Subaru WRX VS Skoda Octavia
- Huge AWD fun
- Signature turbo engine
- Still decent safety
- CVT auto. Really?
- Feeling old inside
- Rough around town
- Good value
- Nice to drive
- Sport by name and nature
- Option packs abound
- Uglier than predecessor
- Materials a little cheap
For many folks around my age, the Subaru WRX holds a special place in the heart.
This is because those of us born from the late ‘80s to early ‘90s are the so-called “PlayStation generation.” Growing up at a time where videogames bridged the gap from 2D to 3D leads to a lot of imprinted memories, a lot of digital firsts, which wowed and inspired, and a lot of rapid-fire nostalgia as hardware advancements left once-thriving game franchises in the dust.
It was also high time for the World Rally Championship's well-regarded Group A rally category, which forced manufacturers to make cars much closer to their production counterparts. It was frequently dominated by none other than the Subaru WRX.
Combine these two worlds and you end up with a lot of kids feeling like they could do anything in Subaru’s newfound performance hero from the comfort of their bedrooms, many of whom would go on to buy a second-hand one to slap P plates on as soon as they could.
Read more about the WRX
It was a perfect storm and made the WRX the right car at the right time to put a previously small-time brand well and truly on the performance map.
The question with this test is: Should those kids, now in their late 20s or 30s, still be considering Subaru’s halo car? Or, now that it’s the oldest product in Subaru’s catalogue, should they wait for the imminent reveal of the new one? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Skoda Octavia 2018 range offers buyers unparalleled pragmatism, and a broad range of options to suit varied budgets.
It may not be as attractive as it was prior to its most recent facelift, but there is plenty to like if you can look beyond the challenging front-end design.
There's the choice of a five-door hatchback (which looks like a sedan), or a five-door station wagon - and with Skoda buyers being pragmatic, the wagon is the more popular body style. So that's what we've got here, and in the new Sport trim line.
Consider yourself intrigued? Read on to find out more.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Although it's now the oldest car in Subaru’s catalogue, there’s nothing really quite like the WRX on the market. This is a car which is true to its roots, a rugged performance stalwart that comes with dollops of fun and compromise in equal measure.
Thanks to Subaru’s updates over the years, it’s fared better than some when it comes to technology and safety, but I’d still implore you to pick the manual to truly experience this car as nature intended.
The Skoda Octavia 2018 Sport wagon may run the same 110TSI drivetrain as the regular base model car, but its chassis and design tweaks make it a worthwhile model to consider if you want something that stands out a little bit from the rest of the Octavia pack.
If you want an RS wagon but can't afford one, you really ought to take a look at this car.
Would you consider a wagon over a hatchback? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
I think Subaru was gunning for subtlety with the non-STi WRX. For a performance car, the design is a little sedate, with the WRX looking perhaps a little conservative to really stand apart from its Impreza sedan sibling, despite diverging from it some years ago.
There’s no mistaking the rally profile of the full-fat STi, with its huge wing and even bigger wheels, but here in the WRX premium it’s all a little toned down. Still, fans will love the absurd bonnet scoop, angry-looking alloys and quad exhaust. It’s stanced out a little by some flared bodywork, but the tiny lip spoiler at the back robs it of a bit of street cred. Perhaps it's to encourage you into the significantly more expensive STi…
Despite its relative age, though, the WRX still fits into Subaru’s lineup nicely. It has all the hallmarks; the small grille, the angled LED headlights, and the signature tall profile. The chunkiness is all there, too, both on the outside, with its flared bodywork and exaggerated scoop, and on the inside, with thick leather clad seat trim, and a chunky, satisfying steering wheel.
The abundance of red lighting in the dash cluster is reminiscent of the heyday of Japanese performance cars of years past, and while it’s not as plush on the inside as Subaru’s newer products, it’s not disappointing either, with nice use of soft trims.
The plethora of screens feels unnecessary, and the 7.0-inch multimedia unit is feeling very small now, compared to most more recent cars. At least the software has been updated since 2018 to have the more recent system used in the Impreza, Forester, and Outback. It’s simple and easy to use.
Compared to those Subarus, though, the WRX’s interior is feeling a little tired. It’s a bit small, and things like the CD drive and nastier plastic trims smattered around remind of days past for Subaru. It's a good thing the new WRX is coming soon.
I didn't like the new look for the Octavia when Skoda revealed it early in 2017, and I wasn't alone. The once-handsome Czech mid-size model had been taken to with the ugly stick, with the dual-headlight look appearing to make the model look, well, nothing like a model.
