2009 Skoda Octavia RS TDI DSG Review & Road Test
Grunty, grippy and great - but will it grab you?
- 2009 Skoda Octavia RS TDI DSG - $41,790
- Metallic Paint $630
- Words and photography by Karl Peskett
"The old judge a book by its cover trick." Well, in this case it's the old judge a car by its badge trick.
It's unfortunate that some people don't even give Skoda a second glance. They're missing out. I guess the problem is that some of them do look a little dated, but the freshen up to the Octavia range has certainly improved that, although it is minor.
But it's under the skin that you realise that the Octavia is actually a decent bit of gear. You see, the basis of the car is, of course, a Golf, and at 2575mm, they even share the same wheelbase.
But enough of the Volkswagen speak. This is Skoda, and it will stand on its own two feet, or should that be four wheels, in Australia.
With that in mind, we managed to grab the last performance variant of the Octavia before it was upgraded. Diesel is the go these days, and when you look at the direction in which most European companies are heading, oil-burning performance flagships are all the rage these days.
It's this reason that caused Skoda to take the excellent 2.0-litre diesel from the Golf GT, add a DSG gearbox to it, and hey presto, you've got yourself a quick and practical little beastie.
When we say quick, the figures don't actually show the mid range grunt this engine has. It's really in its stride from around 2500rpm, and if you're on it in third gear from 80km/h upwards, the thing pushes you in the back in a way that makes you sit up and take notice. So does the traffic you're passing, too.
It just doesn't let up, thanks to the brilliant DSG which ensures that each change drops the revs right into the sweet spot, where that lovely surge of torque will continue that forward momentum in an unfussed but unhindered fashion.
It's also quiet, too. Sauntering around the 'burbs, you'll find a pleasant growl, and minimal vibration. The clatter at idle is heavily muted, but it's the common-rail technology and engine balancing that ensures that passengers won't ask when you next need to service your Massey-Fergusson.
The seats also make for comfy cruising, with very good bolstering and a slightly firm base. Despite the use of several materials, the overall look is sporty, but never over the top.
Rear seat passengers won't find things quite as comfortable, as the bench is very hard, with little give. Some softer padding, and a little more shaping would be nice, but then, if it's kids you're carting, they're likely to not care.
It's a credit to the VW group that such a spacious car can be made from something as small as a Golf platform. With that wheelbase though, don't expect rear legroom to be Camry-like.
But the boot is quite simply enormous. A massive 560 litres has been achieved by a simple rethink of the standard boot-lid. With a liftback approach, where the entire rear glass opens as well, rather than a standard sedan's boot, the opening is as big as you'd like. I'm sure it echoes when you put something in it - the space is brilliant.
Steering is typical VW, meaning nice weight, but not a lot of genuine feel, compared with hydraulic systems. It's reasonably direct though, and responds well most of the time, the exception being in tight wheel twirling where it loads up a little too much.
This is probably in part due to the wide tyres fitted to the 18-inch rims. Of course being reasonably low profile, you expect the ride to suffer a little, and it does, with a fair amount of stiffness, but at least it's tight and never crashy.
There's the slight snatching from the brakes shared with every Golf, but you do learn to modulate your pedal pressure to account for it. They do get a little hot when extremely pushed, too, so keep an eye out for that one.
The handling is also pretty good, but being a bigger car based on the Golf platform, it does have its limits, and understeer will result if pushed too far. For the most part, it's a competent steerer that allows you to feel engaged when pressing on.
For most commuters, it's all they'd ever need. That's really the brief of this car, too. It's a spacious and fun car to drive, it excels in returning very good economy but not at the expense of power.
Where else can you go to get a car that's built as well as this, gives you 6.0 litres per 100km, does 0-100km/h in around 8.0 seconds, with a 560-litre boot, seats five, and is priced under $42,000?
It's a decent formula which if any other badge was on it would sell by the truckload. Are Australians a bunch of badge snobs? Let's hope not, because they'll be the ones missing out.
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