Skoda Octavia RS 2014 Review
Alistair Kennedy road tests and reviews the 2014 Skoda Octavia RS.
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Wagons are getting more interesting. Better styling and clever packaging have squashed the stereotype of basic family haulers. They’re not about to replace the lust-have status of the exotic supercars, but these days they can at least turn heads.
So we shouldn’t have been startled when a city cafe owner asked if our test car was the latest BMW -- or surprised when his interest didn’t wane on learning it was a Hyundai i40.
The mid-sized wagon is handsomely styled, and the Korean brand has worked hard on building a reputation for mainstream quality.
The i40 Tourer in Elite spec mates the petrol engine with a faux-manual auto transmission for is $39,490, with the kit list including shift paddles on a premium steering wheel, daytime running lights, ‘bending’ headlights, Bluetooth, cruise control, 17-in alloys wheels, alloy pedals, foglights, front and rear park assist, powered driver’s seat and rain-sensing wipers.
Ford’s rival is the 2.3-litre petrol Mondeo, which has a reasonable equipment list for about $6000 less than the i40, but misses out on those extras that add to the Hyundai’s appeal.
The cabin looks and feels more Spartan, too - but some buyers will see that as a good thing.
The petrol Mazda6 is also a prospect at about $4500 less, and matches a bit more equipment than the Mondeo (plus a bit more leather than the i40) but again misses out on those couple of the higher-end touches.
You can’t ignore the Skoda Octavia wagons, with the 118TSI coming in $3500 under the i40 and giving you turbocharged zip and decent equipment - including a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission - but only four-star safety. And it looks staid.
You can step up to the prettier-faced $42,290 Octavia RS and get quite a bit of dressed-up fit-out. Plus more performance from a 147kW turbo 2.0-litre. But while you might be overtaking everybody with ease, they’re still going to notice you’ve got an unshapely bum.
Perhaps LEDS are the new chrome. We’ve tried really hard to let the curvilinear running lights grow on us. But our design compass keeps turning away from them. They let you recognise the car from a postcode away, but the new body styling would have been enough by itself. And better by itself.
Apart from those lights, the front of the car looks great. But to keep it that way you’ll have to keep it away from savage driveway crossings, where the front fascia is at serious risk of harm.
The interior has strong hints of premium German brands – not surprising, since it was designed in the brand’s Frankfurt studio - and is well-stacked with equipment. But it was also overdone by a host of vodka-bar blue lights twinkling across the dash and steering wheel.
The petrol engine is an all-new direct-injection 2.0-litre developing 130kW of power and 213Nm of torque, with the official fuel figure for our auto claimed at 7.7 l/100km. We did just under 9L, but that included several hard runs back and forth over hills.
Hyundai had its in-house engineers work on the calibration for the electrically-driven power steering and MacPherson strut front/ multi-link rear suspension - aiming to get both right for Aussie conditions.
The i40 has earned a five-star ANCAP crash rating, and has a solid safety kit list that includes nine airbags, stability and traction control, and anti-skid brakes with brakeforce distribution to compensate for uneven loading and brake assist to add extra effort for panic stops.
The work done on the suspension has managed to chart a decent mid-course between ride comfort and controlled handling. There’s not quite a military tautness on corners, but it’s drilling in a scout’s uniform. The downside is that on extended runs over seamed or patchy surfaces it felt like it needed to relax a little more.
While the steering is reasonably-weighted and accurate, there’s less feeling of connection than most simulators. But that’s unlikely to worry the city driver crawling through the treacle of peak hour.
Nor is the petrol engine’s target market looking for spirited performance – for that extra effort, they’ll need to shell out for the diesel’s extra torque. If you want a bit of sparkle from the petrol engine, you can over-ride the economy focus of the transmission with the steering wheel’s shift paddles. That will up the fuel bill a bit, but it can also up the noise more than a bit if you’ve loaded the cabin. \
It’s a looker, but in petrol form not a dynamo driver. If you want a mid-sized family wagon that isn’t styled for the bowling club, the fit-out and packaging make it worth a test drive. But if you want more dash for your cash, your time is better spent testing the diesel.
|ACTIVE||1.7L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN||$8,999 – 17,990||2012 Hyundai I40 2012 ACTIVE Pricing and Specs|
|ELITE||1.7L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$11,950 – 14,990||2012 Hyundai I40 2012 ELITE Pricing and Specs|
|PREMIUM||1.7L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$13,800 – 16,990||2012 Hyundai I40 2012 PREMIUM Pricing and Specs|
|ACTIVE||1.7L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$8,999 – 17,990||2012 Hyundai I40 2012 ACTIVE Pricing and Specs|