In some colour combinations it's not too bad - a red RS245 with the black gloss grille, for example, looks tidy. But the Octavia Sport model you see here in white just looked a little bit… spidery, I'd say. Yeah, spidery.
The Sport model is accentuated by black pinstripes here and there, and look, I reckon the design of the wagon is a lot more becoming than the hatch. But if you value style as much as substance, consider the svelte Mazda6 is available for close to the same money…
The dimensions of the Skoda Octavia vary between the hatch and wagon, and the regular model vs the RS - yep, there's a bit of a size difference, but it's pretty miniscule. Here are the main numbers you need to know.
The hatch is 4670mm long (2686mm wheelbase), 1461mm tall and 1814mm wide. The regular wagon isn't as long at 4667mm (2686mm wheelbase), but sits a bit taller (1465mm) and is the same width (1814mm).
Thankfully the interior dimensions are accommodating, and the design in the cabin is very, very smart.
Compared to the more forward-thinking designs in Subaru Global Platfrom vehicles, the WRX is feeling a little claustrophobic on the inside. Still, you could do much worse in a performance car.
Front passengers get nicely trimmed bucket-style seats with good side bolstering. Like a lot of Subarus, the seating position isn’t exactly sporty. You sit quite high, and for someone my 182cm height, it feels as though you’re peering down over the bonnet a little. Aside from that, height adjustability is pretty good from the electric seat, and there is a small bottle holder in the door, plus dual cupholders in the centre, a small centre-console box, and a small tray under the climate unit.
Overall, the dark trims in here conspire to make the WRX’s cabin feel a bit tight. This continues for rear passengers. The WRX really is a small sedan and room isn’t great for me behind my own driving position, with my knees touching the front seat. I have to duck a little to get under the sedan’s roofline to get in, and while the decent trim continues, the seat feels a little high and flat.
Rear passengers get pockets on the backs of the front seats, a drop-down armrest with two cupholders, and a decent bottle holder in the doors. There are no adjustable rear air vents or power outlets, however.
Being a sedan, the WRX has a rather deep boot, coming in at 450-litres (VDA). This rivals some mid-size SUVs, but it’s worth noting the space isn’t quite as usable, with a small loading aperture, and it’s a little tight when it comes to the available height. Still, it consumed our largest 124-litre CarsGuide suitcase with ample space to spare.
Skoda is a marvel when it comes to interior packaging, and the Octavia is perhaps the most impressive exponent of this. It really packs a lot in to relatively compact dimensions.
Boot space is perhaps one of the biggest advantages to the Octavia, with the hatch's luggage capacity spanning 568 litres, and the wagon offering up 588L (that measurement is to the window line). There's a spare wheel under the boot floor (you get a space-saver in RS models) and the back end features a dual-sided mat so you can put damp items in the back without damaging the carpet.
Of course there's a couple of clever inclusions like flip-down shopping bag hooks, remote release levers for the split fold seats (they go down in a 60:40 fashion, and there's a clever ski-port for loading through longer items), and there's a dual-action cargo blind. You get a mesh net system, a removable torch and an umbrella, too.
Plus the space on offer for occupants is very good. A family of five, plus luggage, will fit in here easily, with the back seat offering enough rear legroom, headroom and shoulder room for adults, too. With the driver's seat in my driving position (I'm 182cm) I had easily enough room to sit comfortably.
Storage is well thought out, too, with bottle holders in all four doors, map pockets in the back, rear air-vents and a flip-down armrest with cupholders. The materials aren't as plush as you'll find in a Volkswagen Golf or a Mazda6, but they're not scratchy or harsh.
Up front there are big door pockets, a pair of shallow cupholders, a good sized box in front of the gearshifter for your phone and wallet, and a reasonable glove box.
The media system in our test vehicle was the upgraded 9.2-inch unit, which is crisp to look at an offers good resolution, plus the added usability that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can't be ignored. But the lack of a volume knob is frustrating, and it can be hard to figure out if you should be pressing Home or Menu when navigating through the systems array of pages.
Price and features
The WRX Premium auto tested for this review is a sort of mid-spec variant. Wearing an MSRP of $50,590, it sits above the standard WRX auto ($43,990), but below the more hard-core WRX STi ($52,940 – manual only).
