Not only is it a spacious five-door family hatchback but it comes with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine borrowed from the Volkswagen Golf GTI offering nearly 200bhp. This translates to a top speed of nearly 150mph and 0-62mph acceleration in just 7.3 seconds.
But while the five-door Golf GTI costs more than £20,000, Skoda’s hottest ever car costs £3,000 less.
True, the Skoda brand hasn’t got quite the appeal to user-choosers of Volkswagen, but under the skin they are one and the same car.
And it is through the vRS sports brand that Skoda is aiming to boost its presence among the growing number of company car drivers who are enjoying ever-widening choice lists.
Currently, more than 10% of all new Skodas sold in the UK are vRS models, and with good reason – they are fun to drive, offer strong performance and don’t cost a fortune.
As well as the aforementioned turbocharged engine from the Golf GTI, the Octavia vRS also comes loaded with standard equipment, including climate control, part-leather sports seats, body kit and spoilers, twin exhaust pipes, a six-CD autochanger and stylish 17-inch alloy wheels.
But it’s the amount of performance offered which makes the biggest impression.
The Octavia vRS’s engine fizzes with enthusiasm and the turbocharger is always ready to provide a surge of acceleration from low down in the rev range.
While the 0-62mph sprint time is impressive, it’s the way the vRS builds speeds in-gear which really marks it out as a performance car.
This is helped by a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox which offers very direct shifts – ideal for exploiting the mid-range potential of the engine.
The only real downside of the performance package is that there’s no real engine noise to accompany it. The engine’s tone remains flat at all times and doesn’t give much character.
However, this is much the same as any performance car from the Volkswagen Group. As is the ride quality, which is fine on smooth roads but soon becomes crashy on less well surfaced stretches.
But it does mean that the Octavia rides very flatly and it continues this stance through the corners, meaning you really have to push hard to get the front end to understeer.
Factor in a hatchback design with plenty of room for four adults inside, plus their luggage in the deep boot, and you’re left with a hot hatchback for the family.
And for the money, allied to relatively low company car tax bills and competitive running costs for a fleet, it is clear that Skoda’s aim of increasing its brand awareness through the vRS performance range should be an easy job.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £17,297
CO2 emissions (g/km): 190
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 25%
Graduated VED rate: £165
Insurance group: 15
Combined mpg: 35.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,600/32%
Depreciation 19.49 pence per mile x 60,000: £11,694
Maintenance 3.12 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,872
Fuel 11.99 pence per mile x 60,000: £7,194
Wholelife cost 34.60 pence per mile x 60,000: £20,760
Typical contract hire rate: £393
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
SEAT’S chunky new Leon is easily the cheapest car on test, although it loses out against the others in terms of power. Its turbocharged 2.0-litre FSI engine produces 185bhp, 12bhp down on the same engine in a different state of tune in the Skoda and well down on the 222bhp offered by the Focus ST’s Volvo-sourced five-cylinder engine. The Astra is the least powerful car, with 170bhp in 2.0-litre SRi Turbo guise.
THE SEAT will be the cheapest model for a fleet to service and maintain over three years and 60,000 miles, with a likely SMR cost of just over £1,500. The Leon is nearly half a penny per mile ahead of the Vauxhall Astra in second with a cost of £1,746. Skoda’s Octavia is likely to cost a fleet nearly £1,900 to maintain while the Ford, with its more specialised, and therefore expensive tyres, is the most expensive on £2,124.
THE Skoda and SEAT share the same 2.0-litre turbo FSI engine from the Volkswagen Group, but strangely the more powerful version in the Octavia is more fuel efficient than the Leon. Skoda claims average fuel economy of 35.8mpg for the Octavia vRS, giving a likely fuel bill of around £7,200 after 60,000 miles. In contrast, the Leon Sport returns 34.8mpg for a bill of £7,400. The Astra will cost just over £8,200 in unleaded fuel, while the Focus’s bill will be £8,478.
THE SEAT’s low front-end price allied to a healthy residual value forecast sees it win the depreciation section. CAP estimates the Leon Sport will retain 39% of its cost new after three years/ 60,000 miles, leaving a cash lost figure of £9,872. However, the Ford runs it close despite costing £2,000 more at the front end. The Focus ST’s strong RV of 42% sees it lose £10,392 over the same period. The Octavia retains 32% of its cost new, while the Astra retains 31%.
WITH the lowest front-end price and convincing wins in the SMR and depreciation sections, the SEAT Leon takes the wholelife cost victory by some margin. Over three years and 60,000 miles it will cost a fleet just over £18,600 to run, which is more than £2,000 less than the Skoda in second place. The Ford puts in a credible performance considering it having the highest front-end price, while the Astra is off the pace in this company, costing more than 36 pence per mile.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE SEAT’s low purchase price translates into the lowest company car tax bill. The Leon Sport will cost a 22% taxpayer £72 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. The Skoda has slightly lower emissions buts its higher price means more tax – the Octavia vRS will cost the same driver £82 a month. The Vauxhall and Ford are in much higher tax bands and will cost the same driver £97 and £102 a month respectively.
DRIVERS in this sector will go for the car they want regardless (to a certain extent) of cost. While the SEAT is easily the cheapest to run and tax, it lacks the sporty nature of the others. Which leaves the Skoda and Ford. Both have similar running costs but the Focus ST’s better performance and handling make it my choice, despite its higher company car tax bills.