UK Car Road Test

Skoda Octavia RS Turbo 2003

 Movie Clips of this Car

Exterior Movie Interior Movie

 


Just look at the speed  ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY SIX MPH in a skoda, the last one to achieve that was driven by a terminally depressed unemployed accountant off beachy head. 

In the Gospel according to Skoda, the £15,100 Octavia RS brings "Skoda's motorsport heritage to the road."

Question: How do you double the value of your Skoda

Answer: Fill it with petrol

( unfortunately with the price of this Skoda and the trajectory of world petrol prices this may no longer be an actual joke)

For a company that started out in life calling themselves Akciova Spolecnot, Skoda have come a long way, though not without a little help from their friends. In the beginning it was Laurin & Klement, who were acquired shortly after Messrs. Spolecnot and became Skoda. 

It was their early, Edwardian motorsport successes that Skoda have appropriated for their own scrapbook. Skoda's revisionist view of history would have you believing that their name has since been associated with motorsports for the past 100 years. 

This is stretching it a little. Like all Marques they competed in early motor sport and continued into the 30's. When the iron curtain came down, Skoda no longer so much developed new models, as evolved them on a  Darwinian time scale. True the rear engined 1000/1100 beasts from the east  had some success in rallying in the 60's and 70's but then they were pretty much competing in the budget classes against equally if not even more fiscally hampered privateers. 

More recently, can now be seen  the Octavia World Rally Car and its fastest road car ever, the Octavia RS. Just as Skoda is taking on the competition in the World Rally Championship, the Octavia RS will challenge its competitors in the sports saloon segment.

Of course, we all know who's behind it. Without the financial clout of VAG, Skoda might still be living off Semtex sales and the long running military devices which inspired Ferdinand Porsche. But  the born-again company is able to trade on VAG's reputation for build-quality and draw from its vast repertoire of engines and drivetrains, and hence build motors way beyond its and your expectations.

 


I am not the greatest fan of the standard Octavias styling. Its not and ugly car just a bland conservative one. Skoda are  trying to build an all new reputation based on excellent build quality and Styling is deliberately not cutting edge almost so as not to alienate the majority of potential customers. The RS has been beefed up though and presents an aggressive bullish face, especially from the front.  

This is the second generation Octavia  Visual changes are slight  though make a surprising amount of difference on the street. Octavia experts will notice the introduction of revised rear light clusters and clear optic headlamps that taper away towards the edges. The front bumperís new too, incorporating bigger cooling scoops which give the front end more presence. Elsewhere, the improvements need an even keener eye to detect. Thereís a new side rubbing strip, colour-keyed door handles and a revised rear bumper assembly. Add new exterior colours and (at last) a rear wash/ wipe system for the Hatchback model and youíve covered it.

The styling of the Octavia RS matches its performance, both inside and out. The suspension has been lowered and stiffened to give the Octavia RS a sporty appearance and feel, with a very low drag co-efficient (Cw) of 0.29. A massive front bumper with a large air intakes, Big sports alloy wheels with unique, horrible snot green painted brake calipers, big rear spoiler, wide stainless steel tailpipe and unique RS badging complete the dynamic exterior. 

Inside, itís much the same story. Thereís a revised instrument binnacle with new dial graphics and there are new interior colours and a nicer choice of fabrics. Finally at the rear, alterations to the bulkhead have freed up 22mm of extra legroom, without altering the excellent luggage capacity offered by the five-door bodystyle (528 litres to be exact).

Inside, there are sports seats in special RS leather and metallic mesh trimmed upholstery, metal pedal covers, leather trim on the hand brake and gear lever, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Plus steel rimmed dials. The Octavia RS interior is as sporty as its exterior. 

The Seats are a curious weave but not unattractive and match the silver grey carpets. They do all require rather a lot of cleaning care and attention though. With a nod at Recaro styling, they are firm, and  provide the first hint that the RS might be a touch special. 