When you look for rivals, it’s a harsh reminder of the distinct lack of small performance sedans in today’s market. You might consider Subaru’s hero against the front-drive Golf GTi (Auto -$47,190), Skoda Octavia RS (Sedan auto - $51,490), and Hyundai i30 N Performance (manual only - $42,910). There’s a more direct rival coming soon in the form of the i30 N Performance sedan, which will also be available with an eight-speed dual-clutch auto, so look out for that in the near future, too.
While it's now the oldest Subaru on sale by quite a margin, the WRX has been augmented in recent times to offer more up-to-date features.
Standard are mean-looking 18-inch alloys clad in skinny Dunlop Sport rubber, full LED lighting, Subaru’s typical assault of screens, including a smallish looking 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (mercifully with updated software since I last drove this car), a 3.5-inch multifunction display in the instrument cluster, and a 5.9-inch dash-top-mounted display screen, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a CD player (how quaint), leather-accented interior trim, eight-way adjustable power seat for the driver, heated seats for front passengers, dual-zone climate control, and privacy tint for the rear windows.
The continuously variable automatic makes up the majority of WRX sales, so I’m told, which is particularly disappointing to hear. Especially given it’s a $3200 jump over the manual, and tarnishes the drive experience. More on this in the Driving section.
The WRX also comes with a safety suite that is impressive for a car of its vintage, which we’ll look at in the Safety section. Getting on it may be, but the WRX is surprising in how well it holds its own on the value front.
One of the main reasons you might be drawn to the Skoda Octavia is its attractive pricing. So, how much does the the mid-size model cost?
Without running through the full price list of the Skoda Octavia models sold in Australia, we can tell you that Skoda prefers to deal in drive-away pricing, so that's what you see here.
The base model Octavia is pretty well equipped, with niceties such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a cooled glovebox, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
The wagon model has silver roof rails, but sadly, there's a chrome strip at the nose end, and this model comes with halogen headlights but the tail-lights are LED units. Standard-spec Octavias come with 17-inch alloy wheels, and all Octavias get front fog lights.
The Sport model costs more, with the hatchback version listing at $32,990 drive-away, and the wagon priced at $34,490 drive-away. Both of these are auto-only, though.
In comparison to the entry-grade model, the Sport adds auto LED headlights with adaptive lighting and LED daytime running lights, auto wipers, an extra pair of airbags (for rear side protection) and it rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels.
Sport models have different front seats with integrated headrests (still manually adjustable), privacy glass, and the seatbelts feature a tightening feature if the car's computer predicts a crash (the windows wind up, and if there's a sunroof, it'll close).
Plus the Sport has a black pack, including black door mirror caps, plus side and tailgate decals, there's a rear spoiler (black for the hatch model and body-colour for the wagon), and it rides on a lower sports suspension set-up. The Sport wagon has black roof rails.
If you're interested, the RS model line-up consists of a few different variants. The petrol manual hatch costs $41,990 drive-away, the petrol auto hatch is $44,490 drive-away, and the diesel auto hatch is $45,590 drive-away. Add $1500 for a wagon.
Then there are the top of the range RS245 models, with extra punch and more kit again. The sporty petrol-only RS245 model costs $46,490 for the manual hatch, and $48,990 for the auto hatch. Wagon versions add $1500.
Some notable elements: you need to option keyless entry and push-button start, no matter the model you choose, and a sunroof will cost you $1500 for the hatchback and $1700 for the wagon. You can get a power tailgate as an option on all trim grades of the wagon, too, at $500.
Now, option packs.
The 'Tech Pack' consists of the upgrade to the 9.2-inch screen with nav, LED headlights, semi-automated parking, adaptive chassis control (on RS and RS245 models only), keyless entry and push-button start, 10-speaker Canton audio, drive mode select (already on RS and RS245 models), manoeuvre braking assist (auto braking in reverse), and a driver profile set-up (already on RS and RS245 models).
The Tech Pack costs $4900 for the entry-grade car, $3900 for the Sport model, and $2300 for RS versions.
The other main pack is the 'Luxury Pack', which adds leather trim (base car; N/A Sport) and electric seat adjustment (base model and RS; N/A Sport), Alcantara/leather trim (RS; N/A Sport), heated front and rear seats, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, the added rear airbags (base model only), and auto folding door mirrors with dimming and puddle lights. This pack costs $4200 for the base grade, $1600 for the Sport model $2800 for the RS, $1500 for RS245.
For those playing along at home, the model you see in these images is the Octavia 110TSI Sport wagon, fitted with the Tech Pack and an electric sunroof.
