Skoda Octavia vRS long-termerUpdate 6: November 2014 – a surprising diesel v petrol comparison

Mileage: 10,945 | Latest MPG: 54.7

I had the opportunity to spend 1000 miles in SEAT’s latest Leon SC 1.4 TSI recently. As part of ongoing VW tech rollout, the Leon’s old 140hp motor has been upgraded to a 150hp unit – complete with ACT ‘active cylinder technology’.

This is the Bentley-born wizardry that turns off two cylinders during low-load use… which works, I discovered, brilliantly well. Almost totally imperceptible, there’s no change in noise, vibration or harshness and it’s only a small hiccup (a bit like an air conditioning compressor cutting in) that tells you it was operating.

Indeed, for the first day, I didn’t even see a ‘2cyl active’ display on the trip computer until I’d scrolled to the requisite menu: chances are you’ll have to use this rather than rely on your senses to know it’s working.

This eco-saving tech doesn’t spoil it when in four-cylinder mode either. A fizzy, quiet and exceptionally smooth engine, it was nice to jump into an eager hot hatch like petrol after so many miles’ experience of the gruffer shove from diesel.

Skoda Octavia vRS long-termerDiesel v petrol: eco comparison

But what about economy, you may well ask? Well, following a thorough loosening up, the Skoda now regularly delivers 55mpg-plus: 57mpg is usual for my office commute and I can’t remember the last time it dipped below 50mpg.

The SEAT? Driven in similar conditions to the Skoda it delivered… exactly the same fuel economy. Yes, really – 57mpg according to the trip. Which struck me as pretty amazing. Just as quick, almost as muscular, a damn site smoother and quieter… is this the first time petrol has been a genuine all-round option to diesel?

Indeed, with the savings in pump price, could the TSI ACT actually now be the smarter choice than diesel, particularly with the threat of NOx-based emissions on the horizon? Have the tables finally been turned? One to watch…

Skoda Octavia vRS long-termervRS in stiff suspension surprise

In the meantime, I’ll carry on enjoying the vRS. Compared to the ACT, there’s no denying it does deliver extra muscle at motorway speeds and the DCT remains generally appealing despite sometimes feeling its age (how we’ve become used to more auto ratios than six now…). Incidentally, you can only get the ACT engine as a manual in the SEAT.

It’s always refreshing to step back into the Octavia after time with other cars: a more perfect ‘hot’ family holdall I can’t imagine. Straight from the SEAT, it struck me how it was actually the vRS that had the stiffer, sportier-feeling suspension setup – its firmness is something I’ve really begun to appreciate for the extra body control it brings… I’ve stopped getting upset by the joggle and occasional thud-bangs into bumps now.

Special mention to the standard Xenon headlights on the vRS. The bright built-in LED running light pattern has long been appreciated during the summer (you’ll always spot a vRS coming towards you on the road) but now winter’s here, so too are the vivid HID headlights. The final part of my office commute involves a dark stretch of single carriageway: the power of the headlights is praised almost daily.

Pity about the warning error about a faulty headlight that had gone away for a while but has now returned. Will see when the local dealer can get me in…