The clocks do as good job of being different but little else. They are a mish mash of styles and effects but based staidly on the standard VW layout. Almost like a dash sticker kit from halfords. It cant even claim the stupid designer watch like layout that Lexus foisted on us, and seems a little like change for changes sake.

With the sporty Nardi shaped gear knob and the chrome door popup locks there is more than a hint of max power about the car. Subtle it aint. But then Skoda have had little time to get to grips with Western European  ideas of style,  and compared to some of the dubious efforts the Japanese have given us seem only mildly teenage in its approach. 

Its easy to criticise but you have to keep repeating the simple single phrase "£15100", it only costs "£15100". That fact alone pretty much allows it to get away with anything.

Frankly overall the effect is good. Its just a few little touches that need toning down. All the really important bits are spot on.

The Metal pedals have rubber inserts, so you get the looks without the slip.

The gear knob is superbly shaped and positively encourage maximum use of the gearbox.

The steering wheel is bang on thickly padded with just a hint of give and textured with little holes in the classic style for grip when the performance makes your palms start to sweat.  

 

 

You would think that the power-to-price ratio alone constitutes a bargain at £15,100. But not content with selling you blistering performance at a blue-cross price, Skoda have packaged all manner of goodies for your neighbour to covet. These include climate control, twin airbags, electrically adjustable and heated mirrors, front fogs, immobilser, remote central locking. visible VIN sticker, two ISOFIX child-seat fittings, rear spoiler, sports tailpipe, tinted glass and a six-CD changer with eight speakers. Delicate and exclusive cosmetic touches include metal-faced pedals, which will almost certainly lead you into temptation.

More importantly, standard equipment includes ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution (EBS) and anti-spin regulation (ASR) for improved driving safety. 
Comfort Features
Adjustable Steering Column
Adjustable Steering Column
Centre Arm Rest Front
Centre Arm Rest Front
Cup holders
Cup holders
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Drivers seat Lumbar Support
Front Door Bins
Front Door Bins
Head Rests (front & rear)
Head Rests (front & rear)
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Drivers Seat
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Height Adjustable Seat Belts
Pollen Filter
Pollen Filter
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Remote Petrol Cap Release
Split rear seats
Split rear seats
Time Clock
Time Clock
General Features
12 V Accessory Power Point
12 V Accessory Power Point
Chrome Grille
Chrome Grille
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Bumpers
Colour Coded Mirrors
Colour Coded Mirrors
Digital Odometer
Digital Odometer
Exterior Side Mouldings
Exterior Side Mouldings
Heated Rear Window
Heated Rear Window
Rear Wash Wipe
Rear Wash Wipe
Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows
Luxury Features
Air Conditioning
Air Conditioning
Cigarette Lighter
Cigarette Lighter
Courtesy Light Delay
Courtesy Light Delay
Cruise Control
Cruise Control
Electric Mirrors
Electric Mirrors
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Electric Windows (front & rear)
Heated Mirrors
Heated Mirrors
Leather Steering Wheel
Leather Steering Wheel
Multiplay CD
Multiplay CD
Radio Cassette
Radio Cassette
Trip Computer
Trip Computer

 You would assume Skoda cut the costs by cutting the extras, you would be wrong. 

 

For those of us old enough to remember the letters ĎRSí used to belong to fast Fords, and we are not keen on other brands appropriating it without good reason. These days, the famous badge is pinched by Volkswagen and used by its increasingly successful Czech division,  to designate a new line-up of sporty models. Thankfully the Octavia does not do the old moniker a disservice in its placement despite our reservations.

The Octavia whistles while it works. and works like a giant not a dwarf. Or  at least it does in the RS version, a slice of readily accessible motoring muscle in which the sound of the turbo blowing  is a tuneful reminder that Skoda have risen above their old joke status.

