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Skoda Octavia RS TDI (2021) review: 4.0/5

Does the diesel version of the Skoda Octavia RS still appeal, now that there's a plug-in hybrid version, too?

Shane O' Donoghue

Words: Shane O' Donoghue - @Shane_O_D
Pics: Paddy McGrath - @pmcgphotos

Published on: August 5, 2021

Words: Shane O' Donoghue - @Shane_O_D
Pics: Paddy McGrath - @pmcgphotos

Published on: August 5, 2021

Tech Specs

Model testedSkoda Octavia RS TDI DSG
Irish pricing€42,995
Engineturbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine
Transmissionseven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat hatchback
CO2 emissions131g/km
Irish motor tax€210 per annum
Combined economy56.5mpg (5.0 litres/100km)
Top speed249km/h
0-100km/h7.4 seconds
Power200hp at 3,600-4,100rpm
Torque400Nm at 1,750-3,500rpm
Boot space600-1,555 litres
Towing1,600kg max braked capacity
SafetyEuro NCAP rating for Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia RS overview

A clear sign of the importance of the RS models to the Skoda Octavia range is the speed with which they've been launched, swiftly after the introduction of the fourth-generation Octavia in 2020. Things are a little different this time around, however, as the Octavia RS will, for the first time ever, be offered with three discrete powertrains, including a new plug-in hybrid option.

You can read our first drive of the Octavia RS iV here, and we expect it to attract a lot of interest, too, making the purely petrol model all but redundant on these shores. The TDI diesel always outsold that in any case, so the big question is, does the updated RS TDI still make sense to Irish buyers?

Skoda Octavia RS model range

The most expensive of the new Skoda Octavia RS line-up is that purely petrol version, at €46,265. It gets a turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine, making healthy outputs of 245hp and 370Nm. It's the fastest accelerating off the line, with a 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds, though it has the highest CO2 emissions, at 158g/km.

The plug-in hybrid, badged RS iV, also makes up to 245hp, along with 400Nm. Those figures are produced when this Octavia's turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and 85kW electric motor work together. It's nearly 90kg heavier than the petrol model, which helps explain its less-impressive 7.3-second 0-100km/h time.

However, its CO2 emissions rating is just 25g/km because of its ability to run purely on electric power for about 60km, so it has a different set of talents. And it's worth bearing in mind that the RS iV is €45,540 before the SEAI grant, so it undercuts the petrol version.

Finally, we come to the RS TDI, as tested here. It costs €42,995, so in reality it'll be a toss-up between the diesel and the plug-in hybrid for most Octavia RS buyers.

Buyers can have any of the RS drivetrains in either five-door hatchback or Combi estate formats, the latter attracting a premium of about €1,500, depending on engine.

For now, all versions of the RS sold in Ireland used DSG twin-clutch automatic gearboxes and send their power to the front wheels. Other markets have begun to introduce manual gearboxes and, if the previous Octavia RS is anything to go by, there will be the option to upgrade to four-wheel drive, too.

Skoda Octavia RS interior

The RS-specific cabin will be enough to convince many buyers to move up from the regular Octavia, as it's a significant step up in terms of ambience without any reduction in the model's renowned practicality.

Immediately obvious are the massive RS sports seats up front. They get a significant amount of bolstering, plus a part-leather finish that is unique to this model. Our test car featured the optional electric adjustment upgrade, though heated front seats are standard.

Complementing those is a tactile sports steering wheel trimmed in leather and a suede-like dashboard insert that both add to the look and feel of the interior. Look closer and you'll find 'carbon/black' trim accents, special floor mats, RS door sill covers, LED ambient lighting and alloy pedals in the driver's footwell.

The Octavia RS gets the 10-inch 'Columbus' touchscreen infotainment system. Other than a slow boot up on starting the car, it works well enough, though thankfully Skoda has included physical shortcut buttons for accessing its main functions. There's also digital instrumentation with selectable views for the layout of the speedo, etc.

