). Škoda claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 6.2 l/100km (45.6mpg) - thanks to stop/start technology, this is also impressive.

On the road RS is relatively softly sprung - for a performance machine. You can use it daily without feeling excessive harshness through the sports seats but road imperfections will be picked up. The new steering is sharp and nicely progressive. RS handles well behind the wheel - even novice performance drivers will feel engaged and confident. The road noise level in the cabin is quite intrusive at times and could be improved on to make the Octavia a more premium offering.

If you pick the 'RS Challenge' pack (€426 - it would be rude not to!) from the options list, you can also select how the engine and steering assistance act via the electronic drive mode selector. The 'Supertone' system (also part of the pack) alters the car's engine note in the cabin depending on the drive mode selected. It makes a nice meaty performance sound.

The hatch RS is really great but, for me, the RS Combi (estate) is that bit cooler. The only elephant in the room for Octavia RS is the iconic and quite brilliant VW Golf GTI.

Michael Sheridan