Overall rating: 4/5
In the new Octavia RS 230 reviewed here, Skoda has addressed any shortcomings that track day aficionados might find in a regular RS with the addition of an electronically controlled limited-slip differential and an extra 10hp. For others the enhanced and more assertive styling will be a deciding factor, but with such a low price premium, few may now settle for the regular Octavia RS.
In the Metal:
In the past, the relatively discreet styling of the Skoda Octavia RS helped make it somewhat of a cult icon. The latest generation RS stands out a little bit more from the crowd, but there's no mistaking this new RS 230 model. The single most eye-catching feature is the new 19-inch 'Extreme' alloy wheel design. These black rims have a machined aluminium face to them that at first glance looks almost petal-like. Their finish is lovely, but will undoubtedly strike fear into owners' hearts when entering a tight multi-storey car park.
Other styling features unique to the RS 230 include a rear spoiler painted in black, plus gloss back for the radiator grille, door mirror housings and tail pipes. In the case of the Combi estate, there are also black roof rails. The brake callipers are finished in red paint to help them stand out from behind those new wheels too. Inside the cabin very supportive sports seats feature contrasting red stitching, which also features on the gear selector, handbrake and multifunction steering wheel. The car's on-board computer gains a new lap timer function too.
Our driving time with the car was limited to a few laps of a race track, but it did give us an opportunity to really push the Octavia RS 230 to its limits. Thanks to some mild tuning and a reworked ECU the engine produces an additional 10hp, which on track at least is welcome, but in everyday driving few will notice the difference over the standard Octavia RS. In the case of the manual model it's enough to make it the first ever Skoda to be electronically limited to 250km/h, while the automatic tops out at 249km/h. The bigger news here is the fitment of a new electronically controlled limited-slip differential to the front axle, which gives the Skoda much cleaner traction when powering out of corners and seems to eradicate any semblance of understeer.
With the car's driving mode set to 'Sport' rather than 'Normal' the reworked exhaust has even more flavour to it and its cracks and pops on upshifts and downshifts, which serves only to urge you on further. Crucially though, it isn't overly loud and when driven less spiritedly it should remain a discreet enough car when driving through town. The petrol TSI engine feels every bit as torquey as the diesel and comes with a much sweeter engine note too. Its DSG automatic transmission isn't best suited to track work, even in Sport mode, but its shifts are seamless whether you choose to do them manually or leave it to the car.
The single most overriding observation from spending a day on track with the RS 230 is just how much smoother the car now feels under heavy acceleration. Provided you aren't already past the limits of tyre adhesion the Skoda just puts down the power with such ease out of corners that you can't help but be impressed by it. The Performance Pack offered on the Volkswagen Golf GTI transformed that car and although we only drove the Skoda on track, we feel that the new differential on this RS 230 could make it a seriously rapid point-to-point car over a free flowing mountain road.
What you get for your Money:
At first glance, you might think that somebody in Skoda's product office has made a mistake on the pricing. At €35,995 for the Octavia RS 230 hatch the price premium over its regular Octavia RS sibling is just €620 in the case of the manual or €865 if you go for the DSG automatic transmission. When you consider that you get larger and better looking 19-inch alloy wheels, the black styling kit mentioned above and an electronic limited-slip differential it is a bit of a no-brainer as to what model you should buy. Especially when you consider that Volkswagen charges €1,330 for its Performance Pack and it doesn't even give as much as all that. The Octavia RS 230 looks to be the one to buy.
The Skoda Octavia RS as an overall package represents a very well-rounded piece of kit. The styling of the new 230 model will appeal to those that are a little more extrovert, while the enhancement of the driving performance thanks to the small increase in power and provision of an electronically controlled limited-slip differential make the car feel that bit more polished. The fact that is costs so little extra is the real reason to tick the '230' box if you're contemplating an Octavia RS purchase.