Skoda Octavia vRS hybrid estate review
The Octavia vRS iV Estate is Skoda's first attempt at a sporty plug-in hybrid family car. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but company-car users will be happy with the running costs
- Low company-car tax
- Retains flat boot floor
- Quite fast, but comfortable
- Doesn't feel sporty enough
- BMW 330e more convincing
- Overall boot capacity is down
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2|
|Plug-in hybrid||37 miles||177-235mpg||27-36g/km|
The Skoda Octavia vRS has gained quite a following over its several generations; people love it for its blend of hot-hatchback performance with the standard Octavia's considerable practicality – something that's even more the case for the always-popular estate version.
Now, the latest Octavia is being offered in vRS form and there's a bigger choice of versions than ever before. The familiar petrol and diesel engine options have been joined by this 'iV' petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, which is also available as either a five-door hatchback or estate; we're testing the latter here.
Under the bonnet you'll find the same 242bhp petrol-electric combination that powers the latest Volkswagen Golf GTE and Cupra Leon e-Hybrid, but from the outside, the Octavia looks more restrained than those two – especially in our test car's dark grey paint.
The vRS iV does get more shapely bumpers front and rear, a blacked-out grille and wheels measuring up to 19 inches. However, while the conventionally powered vRS benefits from a lowered ride-height, the iV version sits at the same level as the standard Octavia; its battery is mounted in such a way that lower suspension was not feasible. We feel that the vRS iV lacks a degree of sporty intent as a result.
In addition to the petrol engine and electric motor, there's a 13kWh battery that's charged up by plugging in at home or at a public charging point. It holds enough power to take you up to 37 miles in pure-electric mode. Unsurprisingly, the vRS iV is streets ahead of the purely petrol and diesel-engined versions of the car when it comes to CO2 emissions, which can be as low as 27g/km depending on exact specification and wheel size.
The previously mentioned electric range sees the Octavia vRS iV in the 11% for company-car Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax during the 2021/22 financial year, so it'll be significantly cheaper to run than a petrol or diesel vRS.
Achieving that electric range in the real world (and therefore keeping your fuel bills at a minimum, too) means charging up often and driving with a light right foot wherever possible, but that's not much of a chore when the Octavia is so smooth and punchy in electric mode. For longer journeys, rather than trying to maximise the electric range yourself, it's best to flick the car into 'hybrid' mode and let it figure out for itself the most efficient balance of battery and engine power to use – something it seems to be pretty good at doing.
The vRS has more sophisticated rear suspension than the standard Octavia, so it's an even more refined long-distance motorway cruiser, with only some road rumble from the large 19-inch wheels really being audible from inside. Unfortunately, when you turn off the motorway onto a more interesting road, the car doesn't quite live up to the sporty pretensions of its badge – similar to how the plug-in hybrid Volkswagen Golf GTE isn't quite as satisfying to drive as the traditional petrol Golf GTI.
Part of the problem is the powertrain; in automatic mode, the transmission can struggle to keep up when you demand quick acceleration, but if you choose to change gear yourself using the paddles on the steering column, it can be quite tricky to keep a lid on the electric motor's strong torque using just your right foot.
The suspension keeps things under control through corners quite well and the steering is sharp, but the simple physics of adding 170kg of battery and electric motor to the standard Octavia's weight can be felt; it's just not as agile as its purely petrol-engined counterpart. The 7.3-second 0-62mph time is below par for a modern performance car, too.
As has always been the case with vRS Octavias, things aren't radically different from the standard car inside. Quality is as top-notch as ever and many will probably like the solid, sober and no-nonsense environment. You may be less impressed by the loss of boot space to accommodate the batteries, however; the vRS iV can hold 490 litres of luggage, which is 150 down on the non-hybrid car. But that's still a large boot for this class, and there are no awkward steps or box-shaped protrusions from the boot floor to spoil your IKEA trips.
In isolation, the Octavia vRS iV is an impressive package: fast, spacious, comfortable and understated. But it's not quite fast or agile enough to justify its high-performance badge; enthusiasts who want a vRS purely for driving enjoyment will prefer the pure-petrol version, and those more attracted to the traditional Octavia attributes of space and comfort will just plump for the standard iV estate if they want a plug-in hybrid. That leaves the vRS iV feeling like a bit of a compromised halfway house that offers a less satisfying 'performance estate' experience than the petrol or diesel models; it works purely for those who need to keep their company-car costs down.