Plush estate gains 170kg of hybrid gear in PHEV guise. Can it live up to its badge?
By Sam Sheehan / Sunday, January 24, 2021 / Loading comments
If you read Matt’s review last month, you’ll know the latest 245hp Octavia vRS builds on its predecessor’s reputation for practicality and functionality. It suggests the vRS iV and its more efficient – but no less powerful – plug-in hybrid powertrain could threaten more premium rivals. It looks great outside after all, has decent on-paper performance and supposedly averages many, many miles per gallon without even trying. What’s not to love?
Erm. Weight. With 170kg of batteries and electric motor aboard, the vRS iV Estate is 3kg off 1.8 tonnes. For a car based off a C-segment hatch, that’s undeniably podgy, even with its 2.0-litre engine swapped out for a 1.4-litre petrol unit, powering the front wheels in tandem with a 115hp electric motor and 13kWh lithium-ion battery. The car is said to deliver 62mph in 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 137mph; plenty, you might think, if your aspirations are limited to carting the family about.
Inside, nothing changes, with the same rather snazzy interior as the pure-petrol car. The symmetrical dash design, with its vRS carbonfibre blade separating Alcantara with soft touch plastics, high-res and widescreen infotainment system, and visually impressive instrument cluster is all rather lovely. I even like the soft mood lighting of the cabin, and the fabric sports seats look as good as they feel. Save for some of the switchgear issues Matt mentioned, it’s hard to find fault with the cabin at all – and that’s true whether you’re a front or back seat passenger. The £1,175 optional panoramic sunroof fitted to our car (not pictured) adds a nice airy feel to it, too.
Even the boot of the iV Estate remains practical despite losing 150 litres of storage space to the lithium-ion battery and the area need to store both charge cables – one being an EV quick charger and the other compatible with domestic plugs. There's 490 litres of usable space with the seats up, competitive for the class, and with the seats down it extends to 1,555 litres. The iV Estate’s flat boot floor arguably makes it easier to load big things, too, like this tester’s push bike, which slotted in sideways with room to spare. The flat access means it could be rolled out without any lifting.
Good things abound, really. The vRS comes packed with standard assistance kit, including an electric tailgate and adaptive cruise. Visibility is very good, aided by the standard-fit all-round parking sensors, and the £475 winter pack fitted to this car means you experience the chill of January in Britain only through the windscreen. Like the 2.0-litre model Matt drove, the iV Estate feels secure, dependable and very comfortable on the move. Motorway miles dissolve.
Presumably due to the extra weight, Skoda doesn’t equip the vRS iV with the 15mm lower suspension fitted to the pure-petrol car, so it rides more conventionally and with less intent. While the added weight is low in the car, this setup means the car does lean and pitch when you’re quick with the controls, although it never feels aloof. The car rolls on its centre line, but the damping tenses well enough and keeps the car from wallowing or rebounding back and forth. It means you’re forever aware of the mass, without being enraged by it.
That being said, this is not a vRS to attack corners at full pelt. Grip levels are high and the car’s front end responds eagerly enough, but physics are not on its side. Then there’s the powertrain itself, which after an initial shove of electric oomph gathers speed in a linear, decidedly unexciting manner. Speed piles on all right, and it’s easy to keep up that momentum (like a juggernaut), but everything happens in one-note fashion. The hybrid glides away from bends, rather than scurrying excitably out of them.
It does sail along the motorway though, its battery display confirming 13.3kwh per 100km at 70mph, while averaging 76.8mpg. But you'll need to keep that battery charged to enjoy the advantages – and probably include some city driving in full EV mode to see the plus-100mpg quoted. Skoda claims 37 miles of all-electric range, helped along by regenerative hardware that recovers energy when you brake. Otherwise, the car coasts without resistance like a normal auto.
And with a full battery, that’s where the vRS iV’s strengths lie. Leave it in hybrid auto mode and you likely won't need to alter your driving style to double the petrol vRS’s fuel economy. It'll probably keep those fleet managers which have turned their noses up at the diesel variant happy. But you won't be having much fun. Pleasant details aside, there’s nothing about the car which feels particularly sporting. That won't concern the fleet managers, of course – and the Octavia is plenty quick enough if your expectations lowered to lardy plug-in hybrid. For anyone buying a vRS to be a vRS, though, stick with the lighter, faster, lower version. Or the TDI.
SPECIFICATION | SKODA OCTAVIA VRS IV ESTATE
Engine: 1,484cc, turbocharged four-cylinder plus electric motor
Transmission: 6-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 245@5,000-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@1,550-3,500rpm
Top speed: 139mph
Price: £36,280 (as tested: £38,995, with £45 driver fatigue sensor, £1,175 panoramic sunroof, £1,020 travel assist pack, £435 winter pack)
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