Powered by the same engine that launched the iconic TT Coupe, the £15,100 Octavia RS is just about the best a man of sporting aspirations can get at anything like the price. This the fastest car they have ever produced  reflects their alter ego as one of the minor unsung heroes of motorsport, and their aspirations to mix it with the big boys.

"Built for people who enjoy driving" is how the company describe the 180 bhp car,  in a matter of fact sort of fashion. An untamed wild beast for those who like to walk on the wild side is nearer the mark. 

Only joking.

In reality it contains its power well, but heavy acceleration from standstill, especially in the wet, does produce a momentary aberration as the gearbox is overwhelmed with 173 lbs/ft of torque.

Despite the DNA strand running through the group's products, each emerges  with a character of its own. And perhaps none more so than the Octavia RS. The Octavia feels more energetic and  more urgent than any of the VAG incarnations of this engines. Skoda seem to have chipped a slightly raw feel into it, and it feels more powerful than its figures suggest.  

One advantage of turbo charging is that it can produce higher torque at lower engine speeds. In simple terms, that means there is sufficient force left over after satisfying the needs of tractive resistance to provide ample acceleration without revving the engine until the rev limiter shuts down the engine. And since tractive resistance increases as the speed builds up (because of the effect of wind resistance) and tractive effort decreases as you change up through the gearbox (because there is proportionately less torque at the road wheels as torque is multiplied by gearing unlike horsepower) increasingly little is left over for acceleration, which is why many cars cannot overtake safely in fifth gear. But add forced induction (turbo or supercharger) and the torque not only increases, but also it's spread over a much wider engine speed range. The result can be a marked improvement in engine flexibility, which leads to safer overtaking and a generally more relaxed drive.

In fact, the plumbing on the RS turbo is configured to deliver peak torque over an extraordinarily wide range, from under 2000 revs right up to 5000 rpm. And it will pull on happily beyond that to at least 6500revs in the lower gears. This means you can dip almost at random into the engine speed-range in the knowledge you will come up with a healthy dose of pulling power. Whether you short-shift to preserve low revs and optimize economy, or hang on until the red line, the engine is a flexible friend. Or if you want to exploit the flexibility in another way, choose a gear and stick to it. The engine is just not fussy, and it must rank as when of the best units available.

Just as the turbo can  improve engine performance, it also aids thermal efficiency. (In effect boosting with forced induction acts like raising the compression ratio eliciting a bigger bang from the same amount of fuel)  which means that the gains in power are not entirely at the expense of fuel consumption. 

The flexible engine contributes to an extra-urban figure of 44.1 mpg, somewhat better than either the 2.0-litre Subaru Imprezza or the 2.2-litre Peugeot 406 SRI, two competitors it manages to easily out-perform. An urban figure of 26.2 mpg results in an overall combined figure of 35.3 mpg, a fraction more than the latest 2.0-litre VVT-i Avensis, an altogether slower car. They are though the Makers state sponsored lies of course and 30+mpg would seem a reasonable expectation. Any one achieving 35+mpg should probably have bought the diesel instead.  

Service Interval Insurance Group Safety Rating Smog Rating
20000 16 Band (D)
Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
4 Cylinder 20 Valve DOHC Turbo 180 1781 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
4 Double 5 Turbo Charger
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
146mph 7.9seconds 131
MPG@Urban MPG@Cruise MPG@Speed Fuel Type
26.2mpg 44.1mpg 35.3mpg Unleaded
Kerb Weight Tow Weight Length Width Height
1390kg 1300kg 451cm 192cm 143cm
Boot Seats/up Boot Seats/Down Seats
526 Litres 1328 Litres 5

 

Note bracing from wheel wells

Big snot coloured calipers

 

Skoda has taken the opportunity to introduce Octavia customers to a whole selection of electronic aids from the VW parts bin, all of which find their way onto the RS. These include EBS (electronic brake force distribution), ASR (an anti-wheelspin regulator) and ESP (an electronic stability programme). Of these, ESP is probably the most significant, saving you from yourself should you enter a corner too fast. Sensing that the car may be about to spin, the system automatically brakes the individual wheels that need it most and reduces the throttle until the car is brought back into line.

