Skoda has added an electronic front diff and more power to its sought-after Octavia RS, to form the RS 230. Will it be worth an even longer wait?
WHAT IS IT?
A Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance in drag, with a cheaper price tag and bigger boot.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
If the normal Octavia RS is good (which it is), this faster RS 230 version promises to be even better thanks to a clever electronic diff and a power hike.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance; Subaru WRX; Ford Focus ST; Renault Megane GT220; Holden Commodore SS
More muscle and improved dynamics make this not only the fastest Octavia Skoda has ever built, but also the most engaging.
PLUS: Sounds brilliant; value and practicality; superb electronic front diff; VW quality; handling
MINUS: Still not as sharp or as polished as Golf GTI; interior feels a generation behind; no DSG for Oz.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
SKODA IS nailing it with the Octavia RS. The Czech brand’s performance hero is such a popular cocktail of performance, value and practicality that it has had to boost production to meet demand. And customers are 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 230’s body and it has the same bones as a Volkswagen Golf GTI, albeit with a 60mm longer wheelbase and around 100kg of extra heft thanks to its chunkier, and more practical, lift back sedan or wagon body styles.
What the 230 adds, though, is a new electronic front differential and a 7kW power hike for its strong, free-revving 2.0-litre turbo four. It’s the same recipe used by the excellent VW Golf GTI Performance, but the Skoda’s killer blow is its price tag. Skoda Oz is still deciding on spec levels but expect the RS 230 to cost under $45K when it lands Down Under next year. That’s a healthy saving of almost $5000 over the Vee Dub.
As you’d expect, the 230’s fatter footprint means its dynamics aren’t quite as sharp as its German cousin, but the improvement over a regular Octavia RS is sizeable thanks mostly to that new electronic front diff.
Throw the 230 at a corner, feel the front begin to slide, and at the exact moment most will think “Ok, time to back off,” you pin the throttle to the floor. What happens next is totally counterintuitive. Instead of washing wide, the front tyres bite and the nose pulls tighter towards the apex. There’s 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 230’s heft during frenzied changes of direction, the weight transfer is so predictable it actually adds to the driving experience. Where a GTI P is tied down, the Skoda moves 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 so lacking in the regular RS. Punch the throttle hard and the 230 cracks, pops and snarls in ways the RS simply can’t match.
All this makes the 230 the best Octavia Skoda has ever built and one well worth the small price hike over the regular RS. More than that, though, the 230 is a genuine, and arguably smarter, alternative to the mighty Golf GTI Performance.
Sticking it to the man
Skoda Oz says the 230 will likely be offered solely with a six-speed manual when it arrives Down Under next year. It’s a decision dictated by factory limitations and gives the 230 another point of difference to the DGS-only 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 also scores a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Model: Skoda Octavia RS 230
Engine: 1984cc in-line 4, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 169kW @ 4700-6200rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1500-4600rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 6.8sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 6.5L/100km
Price: $45,000 (estimate)
On sale: 2016