What is it?
Having retired the Skoda Fabia and nixed the Skoda Superb version in the latter stages of development, the Skoda Octavia alone provides Skoda’s vRS badge with a home. The scenario hardly speaks to the badge’s popularity in the UK, where almost a quarter of Octavias came with the three-letter brand on the bootlid last year. Being well-liked here didn’t save the Fabia, of course - but the model is sought-after in Germany, too; easily business case enough for it to have been updated as part of the car’s wider facelift.
The good news is that the UK lineup expands slightly in the fine-tuning. The less good news is that the latest Octavia’s unfortunate headlight arrangement inevitably migrates to the performance variant. In fairness to the divisive new design, it probably works a little better on the vRS, where the suspicion of skew-whiff symmetry is balanced out by the bigger, meaner front end. Aft of the bodywork, the petrol engines have been tweaked, too: the familiar 2.0-litre TSI now sporting an additional 10bhp in standard format, and 242bhp in a forthcoming 245 edition.
At 227bhp, the entry-level vRS keeps pace with the alterations recently made to the basic Golf GTI, which will be of interest to the minority of buyers who opted for the petrol variant. Most British owners though picked the diesel variant – and while the 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI remains unchanged, there’s now the choice of twinning it with all-wheel drive for the first time; an option not available to Volkswagen buyers of the mechanically similar Volkswagen Golf GTD.
Given the Octavia’s sterling reputation for usability, the combination feels a natural fit. Along with it, comes the updates already made familiar as part of the wider revisions: i.e. new infotainment systems with capacitive screens, a raft of new safety systems, the availability of trailer assist and adaptive cruise, and the introduction of more ‘Simply Clever’ features, such as foldable tables on the seatbacks, more power sockets and the always welcome heated steering wheel.