Between the front seats, ahead of the new nub-like drive selector, there's a wireless phone charger and two USB-C ports. Another can be found in the rear-view mirror, designed to be used with dashcams etc. There is another pair of USB-C ports in the back, along with air vents and storage pockets in the backs of the front seats.

There's good legroom in the back, too, in the outer seats at least. Those are more heavily sculpted, as well, though the centre position isn't too narrow to rule it out entirely. Nonetheless, passengers have to contend with the relatively high 'transmission tunnel' hump in the middle of the floor.

There are ISOFIX child seat locations in the outer two positions, and another in the front passenger seat.

The Octavia's boot is simply massive, holding 600 litres at a minimum, or up to 1,555 litres if you fold the rear seat backs down.

Skoda Octavia RS driving experience

Fake engine noise is not a new thing for the Octavia RS brand, but it's still a little strange to find that it's switched on by default in the TDI model. It's amusing to begin with, but I suspect most, like me, will soon look for a way to turn it off. That can be done in the Individual mode or if you choose the Eco setting.

That's the only driving mode in which the Octavia 'coasts' with its engine off, incidentally, as it ekes out as much as it can from each litre of diesel. We managed 6.1 litres/100km over mixed driving, though without a long motorway journey or much use of that Eco mode. You can expect a good deal better at a cruise.

But this is the RS model, and buyers may want to know how the Octavia handles. Well, in a word, or rather, up to a point. The TDI version isn't good enough at its limits to be considered a truly engaging hot hatch, but it's still incredibly capable by any measure.

In spite of the thin sidewalls of the 19-inch Pirelli tyres, this car is not at all uncomfortable, and its body and wheel control on bumpy roads are exceptionally good. In the dry, those tyres give great feedback through the steering and loads of grip, too, with plenty of traction at the front wheels. The rear of the car is a little inert to be considered sporty, but it's undoubtedly an efficient way to cover ground quickly and safely.

Skoda's latest 2.0-litre TDI engine is a bit of a gem, as well, putting out solid figures of 200hp and 400Nm of torque. The latter means you don't ever need to work the DSG automatic yourself and indeed, if you do, the engine is so smooth that you can all too easily let it run into its rev limiter. The dual-clutch gearbox changes are slick, whether you're using the paddles behind the wheel or leaving it to its own devices.

In normal driving, there's no issues with the well-modulated brakes, though we did experience some fade on the way down a challenging mountain road on a hot day, which is less than ideal. Especially as many will consider this car for towing.

Alternatives to the Skoda Octavia RS

Sporty diesels aren't massively common on the Irish market in this sector right now. The Golf GTD is an obvious place to start, but it's surprisingly much more expensive than the Octavia. The BMW 120d M Sport isn't a bad option, though it's a little more expensive and nowhere near as spacious inside as the Octavia. Same story for the Mercedes A 220 d AMG Line.

Our verdict on the Skoda Octavia RS TDI

Fans of the Skoda Octavia RS formula that have always gone for the diesel option, due to its low running costs, have a lot to think about. The plug-in hybrid Octavia RS iV is likely to tick a lot of boxes for those buyers, especially for anyone that can easily charge up the battery at home or at work. And with one eye on the future, there's a strong argument in favour of going the part-electric route.

Nonetheless, if you want the Octavia RS mix of space, performance and sporting image, but still need hassle-free long-distance frugality, it's hard to beat the diesel option. It'll be a comfort to know that it's a better car than ever.



Tech Specs

Model testedSkoda Octavia RS TDI DSG
Irish pricing€42,995
Engineturbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine
Transmissionseven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door, five-seat hatchback
CO2 emissions131g/km
Irish motor tax€210 per annum
Combined economy56.5mpg (5.0 litres/100km)
Top speed249km/h
0-100km/h7.4 seconds
Power200hp at 3,600-4,100rpm
Torque400Nm at 1,750-3,500rpm
Boot space600-1,555 litres
Towing1,600kg max braked capacity
SafetyEuro NCAP rating for Skoda Octavia