Retro Road Test: Skoda Octavia vRS

Skoda Octavia vRS: what is it?


Skoda’s vRS badge has come a long way in nearly 15 years.

Back in 2001, when the first Octavia vRS was launched, the idea of a hot Skoda was far too much for some people to take in. The Skoda brand was still emerging from the dark days of ill-informed jokes, continuing to find its feet under Volkswagen ownership.

With a knowing tap on the inside of its nose, the Skoda Octavia vRS emerged from out of nowhere and practically trumped anything else from the VAG stable. To those in the know, the Skoda Octavia vRS was the performance weapon of choice.

Skoda Octavia vRS: what are its rivals?


We could argue that the original Skoda Octavia vRS had no direct rivals. With a launch price of £15,100, nothing could touch it. The one notable exception was the slightly cheaper SEAT Leon Cupra, but pound for pound, the cavernous Octavia vRS stood out like a big shiny beacon.

Remember the early press cars were all painted in striking Corrida Red. And we all know red is faster, right?

Other rivals? Well the Octavia vRS trounced the MK4 Golf GTI in just about every department, while the UK’s first Honda Civic Type R was waiting in the wings. The £15,995 Ford Focus ST170 was a palatable prelude to the blistering Ford Focus RS and was arguably the Octavia’s most direct rival.

Skoda Octavia vRS: what engine does it use?


The Skoda Octavia vRS made good use of Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 1.8-litre 20v turbocharged engine, seen in the likes of the Audi TT, Audi A3/S3, Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and standard Skoda Octavia.

In Octavia vRS guise, the engine develops 177hp at 5,550rpm, producing 173lb ft of torque. The 0-60 time was quoted as 7.9 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 144mph. At the time, this was the fastest Skoda ever built.

Skoda Octavia vRS: what’s it like to drive?


Seriously good. Given the mediocrity of the equivalent Golf GTI, you have to ask what wizardry was applied to transform the Octavia vRS into such a performance bargain. You could say the same about the SEAT Leon Cupra, which was also better than the Golf.

The gearing is comically long, with 70mph achievable in second gear. The engine also feels more characterful in the Octavia vRS, urging you to press on.

The steering on this 77,000-mile car seemed lighter and less communicative than it did when new and subjectively, the Octavia vRS lacks the intimacy and immediacy of a more hardcore hot hatch. But considering the size of the Octavia vRS, not to mention the double wardrobe over the rear wheels, masquerading as a 528-litre boot, the Skoda is a huge amount of fun.

Skoda Octavia vRS: reliability and running costs


The Skoda Octavia vRS offers a combined fuel economy of 35.3mpg, although figures in the mid 40s aren’t uncommon on a long run. With CO2 emissions of 192g/km and tax band J, taxing the Octavia vRS will cost £265 per annum.

The availability of parts will not be an issue and there are number of excellent Volkswagen Group specialists who can service the car for less than that of a main dealer.

Skoda Octavia vRS: could I drive it every day?


Oh, absolutely. The Skoda Octavia vRS is an easy car to drive, with a simplicity that is lost on so many hot hatches. No driving modes to choose from, no concerns about all-round visibility, just a highly practical and immensely likeable performance hatchback. And if you demand more practicality, there’s also a Skoda Octavia vRS estate.

Back in the day, these cars were the motorway patrol car of choice for many police forces. The combination of supreme pace, space and the unknown quantity of a hot Skoda made for a brilliant unmarked cop car. It helped to springboard the vRS brand into the public domain.

Skoda Octavia vRS: how much should I pay?


Prices start from as little as £1,500, which represents tremendous value for money for such a high performance car. For that money, you’ll get an Octavia vRS with a six-figure mileage and part service history. Prices go as high as £3,000 for a really good example, but it’s worth noting the MK2 Octavia vRS can be secured for upwards of £3,500.

Buy on condition and service history, rather than age. Optional extras were few and far between, but it’s worth searching for cars with parking sensors (that’s a big boot when reversing), cruise control (to take advantage of long-distance credentials) and an electric sunroof.

Skoda Octavia vRS: what should I look out for?


The ever-excellent Briskoda forum offers an extensive Skoda Octavia vRS buying guide and that should be your first port of call if you’re considering a purchase. The belt and water pump should have been replaced every four years or 60,000 miles and you should check for signs of accident damage. This is a performance car, so it may have been used accordingly.

An engine misfire could be caused by a faulty coil pack, while water in the boot may be the result of a broken rear washer pipe. Better to wait for a cherished and much-loved example than to take a chance on a cheap vRS of questionable quality.

Skoda Octavia vRS: should I buy one?


If you’re looking for a practical, spacious and quick hot hatch with a difference, you must consider the Skoda Octavia vRS. Green brake callipers may not appeal to all, but Skoda deserves huge respect for transforming an everyday hatchback into such a purposeful-looking machine. You even get a smattering of vRS goodies on the inside, such as a vRS branded gearknob, vRS seats with white inserts and silver-rimmed instruments. There’s even an ASR traction control button…

Skoda Octavia vRS: pub fact


In 2002, Skoda launched the Octavia vRS WRC, built to celebrate 100 years of Skoda in motorsport. Only 100 were sold, of which 25 were right-hand drive cars offered to the UK.

At £20,700, they were more expensive than the standard vRS, but they did offer a host of extra features, including Candy white paint, WRC replica graphics, a numbered plaque, xenon headlights and heated front seats. A future classic in the making?