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Anyone who thinks they can't have their cake and eat it too hasn't been paying attention recently. Australian new car buyers are a spoilt bunch, with so much choice and sharp pricing (in some segments). Among the better spoiler brands is Skoda.
The new Octavia in its wagon guise makes the most of its VW parent's clever powerplants and platforms. We're having wheel time in the RS turbo diesel wagon.
Getting into the RS 135 TDI with a six-speed twin-clutch automated manual will demand $39,790. The wagon variant adds $1350.
It's the top-spec Octavia and there's plenty on the features list - 18-inch alloys (but a space-saver spare), touchscreen (with clever proximity sensors) satnav and infotainment with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, SD card slots and a 64GB hard drive to store the music to feed eight speakers.
Also on the list are dual-zone climate control with rear vents, power-adjustable and heated mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals and trip computer with speed readout between the dials.
There are 12V sockets in the luggage compartment and centre console, cup and bottle holders front and rear, ambient lighting and reading lights front and rear.The wagon also gets a load-through port, split folding rear seat backrest (60-40) with remote release and hooks for load restraint. The test car's optional panoramic glass sunroof is not ideal for this climate.
Ride height is a little (13mm) lower than the standard Octavia wagon, which is wider and longer than the predecessor. It's conservatively handsome, with beefed-up front air intakes and mild exterior tweaks to differentiate it from the mainstream range.
Chrome trim, RS badges, red brake calipers and black rear diffuser all say sports wagon to passers-by. Front occupants are under no illusions either, seated in 'tombstone" style sports pews with cloth and pseudo leather trim.
The seats are a little more comfortable than first impressions suggest but could do with more lateral support. Behind the wheel with its ancillary controls, the driver can use the manual seat height adjustment to provide a decent driving position.
Rear occupants might not get the width of a larger car's cabin but legroom certainly benefits from extra wheelbase. There's more headroom, too, and 588L of bootspace is above average for the segment.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Diesels and sporting intent are a new-ish combination in Australia and the RS is among the leading examples.
It's not as swift as its petrol sibling in some respects but the reasonably quiet and punchy 2.0-litre turbo diesel (135kW/ 380Nm) is a likable powerplant, with clever engine cooling, high-pressure direct injection and start-stop and brake energy recuperation gear to save fuel.
It claims a sprint to 100km/h in 8.3 seconds on the way to a 228km/h top speed. It's a gentle fuel sipper. Volkswagen's combined-cycle claim of 5.3L/100km is credible, given our time in the RS yielded 7.3L, include as much highway time as the laboratory figure allows.
There are five stars from the ANCAP crew. The RS has nine airbags - front, front and rear side, full-length curtain and driver's knee.
An easy family hauler, the Octavia RS TDI wagon easily slots into the duties required of it. On the quieter end of the noise scale for four-cylinder diesels, it doesn't mind a rev toward peak power but the solid spread of torque is well applied by the DSG. Slipping through traffic at a proactive pace isn't going to increase the thirst outrageously either.
Ride quality on broken bitumen is a little sharpish, thanks to low-profile rubber, but it's rarely jarring; bigger undulations don't confound the Czech either. Brisker back-road blasts are well within this load-lugger's scope of operations as well, perhaps at a less frenetic pace than its petrol sibling and in a different mindset.
Mid-range mumbo replaces full-throttle work, leaving the clever gearbox and even-smarter front end to work through the corners quelling wheel spin and keep torque steer well below the thresholds of being an issue.
Solid brakes are tucked beneath the 18-inch alloys and the whole package offers understated ability, reflecting the low-key styling. The cabin is a reasonably comfortable place to dwell, with an infotainment system that packs a punch through the speakers and is for the most part easy to use - just don't expect a normal USB cable connection for an iPhone to play through anything other than the Bluetooth connection.
|103 TSI Ambition||1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$10,950 – 10,999||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 103 TSI Ambition Pricing and Specs|
|103 TSI Ambition Plus||1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$10,950 – 19,780||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 103 TSI Ambition Plus Pricing and Specs|
|103 TSI Elegance||1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$12,760 – 17,050||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 103 TSI Elegance Pricing and Specs|
|110 TDI Elegance||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$15,490 – 16,980||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 110 TDI Elegance Pricing and Specs|