Given the Octavia’s showroom appeal, it would be a shame if the test drive was a disappointment. Thankfully, it is not. VW was determined to ensure the dynamics of the Mk5 Golf were competitive and, by default, sibling models like the Skoda hatch also benefit. The MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear is familiar, although it has been retuned by Skoda engineers.
The Octavia is well balanced and fluid on the road. It grips keenly through corners, displays fine body control and feels agile when changing direction. The steering offers limited feedback, and has a slightly aloof feeling, but it’s accurate enough.
Our only slight complaint concerns the ride. It’s well damped and absorbs bumps with sophistication, but it does feel slightly firm at times, without the final polish to cope with small ridges and surface changes like a Golf would. Filling the car with luggage and passengers improves things but doesn’t entirely eliminate the problem. It would be wrong to describe the Octavia as a sporting drive, but it is extremely capable and good fun.
And what of the vRS? Drive it back to back with a Golf GTI and differences emerge: the Octavia’s steering is less weighty, the turn-in less sharp and the cornering less incisive. Which car is quicker in the real world is hard to tell and, in any case, the margin is so small as to be irrelevant on a public road.
But swap between GTI and vRS and one thing becomes clear: the Golf feels much more involving and rewarding to drive. Don’t misunderstand us, because the vRS is competent and enjoyable to drive, but it fails to grab your attention and inspire you to drive in the way that the best hot hatches do.