If you’re fond of an underdog, it’s rather hard not to hold a candle for Skoda’s vRS brand.
By rights, and in the grand scheme of the Volkswagen Group’s thinking, it ought not really to exist at all.
The Czech division is for practicality, good sense and affordable functionality. The vRS version of the Fabia was spiked long ago, and the Superb variant never even arrived, ending up an unseen stillborn of cancelled development. And yet the Octavia vRS soldiers on.
It does so because, like the current stock model on which it’s based, the car does rather fill a void. Its curious size – virtually reaching D-segment proportions while still gamely clinging to its C-segment status – means that it serves a clientele that values spaciousness and utility almost as much as it does pace and hot hatch-style desirability.
It is this niche and impressively loyal customer base that have kept the vRS going despite the odds, encouraging Skoda not only to update the model as part of the Octavia’s broader facelift but also to build the most powerful version it has yet put on sale: the 245.
Fittingly, even this seems a little counter-intuitive. While the vRS may surreptitiously flaunt its relationship with the VW Golf GTI underneath, the car’s volume is founded on the diesel model – a patron of the same powertrain used by the Golf GTD.
So furnishing an Octavia with the VW Group’s criminally underused 237bhp bi-turbo diesel engine might have produced a more likely headliner.
Instead, the 245 gets the same 242bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine used by the Performance edition of the GTI (the now ‘standard’ vRS gets the 228bhp variant) and is available as either a hatch or an estate.
If the format doesn’t completely make sense, it does at least inspire some hope in the end result. That’s because although the vRS has proven likeable in its own offbeat way, none of the preceding versions has ever managed to stake an authentic claim to its own USP, each being less a large Golf GTI and more a moderately fast Octavia.
Armed now with not only its sibling’s higher output but also the electromechanical front differential to properly modulate it, the vRS might at last make the move from fringe omega to real-world alpha.