A few short weeks later I was taking delivery of our Skoda Octavia vRS Estate. A 2011 example finished in Brilliant Silver, it fits the bill perfectly. The Mk2 Octavia vRS is a car we’ve always felt to be spec sensitive. Serve it up in petrol hatchback form and a Volkswagen Golf GTI will always have the edge, but as a diesel estate – as here – the vRS starts to make a whole heap of sense, especially with the DSG automatic gearbox we’ve got.
The numbers tell the story. The 2.0-litre diesel delivers 168bhp and a solid 258lb ft of torque. Consequently, 0-60mph comes up in 8.4sec, with in-gear punch to match. All this while providing fuel economy – according to official figures – of 47.9mpg on the combined cycle.
Meanwhile, boot space is one of the best around – better in terms of pure capacity than a VW Passat Estate of the same age when the rear seats are upright and almost as spacious with them down. This, in other words, is a car that ticks every box.
But the Octavia vRS is also looking like great value these days. Prices start at £2500 for a baggy, high-mileage petrol hatch, but a good, solid, pre-facelift diesel estate can be yours for less than £5000, with an early diesel in hatchback form or a petrol model in either bodystyle fetching anywhere in between. A facelift TDI wagon like ours can be had with reasonable miles from £7000, with the very best low-mileage ones topping out at about £15,000.
So how on earth did we come by such a thing for the princely sum of nought pounds and nought pence? Well, time for a spot of full disclosure: we’re only borrowing it. Yes, our (well, that should be ‘our’) Octavia is actually part of Skoda’s heritage fleet. Which explains its faintly believable mileage and its fabulous condition.
You might argue that this isn’t fully representative of the 70,000-oddmile examples you’ll find on your local used car forecourt. I’ll give you that one. But the flipside is that it enables us to test drive a known good example to see how a Mk2 Octavia vRS stacks up today without wondering whether worn bushes, tired brakes or slack steering are distorting the experience. And rest assured that, in future, we’re aiming to try some proper, high-mileage used cars in this slot. Think of the vRS, then, as an exception rather than the rule – an opportunity we were given that seemed too good to pass up.
“Yes, but with that mileage, it’s sure to be problem-free,” I can hear you saying. Well, on only its fourth day with us, the vRS disproved that notion. Leaving the office that evening, I popped the key in the ignition and turned it. Nothing. Not even the reassuring sight of some dashboard lights. Oh.