On the road in this, as in any Octavia, you could easily be in a VW Passat, with excellent body control, a firm but supple ride and a five-speed gearbox thatís slick and easy to use. In fact, only down rated cabin plastics only give-away the fact that youíre not in a much more expensive car.

Against a standard Octavia this one has lowered and firmed suspension, extra body bracing and fat rubber. As a result the Czech car handles well enough to shock anyone who hasnít kept up with its makerís rise in fortunes over the last few years 

This particular model only comes in front wheel drive  version. Youíd also have thought that the engineers working on the RS project might have wanted to use the 4x4 hardware theyíve developed for an all-wheel drive version of the estate: maybe we will yet get to see that in the future.

Otherwise of course, the recipe is pure Octavia, which in second generation form is a car that has been usefully improved. Greater refinement in the latest models has been made possible by extra soundproofing, revised engine mounts and bulkhead changes. As a result, itís noticeably quieter.

The half-leather seats  are reassuringly firm, and side bolsters help keep the torso in place even during fast cornering, which is aided and abetted by the excellent chassis dynamics.

Skoda has left in traces of the animal that Audi and even VW might just iron out. This slightly raw sensation makes a refreshing change, as latter-day engineering tends to dial out the kind of reactions and responses that used to sort the men from the boys. 

Cars need to be controlled and it's sometimes no bad thing to be able to do just that and not rely on black boxes that relegate the driver to the role of lip stick applying steering-wheel attendant. This is not a car to drift about in forgetfully, the urge of the motor will catch you out if you doze along like so many modern cars allow.

Mild torque steer is about as raw as it gets. As with other cars on the same, A+, platform the RS comes bundled with traction control, or Anti-Spin Regulation (ASR), as Skoda are pleased to call it. The other trick in Bosch's ABS-derived bag is the now-familiar electronic brake-force distribution, by which device the braking effort is proportioned to axle load, to prevent, for example, the rear wheels of a lightly loaded car losing grip and un-necessarily kick-starting the ABS. The traction control can of course be de-activated for the insanely brave or show offs amongst us.

Of course, the RS invites enthusiastic driving that gives the electronics a good working out on a regular basis. The firm suspension only exhibits the negative side of the equation on wet, bumpy roads where a bit more give would be an advantage. Mild-mannered family motorists looking for an all-absorbing ride quality will disappointed, as the stiff set-up is inclined to bump and knock over projecting manholes and pitted surfaces. But the suspension compromise  favors shall we say enthusiastic driving. To be fair going over sleeping policemen the car rides remarkably smoothly, which gives away some of the changes namely very stiff anti-roll bars.

Discs all round, ventilated at the front provide huge confident stopping power, pulling up the car in a dead-straight line from high speeds. 

The power-assisted rack and pinion steering is high geared to allow fast control through the tightest bends and also has enough tactile feedback to make sense of the signals transmitted by the high-grip 205/70 tyres. It writhes lightly in your hands with the torque steer but its a pleasant  sensation. Aided by the stiff anti-roll bars the car peels into corners with alarming speed and no trace of body roll. Direction changes are instant and throwing it about does little to upset its composure. 

The steering is also light enough not to be a bind in the car park, because despite or wishes they remain part of the driving experience.

To be truthful I have driven a lot of cars equipped with this or variants of this motor and none (even the 225bhp TT) entertained as highly as this one. On a race track other VAG cars would probably edge it, especially the 4wd ones. But the road is not a race track despite your protestations, and the Skoda provides more than  ample thrills at legal (Honest Officer) speeds.

Would I like to see a 225bhp version, course I would does it need it , NO it does not. I would even worry that a quattro version would dim its electrifying responses and stabilize it to a sane stability endowed shadow of its perky self. For now its just fine as it is thank you very much. 