The other choice you'll need to make is on colours, with metallic paint adding $500. Check out Skoda's configurator to see if you like it in red, white, silver, blue, grey, green or black. There's no gold, brown or yellow, but there's a lightish beige hue called 'Cappuccino', which you can't get on higher-spec versions.
Engine & trans
The WRX’s engine is a tuned-up version of Subaru’s signature horizontally opposed “boxer” four-cylinder. In this case it’s a 2.0-litre turbo unit (FA20) producing 197kW/350Nm, ample for a little sedan like this.
Disappointingly for me, our particular WRX premium was an automatic, and it’s not a great one. While most performance cars will drop in a lightning fast dual-clutch, or at least have the decency to offer a classic torque converter with clearly defined ratios, Subaru falls back on its rubbery continuously variable automatic, as derided in the rest of its mainstream range by enthusiasts.
We’ll explore this more in the Driving section of this review. It’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be, but it still doesn’t belong in a car like this.
There are three drivetrains to choose from in the 2018 Octavia range, and the specifications step up as you move up the range.
Base grade models and the Sport variant have the 110TSI 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 110kW of power (5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm (1500-3500rpm). It is available with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission in the base grade, but the Sport model is auto only. If you want more horsepower from your motor, you'll need to go for the RS.
There is no diesel option for the lower grades, and every model in the Octavia range sold in Australia is front-wheel drive (FWD / 2WD). In some markets there are all wheel drive (AWD) models sold, but there isn't a proper 4x4 version with a low range transfer case in any market, though. There is no LPG model sold here, either.
Now, if you think you might consider towing with your Octavia, you'll need to know its capabilities - and towing capacity varies across the range.
The 110TSI hatch has a 620kg un-braked trailer weight capacity or 1500kg for a braked trailer (manual or auto); the 110TSI manual wagon can deal with 630kg/1500kg, while the DSG wagon is good for 640kg/1500kg.
Fuel consumption is likely to be at the bottom of your list of concerns when it comes to a small performance sedan, but on the official/combined testing cycle, this car will consume a claimed 8.6L/100km of mid-shelf 95RON unleaded.
Over our week of mostly urban testing, our car produced an unsurprising 11.2L/100km, which is actually under the official urban number of 11.8L/100km. Not bad for a performance car, really.
The WRX has a relatively large fuel tank for its size at 60-litres.
Fuel economy is good for the 110TSI model we're testing, with claimed consumption rated at 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the DSG hatch and wagon, while the 110TSI manual hatch uses 5.4L/100km and the 110TSI manual wagon claims 5.5L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity for all models is 50 litres, and your mileage will vary depending on how hard you drive. Based on my time in the 1.4-litre Sport wagon, I was going to do about 650km on a tank, with at the bowser fuel consumption measured at 7.3L/100km. The dashboard display was reading 7.2L/100km.
The Octavia requires 95RON premium unleaded fuel at a minimum.
It truly pains me that this car is an automatic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with an automatic performance car. Dual-clutch iterations of cars like the Golf R are great, but the WRX automatic is a CVT.
This transmission isn’t great in the brand’s regular range, let alone in a performance application, where snappy response and a predictable, linear riding out of the rev-range are really necessary to extract maximum enjoyment.
I was surprised to find the CVT isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Perhaps through sheer torque, the WRX does hammer into its 2400rpm peak torque band rather quickly, for an immediately impressive 0-100km/h sprint of around six seconds, but it’s beyond this point where you’ll start to get dull, rubbery, and occasionally hesitant response from the accelerator. Not particularly appealing attributes when you’re carving up a few corners.
Handling-wise, the WRX is excellent with its robust all-wheel-drive system and firm-to-a-fault suspension. This makes it a true joy to fling around bends, with equally firm and rewarding steering giving you a truly organic and controlled handle on what’s going on at the wheels.
Subaru’s boxer engine gives the WRX a signature gruff sound under acceleration, with some turbo noise to boot, but with this particular transmission you won’t be getting the satisfying turbo blips you can extract with a swift kick of a clutch pedal in the manual.
Driving it around town every day is a little rough, with a brittle and busy ride, while the heavy steering will get on your nerves when you’re just trying to park the thing.
The firm ride, large wheels, and slim tyres makes the cabin noisy at all speeds, and occasionally sends shockwaves through the front of the car if you’re unfortunate enough to hit a pothole. It’s hardly the most pleasant companion to have on a freeway.
