Volkswagen Golf hatchback 2013 review
In a good year, the Golf GTI accounts for every fifth Golf sold due to Australia's outsized appetite for performance variants.
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A Golf GTI in family car form. What's not to like? Well, try a glaring safety omission Skoda may be one of the five oldest automotive nameplates in the world, dating back to 1905, but it's still new to most Australians.
Asked what a Skoda is, most people still don't even know it's a car. Re-established here in late 2007 after a takeover by German giant Volkswagen in 2000, the Czech brand still struggles for wider acceptance in the world's most competitive new-car market. Skoda's new model onslaught was put on hold during the global financial crisis and we're finally starting to see some fresh metal.
The new Octavia (a sharply priced mid‒sized sedan based on the underpinnings of the latest VW Golf) arrived in November and is the company's bread and butter, accounting for more than one-third of sales. Which makes the recently arrived Octavia RS the cream of the line-up.
Powered by the very same turbocharged engine used in the Golf GTI hot hatch, the Octavia RS — available in sedan and wagon — fills the niche for those who need a little more space or versatility.Or you can have it as a diesel. Oh, and did we mention it's about $5000 cheaper than a Golf GTI?
Skoda has sharpened the price, placing the RS closer to the heavily (but discreetly) discounted transaction prices that were taking place any way to keep the cars moving off the showroom floor. The starting price of $36,490 plus on-road costs undercuts the Golf GTI, with which it shares its underbody, engine, transmission and brakes (all the important bits).
For that price it is also surprisingly well-equipped, with nine airbags, bi‒xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail‒lights, touchscreen navigation system, sporty leather steering wheel and 18‒inch alloy wheels. Your jaw may drop but there are a few caveats. That price is for the manual.
The six-speed DSG twin-clutch auto adds $2300 (to $38,790) and the premium for the wagon is $1350, bringing the price to $40,140 for the most popular choice, a five-door with DSG. This is still enormously attractive but the second biggest cost after buying a car is depreciation. And Skoda still takes a bigger hit than the better-known brands.
Octavia RS is worth just 46 per cent of its purchase price after three years (other cars typically retain 55 to 65 per cent of their value) if it's in pristine condition with low kilometres and has a perfect service history. Hopefully the sharper RRP will eventually equate to a higher percentage of retained value for the new model.
Skoda now has capped-price servicing, and it runs for six years (when most others expire after the factory warranty, typically three years). But it's a mixed blessing. It's fantastic that Skoda can establish peace of mind for a buyer but it definitely does not come cheap.
The first service (all intervals are 12 months or 15,000km) is almost bearable at $400 but it climbs to $570 the following year, dips to $482 after that — and then comes the ice-cream headache (also known as the four-year/60,000km service) with a bill for $1207 (including $1037 for the service plus $48 for a pollen filter and $122 for brake fluid which, conspicuously, Skoda does not bundle in the headline pricing for the capped-servicing costs on its website).
The RS also insists on 98 RON premium petrol. So you need to factor that into your running costs. The other expense worth keeping in mind: Skoda's factory-backed extended warranty, for $1650, takes the coverage to five years. We strongly recommend this.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
We reckon the RS/GTI's 2.0-litre direct injection turbo four is excellent; a sophisticated and efficient engine that outguns most old-world V6s while using considerably less fuel.
The Skoda also shares the GTI's very direct steering — two turns lock to lock — and the same electronic control of the front axle that in hard cornering brakes the wheel with least traction. Given the petrol car's performance and economy, the virtue of the 2.0 TDI turbo diesel seems marginal even with its 135kW/380Nm and slightly better fuel consumption.
The new Octavia's sharp lines have been enhanced with a bolder front bumper, bigger wheels and a larger rear wing (on sedan and wagon alike). Inside, the snug sports seats come with red stitching (leather is an option) and quite cool‒ looking faux carbon-fibre highlights in the door trims. We tested the sedan and wagon versions, but the wagon is understandably more popular (70 per cent of RS sales) with its cavernous cargo carrying ability.
Nine airbags makes the Skoda Octavia one of the safest vehicles in its class, and for the price. A five-star ANCAP rating understandably follows. But there is still room for improvement. Skoda has wisely fitted front and rear parking sensors as standard to all models but a rear-view camera is not available until the updated model year 2015 versions arrive in August and even then it has been bundled in a technology pack including radar cruise control and emergency braking that is likely to cost close to $3000
Skoda says it will consider making the camera a stand-alone option. Given the high rate of driveway deaths and serious injuries nationally, we hope Skoda makes it standard as soon as possible. Rear camera and rear parking sensors are now standard on even the most basic $20,700 Toyota Corolla sedan.
The petrol RS drives just like you imagine a car with the VW Golf GTI's DNA would. With the iconic hot hatch's heart and soul (if not the body) the Octavia RS drives better than any wagon deserves to. It steers sharply, brakes superbly and the sports suspension, although busy over bumps, is not bone-jarring or nauseating.
The turbo petrol engine's broad spread of power provides ample acceleration across the rev range, and the DSG auto is a smooth operator save for the slight hesitation in stop-start traffic, a trait of the gearbox design.
We also sampled the 2.0-litre turbodiesel but, take it from us, unless you're doing mostly long distance highway driving, give it a miss. The diesel engine is heavier over the front wheels, not as nice to drive around bends, not as comfortable over bumps and, with the advancements in petrol-engine technology, not much more economical. Little wonder it accounts for only 10 per cent of RS sales.
On the preview drive on the Snowy Mountains Highway this week the Continental tyres were noisy on some coarse-chip surfaces. But the trade-off in grip more than made up for the noise.
There was also some unusual wind noise coming from the windscreen from about 90km/h and above. Such a noise — and it happened on more than one vehicle — is uncommon in modern cars. Perhaps it was more pronounced because the engine and exhaust are so quiet, especially compared with the Golf GTI. Clearly, some things are still sacred for Volkswagen's hot hatch.
If you want a car that's fun to drive but need practicality, the Octavia RS is the thinking person's hot hatch. Just be sure to negotiate a sharp price, because you'll get stung with a weak resale value when it comes time to sell.
Skoda Octavia RS
Price: from $43,000 (est)
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo (162kW/350Nm), 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel (135kW/350Nm)
Transmission: 6-speed man, 6-speed twin-clutch auto; FWD
Thirst: 5.0L-7.0L/100km (est)
|103 TSI Ambition||1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$6,700 – 10,450||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 103 TSI Ambition Pricing and Specs|
|103 TSI Ambition Plus||1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$7,700 – 11,880||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 103 TSI Ambition Plus Pricing and Specs|
|103 TSI Elegance||1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$10,600 – 15,620||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 103 TSI Elegance Pricing and Specs|
|110 TDI Elegance||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP||$11,700 – 17,160||2014 Skoda Octavia 2014 110 TDI Elegance Pricing and Specs|