Steer/Susp/Tech Features
Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Front Fog lamps fitted
Front Fog lamps fitted
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Height Adjustable Headlight Aim
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter
Service Level Indicator
Service Level Indicator
Xenon Headlights
Xenon Headlights

  

Pinching a Passat and re-badging it has the advantage of getting its solid chassis design in one fowl swoop. So its a safe proven platform. And despite its position as the top notch fire breather of the range, remains as family friendly as ever. 

 The best theft deterrent available?

Twin air bags are as customarily fitted, though with its performance and its giggle inducing dynamics perhaps six would have been better.

Safety/Security Features
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Child Locks
Child Locks
Deadlocks
Deadlocks
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Three Rear 3 Point Seat Belts
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

Given the profile of the car which has already brought it to the attention of the brainicly challenged cap wearers perhaps a top notch Alarm not being fitted is a bit of an oversight. This is going to be a joy riding magnet.

Despite its high-performance credentials and sub eight-second dash to the metric ton, the RS exhibits all the mother-ship Octavia's practical, 5-door attributes, including a huge 18.6 cubic-foot boot, which can be enlarged to an impressive 47 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. 

Not so much head rest 
as whiplash deterrent

The Octavia RS will challenge such cars as the Nissan Primera Sport,  Subaru Impreza 2.0 GX and the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Octavia RS will suit buyers in this segment perfectly, as they desire a car with a sporty look and feel, but still need the big passenger space and carrying capacity of a mid-size saloon.'

A more realistic competitor  is SEATís Leon 20VT, a car thatís more or less identical to this Skoda under the skin  Mind you, since SEAT, not Skoda, has been chosen as the Ďperformanceí brand within the VW Group, you should  find that the Octavia RS wonít handle quite as tightly as the Leon. Supposedly  the Skoda, according to the marketing men, instead, has a handling package angled more toward safety and comfort than outright excitement. Fortunately the Marketers forget to mention it to the Skoda engineers, either that of Skoda have pulled a very cheap fast one on their colleagues.

A triumph of  GCSE design

Useful picnic table sized wing.

The RS is heading for legendary status. It is a seminal car that delivers the full package of  emotional involvement that will forever change the way people think of Skodas. 

It looks good, it drives extremely well and and just like the paint does everything it promises on the tin, and at a price that begs an obvious question of many rival manufacturers, including the company that owns them. 

If youíre still holding back because of the badge and the mockery of your friends, then I suggest you get a life and some new friends, 

Even some  police forces have adopted them as one of their vehicles of choice. Performance, reliability, and costs are their measurements and should be yours too. 

The only dynamic downfall of the car is really the front skirt is too low and if you are not careful it is easy to catch on kerbs, in car parks & even going onto driveways if there is a difference in the levels.  

It is difficult to see where Skoda find such price savings over other VAG products. Eastern European wages must be akin to the slave trade. You look around the car trying to find cost savings. A touch of low rent plastic here, a slightly rusty unpainted bonnet prop, wheel nuts beginning to show signs of oxidation.  It does not add up to much, and the rest of the build quality is up to VW's normal standards.  

Xenons + fogs light up the night

Sorry but Green should not be seen!

This is the most surprising package  I have driven for a long while, its response to both the helm and the go pedal are exemplary and infinitely enjoyable.

It is a real wolf in sheep's clothing, Q car, street sleeper. Forget the lack of respect the badge has, people will have to respect it when you overtake them with the turbo singing and the tyres smoking. On the other hand don't forget the badge use it to your advantage and other peoples surprise. Ever noted how others drivers, don't give way to flash Marques and motors at least the Skoda will not generate that kind of stupid raging envy.

Now there is just the question of insurance group 16 for a Skoda, now somebody really is joking.


 

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UK Car Road Test Skoda Octavia RS Turbo 2003

UK Car Road Test Keywords: Sports,HatchbackOctavia RS Turbo