There are cars that a purely pragmatic and others that are completely indulgent.
But there’s very few that speak to the head and the heart in equal measures like the Skoda Octavia RS245.
It’s the flagship performance variant of the recently-updated Octavia range, sitting above the regular RS variants with more power and more equipment.
Available as either a liftback sedan – costing $43,390 (plus on-road costs) when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission - or, for an additional $1000, as a spacious wagon, the Octavia RS245 is essentially Skoda’s version of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance as it uses most of the same hardware.
It features an upgraded version of the 2.0-litre turbo charged four-cylinder that produces 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque – increases of 11kW and 20Nm respectively – and drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission via an electronically controlled limited slip differential.
It can also be had with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (rather than the six-speed unit in the regular Octavia RS) for an extra $2500.
Beyond the powertrain upgrades, the RS245 also has larger 19-inch alloys, standard leather and Alcantara sports front seats with electric adjustment, black exhaust pipe outlets and unique instrument cluster and door inserts.
It all builds upon what is already a fairly generous list of standard equipment in the regular RS, which has active cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, nine airbags, adaptive LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and a 9.2-inch high-res multimedia screen with sat nav, a 64GB hard drive, eight-speaker audio, Bluetooth streaming and smartphone mirroring.
Buyers can also choose two optional packs to further enhance the specification, with a Tech Pack adding adaptive suspension, keyless entry, a 10-speaker Canton audio system and semi-autonomous parking while a Luxury Pack brings lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring and heated front and rear seats.
No matter what, the Octavia’s cabin presents well with a simple dash layout, clear instruments and good small item storage with plenty of smart solutions such as the lidded bin in the driver’s door pocket, built-in umbrellas and a removeable mobile phone holder in the cupholders.
It’s not the most theatrical environment with very few visual hints to its hot hatch status, but it does have a sense of understated quality about it with excellent soft-touch materials, comfortable yet supportive front seats and a good driving position.
The multimedia system stands out against its simple ambience for its high-tech, high-gloss interface and is mostly easy to use, with the exception of the fiddly touch buttons for volume control.
But the Octavia’s real trump card is its space, with more room in the back seats than others in the class and a huge boot that is easily accessed no matter whether you choose the liftback sedan or the wagon body style.
As for how it drives, just like the Golf GTI on which it largely shares its underpinnings and fundamental components, the RS245 offers a nice balance between everyday useability and accessible performance.
With peak torque arriving at just 1500rpm, the 2.0-litre turbo engine is hugely flexible with the ability to leisurely cruise around at low engine speeds in town or out on the open road while also offering a strong surge of mid-range pulling power when you tap into its full potential.
It’s not a head-banging hot hatch in the same vein as the Ford Focus RS, and it doesn’t have the most inspiring sound track when you’re up it for the rent – with a digitized, and droney, exhaust note plumbed through the audio system – but nor is it a slouch in a straight line with plenty of punch between the bends.
The front diff harnesses the power sufficiently to provide decent traction out of tight corners, but the steering isn’t the last word in feedback and, while predictable and stable in its overall handling character, the front-end can still push wide when pushed hard. It’s the kind of hot hatch that is best when driven with a bit of patience and smooth inputs rather than grabbing it by the scruff of the neck.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is the pick of the gearboxes, with its broader spread of ratios making better use of the power while also being more efficient and convenient to use in everyday traffic even if it still displays some low-speed hesitation that is typical for its type. But for those that like to work a little more, the manual is pretty good with a light and positive action across the ratios and decent feel through the clutch pedal.
Ultimately, the Skoda Octavia RS245 offers a lot of car for the money and is the most rational member in the growing league of hot hatches. It’s understated style, everyday useability and practical, spacious cabin will appeal to the pragmatists out there and its performance won’t disappoint their hidden hoon either, even if it doesn’t set any benchmarks for dynamics or at-the-limit driving thrills. It’s a well-rounded hot hatch for the head and the heart.
2018 Skoda Octavia RS245 Price and Specifications
Price: From $43,390 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power: 180kW at 5000-6700rpm
Torque: 370Nm at 1500-4300rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, FWD
Fuel use: 6.7L/100km
- For more information visit our Skoda showroom