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Skoda Octavia RS to push value-add

Fresh-faced and with stronger engines, the new car arrives here in September along with a new-look Scout wagon.

The RS gets a contemporary look based on other models in the recently-released Octavia range.

But it hits harder with a different valance, fog lights, body-coloured trim and LED tail lights.

The punch is the choice of a 147kW direct petrol injection 2-litre turbo mated to either a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch or a six-speed manual transmission as Skoda moves closer to align drivetrains with parent Volkswagen.

Optional is a 125kW 2-litre turbo-diesel with the same transmission choices.

Skoda Australia boss Matthew Wiesner says the company's range in Australia is being tightened and adjusted to maximise appeal.

Speaking from the Czech Republic, he admits there are gaps in the range.

The Scout, which arrives in its new form in September, still has no automatic option.

"But its coming," says Wiesner.

"It's only available as a manual from the factory _ it is not sold anywhere as an automatic _ but we've been fighting for an auto on the basis that Australia is a special market that needs this option.

"Finally, there's clarity in the issue and I'd expect a DSG version perhaps within 12 months."

Modifying the Skoda line up has seen the workhorse 1.9-litre turbo-diesel dropped from the Octavia range.

The replacement as the entry-level model is the 1.6-litre petrol-engined sedan at $26,990 _ a price Weisner says gives entry into a price segment usually occupied by small cars.

Octavia models now come as a 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol and the 2-litre 103kW turbo-diesel.

The Roomster will be retained despite having a practically invisible road presence.

"We're looking at some ideas with Roomster," Wiesner says.

"It gets a face lift in mid-2010 and were prepared to persist because we see potential in this product.

"It is possible that sales will increase when we get Yeti because they would complement each other," he says of the Skoda small SUV that's earmarked for Australia. Yeti will join the upmarket Superb saloon as new entrants.

"Roomster is being bought by young people and retired people. It's very difficult to pinpoint it because its market is broad."

Wiesner says the Yeti wasn't being considered as just another product line. Rather, it will give Skoda entry into a younger demographic of buyers.

That would be assisted by the Yeti's two-wheel drive option _ it will come standard as an on-demand all-wheel drive _ that would offer the SUV package but at a reduced price. However, the 2WD could be seen as a future replacement for Roomster.

Wiesner says the Volkswagen Group was holding up well on global markets and Skoda was part of that modest success.

"Skoda has been helped in Europe because of the scrappage system which has helped new car sales, and also because of presence in China," he says.

"We're in a better position than some because we are under exposed in places like the US and Japan."

In Australia he says sales are steady, up 12 per cent for the year compared with the corresponding period in 2008.

"Hopefully we're growing on a wave," he says.