SKODA'S new RS range has moved quickly to pique the interest with the manufacturer noting the surprisingly popularity of the wagon in particular.
The RS, like the rest of the Octavia range, shares its underpinnings with cousins Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf and adds a range of high-tech quality inclusions to bolster its tag as a value-for-money proposition.
The wagon is available in a 2.0-litre petrol auto and manual powered by the same unit that does duty in the Volkswagen Golf GTI or a 2.0-litre turbo diesel offered in auto only. The new Octavia DS wagon is bigger, sits lower, is more powerful and much more economical than the model it replaces.
The interior of RS wagon shows a distinct family resemblance to Volkswagen and Audi with a simple but highly functional modern design.
It is a tad too dark for me but the quality is good with sturdy buttons and dials and textured soft-touch plastics even though the latter seems to be easily scuffed.
The RS emblem adds a dash of colour to the seats, mats, gear shift, door sill plates and a three-spoke steering wheel that is chunky and comfortable under hand. Integrated sports seats, available in optional Alcantara leather, are easy to adjust and long enough under the thigh and across the shoulders to offer real everyday support.
Storage options are reasonable, helped of course by a cooled glovebox although, as is the case in most European cars, the door bins are designed for smaller than standard bottles.
This RS wagon is longer and wider than its predecessor adding more substance to the generous legroom.
You can seat three comfortably in the back pew even with two car seats in attendance and at 588 litres the cargo hold is deliciously substantial. There are some bag hooks back there too to help you bring home the shopping in one piece as well as a boot lid strap to facilitate easy closing.
On the road
Our test car, the diesel powered RS 135 was, without hedging bets, a keen and accomplished drive.
It proved capable in delivering driver comfort, doing the little things well with excellent balance around corners especially in mid-turn and little understeer. Handling is good even if the steering could do with a little more feel and the sports suspension does do its bit to ensure a more spirited drive.
The RS wagon is poised and controlled under pressure, sure-footed around the city and very easy to manoeuvre but you do tend to feel the odd bump. It is probably not as punchy as we would like but power delivery is smooth rather than jerky and at speed it is both willing and able.
You do have the option of steering paddles but we found they could be a bit patchy and you are best to leave the DSG transmission to its own devices. Braking is good, almost instant rather than wishy washy, offering the driver another measure of confidence. Interestingly, the RS wagon is quieter than you would think, which is great inside the car, but not so good if you want to show its sporty performance credentials.
What do you get?
As we have come to expect from Skoda and their value-for-money commitment, equipment levels are high.
Standard inclusions feature rain-sensing wipers and auto headlights, cruise control, 20cm infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone air-con and bi-xenon front and LED rear lights.
Five-star safety comes courtesy of nine airbags, ABS brakes with stability and traction control as well as hill hold control.
You can also opt for the Tech package which includes adaptive cruise control, city brake and front brake assist, auto park assist, keyless entry and reverse camera.
Lines here are blurred because not only does the Octavia RS wagon straddle the line between small and medium there are also not many sporty wagons around in this price range.
Buyers may also be looking at the Holden Berlina Sportwagon (from $45,490), Volvo V60 T5 wagon (from $55,890) or perhaps even the Audi A4 2.0 Avant Quattro (from $67,500) and the Mercedes-Benz C200 wagon (from $63,400).
Skoda's figures for the 135TDI stand at 5.3 litres/100km with the petrol 162TSI a bit thirstier at 6.6L/100km. Our real-world figures had our diesel wagon closer to 7.3L/100km which is still acceptable in our book.
Space, space, space is what buyers want from wagons and that's what you will get here - in spades.
The fact that the Octavia RS also has some performance credentials simply sweetens the deal.
A little more power wouldn't go astray though and neither would a reverse camera either as standard or as an option on its own without the whole Tech package.
Skoda has carried its RS philosophy to the exterior of this wagon but in a fairly understated way.
Sleek lines, a trademark honeycomb grille and a lowered stance on 18-inch alloys help create a sporty feel that is enhanced by an aerodynamic boot spoiler, a stand-out double chrome exhaust and LED running lights.
The Octavia RS wagon may not scream "look at me" but it has a refreshing air of confidence.
What matters most
What we liked: Value for money, comfortable drive, versatility, sporting looks.
What we'd like to see: Reverse camera as standard, a bit more punch and sportier sound.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited km warranty which can be extended for two more years with capped-price servicing for the first six services, average price is $423. Service intervals are at 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Skoda Octavia RS 135TDI Wagon.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small/medium wagon.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder direct-injection turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 135kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 3800Nm between 1750-3000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed DSG automatic.
Consumption: 5.3 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $41,140 ($37,840 for TSI manual)
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