Honestly, if you’re after an automatic performance car, there are better options out there both in terms of response and everyday comfort, although none are quite like a WRX. I’d implore you to pick the manual if you can, it’s a better, more engaging experience in every way.
What makes the Octavia Sport worthy of that much-lauded, oft-overused badge?
Well, it feels pretty sporty to drive, with the MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension both getting the harder-edge tune and sitting a few mm lower to the ground as a result (be aware of the car's ground clearance - it is lower, but it's not suctioned to the ground like a sports car).
The regular Octavia model was already at the pointy end of the segment for dynamics and comfort, but this Sport version is more dialled into the surface below, with the combination of the stiffer chassis and the bigger wheels with grippy Bridgestone Potenza 225/40/18 rubber rewarding the driver, albeit at a slight penalty in terms of outright ride comfort. You can link bends together with ease, and the turning circle is pretty tight, meaning parking moves are easy enough.
The way the Octavia Sport finds its way through corners, almost telepathically, will have you thinking you've got more grunt than the 110TSI's outputs suggest - that comes down to the refinement at speed, where the torque of the small engine keeps momentum as the dual-clutch auto shifts clinically between gears. There are no paddle-shifters, but there's a manual mode to flick up or down on the shifter, and there are a few drive modes to choose from, each adjusting the throttle response and gearing. Sport was great, but Normal was where I spent most of my time.
In Normal mode there's a bit of stuttering at lower speeds when you're on and off the throttle, but it isn't as much of a deal-breaker as it might have been with earlier iterations of dual-clutch autos. Just make sure that if you're considering the Octavia (or any new car, for that matter!), that you test drive the car extensively, and try to put it through your regular day-to-day routine.
As with many examples of cars built on the Volkswagen MQB modular architecture, there is some road noise - especially on coarse-chip surfaces. I didn't find it hard to live with - I just turned up the volume on the sound system.
Over a week of commuting, driving in and around Sydney and more than a few hours on the city's motorways, I came away convinced that if I couldn't stretch to the RS, I'd be pretty happy in the Sport model.
Need more? Want a quicker 0-100 acceleration time, more speed, and better performance figures, and independent rear suspension? You really ought to read my review of the RS245 wagon.
In good news for the WRX, Subaru’s signature EyeSight suite is mostly present here, albeit a slightly older version than the one that appears in its newer products. Regardless, key active items include auto emergency braking (works to 85km/h with brake-light recognition), lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and auto high beams.
It misses out on reverse auto braking from more modern Subarus but features active torque vectoring to add to the standard suite of electronic aids like traction, brake, and stability controls.
The WRX has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, although it dates way back to 2014, well before active safety items were even considered.
All Skoda Octavia models currently on sale are still covered by the car's 2016 five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating.
Safety features across all models include a reversing camera and rear parking sensors (with a visual park assist display), auto emergency braking (AEB), multi-collision brake, tyre pressure monitoring, fatigue detection and adaptive cruise control.
Of course, every model in the range comes with outboard ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the back seats, and there are three top-tether attachment points, too.
Airbags for the Octavia are seven for the regular model (dual front, front side, driver's knee and full-length curtain) and nine for RS models (added rear-side protection). The extra airbags can be added to entry-grade models as part of the Luxury Pack, which will also bring lane keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring.
Annoyingly, the WRX requires six-monthly or 12,500km service intervals, a hold-over from Subarus past. It’s not cheap, either, with each six-monthly visit costing between $319.54 and $819.43 (ouch) for the first 10 visits covering five years of ownership. It averages out to $916.81 per year for the first five years. These are numbers which rival some premium European options.
The Skoda vehicle range is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is better than its parent company VW offers in Australia, and matches the likes of Mazda, which only recently upped its warranty plan. There's no extended warranty option, though.
The Czech brand allows customers to pre-pay their service costs by choosing one of its 'Service Packs, the cost of which can be bundled into finance or outright purchase price. The plans are three years/45,000km ($1150 no matter the model) or five years/75,000km ($2250 for non-RS models; $2700 for RS models).
The other option for customers is to pay for their maintenance as they go using capped price servicing for up to six years/90,000km. The average service cost for a standard Octavia is $416.50 and $453 for RS models, but that's before additional consumables like brake fluid. Also worth noting that the alarm system needs to be replaced every six years, at a cost of $411 - that might need to be considered in your resale value estimates.
If you're concerned about common faults, problems or issues you may encounter check out our Skoda Octavia problems page. The value of a page like this is that it goes beyond standard features to give you a gauge of the reliability rating for the vehicle.