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Skoda Octavia 2008 review

The Czech-built Octavia RS has been enlivened with a new diesel engine.

Engines

Until now, the sports orientated RS lift back and wagon only came packing a turbocharged 2-litre 147kW four-cylinder petrol motor, combined with a six-speed manual transmission .

That's all about the change.

Buyers looking at reducing their fuel bill can now opt for a performance-orientated Octavia RS TDi with a frugal 2-litre common rail turbo diesel - coming from Skoda's parent, Volkswagen which has also fitted it, in various states of tune, to the Tiguan, Golf, Passat and Jetta.

In the Golf it develops 103kW, but in the Octavia RS there's a much healthier 125kW to play with and as such is the most powerful diesel offered by Skoda to date. There's a choice of a six-speed manual or for the first time, an optional six-speed VW sourced dual clutch `manu-matic’ (DSG) - something we have already seen throughout the VW family.

From February, the automatic DSG will also be offered in the petrol RS; the 2009 update for both petrol and diesel models also brings audio controls and paddle shifting on the steering wheel.

Styling

It's not all good news though: the bland styling of the RS Octavia is now four years old and it shows, but it's Down Under duty has been extended by Skoda until the third quarter of next year when it will be replaced with a heavily face lifted version showing a much stronger styling to match its sporty persona.

Transmissions

While future bread and butter Octavia models will next year feature a seven-speed DSG, the RS will retain the six-speeder because the seven wasn't designed for a high torque engine.

Pricing

The diesel version of RS went on sale this week, sharply priced at $39,490 for the manual lift back and $41,790 for the DSG manual/auto. That's a $2000 premium over the petrol version. The diesel wagon starts at $41,490, with the DSG priced at $43,790.

Equipment

Standard kit on the diesel RS includes lowered suspension with stiffer spring ratings, stability control, 18-inch alloys, boot spoiler, sports seats and pedals, three-spoke leather steering wheel and go-fast looking red-painted brake calipers.

Safety

Safety gear includes six airbags, active front head rests, anti lock brakes with electronic brake pressure distribution and traction control.

DRIVING

A few years ago, if you mentioned the words `diesel’ and `sports’ in the same sentence people thought you were, well, balmy.

But as a succession of European brands has shown in more recent times you can successfully marry an oil burner with enough performance to raise your blood pressure. Call it the smile factor, and Skoda's RS TDi leaves you grinning.

The stop watch aptly tells the story here; the 2-litre diesel, at 8.4 seconds, is just 1.1 seconds slower from zero to 100km/h than its 2-litre turbo petrol RS cousin; not shabby at all considering acceleration from a standing start has traditionally been a diesel's downfall. Remarkably, if you believe Skoda's specification list, the diesel mysteriously weighs up to 40kg less than the petrol version which may explain why the sprint times are so close.

OK, the petrol engine does win out on terminal speed at 240km/h against the diesel's mere 225km/h but, as any copper will tell you, that's an irrelevant yardstick nowadays.

Where the diesel excels - and should appeal to green-at-heart family buyers - is on fuel economy and exhaust emissions: the diesel is rated at 5.9l/100km; the petrol can only manage 8.1l/100km. The diesel, thanks to its particulate filter is cleaner too, producing 155g of CO2 at the tailpipe per kilometre; the petrol is rated at 193g/km.

But stat sheets are one thing; driving the RS TDi is another and, not surprisingly, it doesn't disappoint, on both the road and racetrack.

Adding common rail technology to the new engine (instead of the single point Pumpe Duse system in the old engine) has substantially reduced noise and vibration levels to a point, at times, you have to think whether you are driving a diesel or petrol. Looking for a badge on the boot won't help either - there's nothing to tell the diesel from the petrol apart from engine noise at idle.

The diesel still shows a lot of turbo lag which is annoying if you want to press on, and there's a degree of predictable understeer to contend from this front wheeler with a lot of weight over its front axle. But the RS shows a wonderfully balanced chassis and refinement which adds to the driving enjoyment.

The RS doesn't provide wild child performance; but it will satisfy most drivers. It's a solid, quality built car offering plenty of value for money.

What the RS lacks is a styling package which has the ability to turn heads - painting the brake calipers bright red and adding a mild aero kit doesn't cut it - which neatly sums up Skoda's problems in getting attention in this country as it tries to reestablish the brand.

Pricing guides

$9,035
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$4,100
Highest Price
$13,970

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
1.6 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,100 – 6,710 2009 Skoda Octavia 2009 1.6 Pricing and Specs
1.8 TSI 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $5,000 – 7,810 2009 Skoda Octavia 2009 1.8 TSI Pricing and Specs
1.9 TDI 1.9L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $5,200 – 8,030 2009 Skoda Octavia 2009 1.9 TDI Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP $6,500 – 10,120 2009 Skoda Octavia 2009 2.0 TDI Pricing and Specs