After a short spell behind the wheel we voted the car a winner and as a result, the load-lugging version of the Skoda's 180bhp fast family model goes on sale this month.
Priced at £15,800 on-the-road, it carries a £700 premium compared to the hatchback version launched two years ago, but the price tag still makes it a bargain compared to more mainstream rivals.
Performance from the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine is barely affected by the addition of an estate body, offering 0-62mph in eight seconds – just 0.1 seconds slower than the hatchback – and a top speed of 143mph, 3mph slower than its sibling. The engine pulls lustily to its limit, although it becomes overly loud, harsh and intrusive by 5,000rpm, despite the lack of vibration.
With the same carbon dioxide emissions of 192g/km, drivers will pay benefit-in-kind tax at 20% of list price for the rest of this tax year, rising to 22% for 2003/2004. Fuel economy is 35.3mpg, although hard driving can hammer this down to 24mpg, which it returned on our test.
The estate retains the same impressive equipment list as the hatchback, including part leather seats, with a metallic mesh effect cloth, climate control, multi-spoke alloy wheels, chrome-rimmed instrument dial and aluminium-look panelling on the centre console.
Performance is enhanced by stiffened, lowered suspension, new front and rear bumpers, spoiler and a single large bore sports exhaust that makes the Octavia's sporting pretensions clear. However, on the road, the set-up translates to a bumpy ride, while road noise seems to be amplified by the estate body to an intrusive boom, the price of running on wide, low-profile tyres.
As with the hatchback, the car turns into corners well, although the steering doesn't give the driver enough feedback on what the front wheels are doing. During hard acceleration, the standard traction control has to work overtime to keep the tyres under control.
The engine really comes into its own above 2,500rpm and although this won't help a fleet's tyre bills, it emphasises the performance available from the Octavia, which is impressive considering the price.
There are a few flaws, but throw in a three-year/60,000- mile warranty and an equipment list as long as your arm, combined with performance little changed from the hatchback as well as a price tag few can match, and the vRS estate makes a very good case for itself.
Skoda Octavia vRS estate
Price (OTR): £15,800
Engine (cc): 1,781 (turbocharged)
Max power (bhp/rpm): 180/5,500
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 173/1,950 Max speed (mph): 143
0-62mph (secs): 8.0
Fuel consumption (mpg): 35.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 192
CAP residual value (3yrs/60,000 miles): £4,225/27%