I was surprised to discover that 10 per cent of all Skoda Octavia's sold are RS sports versions and twenty per cent of Octavia estates sold are of the same calibre. Perhaps it's because the RS offers a bit of the wolf in sheep's clothing experience - the RS is rather an under stated performance car on the outside but when you want to test its credentials with your foot down, you find yourself at 100 KPH in less than eight seconds.
The revised RS goes on sale in May, starting at €34,450 for the 2.0 litre diesel version producing 184 horse power, a reserve of power that certainly impressed with its torque delivery during a preview test drive. However, the RS is not all about muscle. If Skoda has learned one lesson from its VW parent group and its legendary performance car - the Golf GTI - it is that hot hatchbacks should also have the comforts of their saloon siblings.
And the good thing about the RS is that it is a comfortable car to drive, without any of the suspension harshness and inflexibility with which other hot hatchbacks are invested. It's a pleasant car to drive, is not ostentatious and, most of all, it is practical. And that may be the combination that creates its popularity among a loyal band of fans. You can have some fun and not have to abandon the family to do so. The RS even has the huge boot the Octavia has earned a deserved reputation for.
The standard engine is the standard 2.0 litre diesel from the VW group that has been fitted to many other cars in the group's line-up and for good reason. It is flexible and economical with more than enough horse power on tap. You can have it mated to a six-speed manual or the DSG automatic gearbox, again a common feature in VW group cars. In this case it is very well suited to the diesel option.
There have been other minor changes to things like the front grille, upholstery and instruments - a new 9.2 inch display screen is now standard, for example. Generally speaking 'though you will have to look very closely indeed to spot the changes. Except when it comes to road holding precision of handling. It is very impressive, as you can see from the video, when a real pro gets behind the wheel. This is when you see the combination of power and traction.
Join former Formula 1 driver and two-times Le Mans winner, Hans Joachim Stuck, for a blistering trip on the test track in the new Octavia RS.
One thing that has quite divided RS loyalists is the decision to split the headlight unit that houses the new LED lights. I thought it was quite a bold move and added to the car, while others seem to feel it was the rear rather than the front that needed to be addressed. That is a view I share - the rear could have been made bolder and less boring. It would have created a badly-needed identity push for the RS.
The connectivity word also looms large in the promotional material. All sorts of information channels are now open but the emergency call function and car locating facility (it will locate the car through your smartphone in a crowded car park, for instance, and let it flash and honk you back to it) only comes as an optional extra.
The drive was'nt long enough to get a real-world fuel consumption return that would test Skoda's frugality claims, so we will have the wait for the full test to see.
The Scout four wheel drive is very competent at limited off-road tasks.
One other model in the Skoda line-up that has not been a big seller (the Yeti tends to overshadow it) is the four wheel drive version of the Octavia estate, the Scout. It does not really deserve to be so overshadowed because it is a very competent performer for limited off-road requirements - ideal for occasions when towing and extra traction are required, for example. It starts at 35,495 for the 150 horse power 2.0 litre diesel version with a manual gearbox. If you opt for the bigger 184 horse power version you will have to take it with an automatic gearbox.
I took it on a challenging enough off-road course that involved steep and rugged inclines and its traction and ground clearance were both impressive. The bigger Skoda Kodiaq four wheel drive would be better when more demanding. The Scout is a fairly utilitarian prospect and I was taken back to an Audi A4 estate of yore when I looked at its profile. Even on 18 inch wheels it did not command any great road presence. Someone, somewhere decided this was a no-frills workhorse. And that it is.
Below is the full price list for the RS and Scout range. Fuel economy is that claimed by the manufacturer and not a real-world figure.