Good: restrained yet purposeful looks, composed and engaging chassis, quality
Not so good: at idle and low speeds it feels ordinary
If you follow the antics of the CompleteCar.ie team via our social media streams you'll know that we had a stand at the 2013 Irish Festival of Speed in Limerick where we had six of the latest and most interesting new cars to arrive in Ireland on display for everyone to have a good look around - without anyone trying to sell them anything. The Skoda Octavia RS Combi you see pictured here was one of those cars and despite it being the only estate and in fact the only diesel car (most others were petrol hot hatches) it was one of the most talked about vehicles we had. In fact, I reckon we could have taken a few deposits for Skoda!
It was a sign that people really get the RS brand and that it matters little if it's plastered to the back of a diesel estate. But this car is way more than just a successful marketing exercise; it's one of the best driver's cars to launch in Ireland this year. Hear me out.
While taking the photographs you see here, near Glendalough in Wicklow, we had the new Volkswagen Golf GTI along too and the Octavia felt just as good to drive on really challenging mountain roads. If anything it excelled due to the extra comfort and stability brought about by its longer wheelbase. True, there's no substitute for chasing the redline in a good petrol-powered car, but the 2.0-litre TDI engine is so well endowed with torque that it feels fast all of the time, without having to test the outer reaches of the rev counter. Saying that, it is worth holding out to change up until well above 3,000rpm, as the engine comes alive around its peak power point. Nonetheless, what truly shone through on these roads was the damping and body control; it's an exceptional car in which to cover ground quickly and enjoyably.
And yet, load the (cavernous) boot up with luggage and the rear seats with kids and the Octavia plays the family estate as well as any other in the line-up. It's economical too, even when driven 'spiritedly'.
But the benefits go beyond the driving experience and the decent economy, as the Octavia RS is specified in a manner befitting its place at the top of the Octavia line-up. Hence it comes with a lovely set of bespoke sports seats and a tactile steering wheel trimmed in perforated leather. These and other bits and pieces lift the cabin ambience to levels only the likes of the aforementioned Volkswagen Golf can compete with. Speaking of which, we can't think of any proper rivals. What other decently-sized family estate drives this well, is this economical and costs less than €35,000?
Audi A4 Avant: Skoda trounces it in terms of performance-per-Euro and is almost on a par in terms of quality.
BMW 3 Series Touring: a little better to drive than the Skoda, but you need to spend an extra €10,000 to get the same performance.
Ford Focus ST Estate: the only other compact performance estate car we could think of, and it's not even officially sold in Ireland.