Tim Robson road tests and reviews the 2016 Skoda Octavia RS 162TSI Wagon with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The market for warmed-over wagons isn't a big one in Australia – and it's a bit hard to understand why. Adding a bit more sheetmetal and a larger tailgate doesn't automatically render a car unattractive or slower, after all.
There are a few big-ticket load-lugging weapons on sale today – Audi's ferocious RS6, for example, and Mercedes-AMG's C63 – but besides the new Subaru Levorg and the Holden Commodore SS, we can think of only one other at the more realistic end of the price spectrum – the Skoda Octavia RS.
Price and features
The Octavia RS tops a three-model lineup, with the four-door six-speed manual RS 162TSI petrol wagon costing $40,190 before on-road costs.
Metallic finishes other than red, grey and white are an extra $500, while a six-speed DSG transmission is a $2300 cost.
The RS is sold stock with AEB and adaptive cruise control, Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity, auto lights and wipers, leather/fabric sports seats, a reversing camera, RS mode button and a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel.
Small door pocket rubbish bins and a luggage cover are included, too.
The attractive entry price needs to be couched with the optional extras list, which includes a few items we'd like to see fitted as standard.
The wagon rear is the defining feature of the Octavia, with a good balance struck between sportingly pleasing rakish lines and a practical, useful roof height.
A $1700 Comfort Pack adds electric heated seats, auto exterior mirrors and leather trim, while an additional $1700 Tech Pack has to be optioned to net keyless entry, lane departure assist, an auto parking assistant with front and rear sensors and a 10-speaker premium stereo.
Our tester was fitted with a $500 Black Pack, which adds black elements to the rims, mirrors and grille. Spend another $500 and you can score a set of attractive 19-inch rims, too.
It also had the large glass sunroof optioned in, at a cost of $1700, along with a $490 automatic tailgate.
It pushed our car out to a shade over $50,000 before on-road costs, moving past the similarly powered and specced Subaru Levorg GT-S ($48,890), the Mazda6 Atenza ($46,690) and Hyundai i40 Premium ($42,250).
It goes without saying that the wagon rear is the defining feature of the Octavia, with a good balance struck between sportingly pleasing rakish lines and a practical, useful roof height.
The crisp lines of the standard Octavia model are enhanced for the RS, with the addition of a deeper, more aggressive front bumper that sports fog lights that also act as cornering lamps, switching on individually when the steering wheel is turned.
The Octavia RS hasn't forgone practicality in the name of performance.
The RS rides 13mm lower than the stock Octavia on its MacPherson strut front/five-link rear suspension system, too.
Bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights come standard, along with LED taillights that also act as rear daytime lamps.
The Black Pack-specific design 18-inch rims offer a good compromise between concept car style and real-world practicality, too.
The Octavia RS hasn't forgone practicality in the name of performance, with a large load space, big aperture and clever touches to make everyday life a bit easier.
It was a little surprising to see any sort of cargo retention net moved over to the options list, although a small plastic divider, bag hooks and tie downs still add a lot of functionality (and auto stores do a great range of nets!)
Remote seat-back releases are also a welcome touch.
The driver and passenger seats are both supportive and comfortable, and are mounted low to the floor. The flat-bottomed three-spoke wheel is a familiar fitment to VW products, as is the large colour capacitive touchscreen that wakes up as your finger approaches.
The rear 60/40 split fold row can take three with sufficient leg room, and the Octavia wagon's roofline doesn't encroach on rear head room for taller rear-seaters.
That rear space can take a huge 588 litres of load with the seats up – putting it ahead of everything else in the category – and 1718 litres with both seats down.
There are eight cupholders in the car, but only the front door pockets can take decently sized bottles. Hot tip – insulated cups with bases that taper in are the best fit for the Skoda's oddly small cupholders.
There's also a pair of ISOFIX baby seat mounts in the back row.
Engine and transmissions
VW's EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine is mounted up front, and is rated to 162kW at 6200rpm and 350Nm of torque that performs best between 1500 and 4400rpm.
It's a mite slower to 100km/h than the sedan at 7.1sec in DSG spec, but it's only two tenths between friends.
A well-spaced six-speed manual is offered as standard – a very rare thing in a mid-size wagon in 2016 – while a quick-acting six-speed DSG with steering wheel paddles is an option.
The Octavia still steers with plenty of accuracy and poise.
The front-wheel-drive RS uses an electronic limited slip diff, albeit not the top-end Performance model seen on other MQB-platformed cars like the Golf R.
An RS mode button allows a driver to stiffen the two-stage adaptive shocks, loosen the stability control and sharpen both throttle and gearbox inputs, too.
Its combined fuel figure is rated at 6.6 litres per 100km, the Octavia returned a best of 9.8/100km over our 360km test, according to the dash.
CO2 emissions are quoted at 154 grams per kilometre.
The 1458kg DSG-equipped RS prefers 98RON fuel, and runs a 50-litre fuel tank.
If you expected the RS wagon to behave similarly to the RS sedan, you'd be mostly right. The load-lugging version is about 40kg heavier than the sedan, which gives it a bit more softness and compliance in its normal damper settings – and it's no bad thing.
The Octavia still steers with plenty of accuracy and poise, thanks to the clever linear-toothed steering rack it poaches from the GTI, and the car firms up nicely in all directions when the RS button is tapped.
The RS button turned the little wagon into a brilliant Sunday car, with great road manners, ferocious grip and sufficient performance under the foot.
From the driver's seat there's no real visual or visceral reference that you've got a wagon behind you – except when you want to toss life's detritus in the back. We jammed two full-size bikes, two body boards, numerous boxes and camera gear in the space, with room to spare, and the RS still felt spritely and up for a fang.
As with all the MQB-based cars with a drive mode select switch, the RS really is two cars in one. Its ride and handling around town is exemplary, looking after its passengers in perfectly damped comfort.
The RS button turned the little wagon into a brilliant Sunday car, with great road manners, ferocious grip and sufficient performance under the foot, especially in the mid-range where it matters most.
But its biggest party trick comes on Monday morning, when it can be used to complement your day-to-day life in ways that a sedan or hatch simply can't manage.
The RS is very well equipped out of the box, with nine airbags, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and reversing camera. ANCAP rates it at five out of five.
A six-year fixed price service plan is available for the Octavia RS, totaling $2841 over the six years. Brake fluid and pollen filters aren't included in the annual service, though.
Skoda offers a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty as standard, with options to purchase an additional two years of cover. There is also a guaranteed buy-back scheme available.