IAIN ROBERTSON 

Skoda Octavia vRS PHEV

Skoda Octavia vRS PHEV

While the pictures are just teaser quality, the actual shots being heavily embargoed until Press Day at Geneva, Iain Robertson assures you that the forthcoming Octavia vRS will confound the critics and perpetuate a far from grey model past.

Anticipation is a great thing. Motor Shows used to apply the art of anticipation with both rigour and vigour…but, then, they stopped, which, for me, was a great excuse never to be forced to attend them again. After all, where was the value in preparing for a series of never-been-seen-before motor vehicles, when the media agencies could supply as many pictures and specifications as you needed at least a week beforehand and sometimes with even greater notice.

The car companies buckled to the ‘might’ of the monthly glossies and the big national dailies, all of which editorial personnel were desperate to steal a march over their rivals, without giving a toss about Joe Bloggs visiting the show and enjoying a real surprise. I love surprises, most of the time. The build-up to a reveal, while sometimes interminably tedious, involving the often-foreign boss of a multi-national car company, sometimes speaking through interpreters (who never make errors…ever!), invariably in a semi-formal manner, for 20-40 minutes of chest-puffing flim-flam, usually ended with an exciting rush to the stage and subsequent wrestling match to grab the first available seat.

Skoda Octavia vRS PHEV

Skoda Octavia vRS PHEV

Yet, thanks to the big titles, that pleasure has been removed. In fact, we seldom get any real secrets any more…they have already been unveiled and often tested weeks beforehand. However, Skoda has seldom played to expectations. It invariably brings something that nobody, however inquisitive, has ever seen before. Of course, there are lightly disguised images making their appearance on the Internet, as usual, but the real story will be revealed at Geneva. Well done, Skoda!

As you can see from the teaser shot, its nearside front wing now features a fuel flap for the plug-in charger cable. While important, the PHEV version of the vRS is not exactly confined by the Official Secrets Act. Although I have still never received a response to my question, “Why 1.4-litre?” in hybrid guise, it is the same corporate unit, complete with lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that provides the PHEV alternatives in Golf, Leon and A3 forms. In other words, around 245bhp, 280lbs ft of torque, CO2 emissions of round 50g/km and an overall fuel return in the order of 60mpg.

Of course, planted, as it is, in the MQB platform that each of those models uses and carrying a weight penalty of at least 200kgs (batteries and electric motors are not lightweight), you can expect the 0-60mph time to be slightly stunted (6.8s), although overall gearing through the 6-speed DSG gearbox should still return a top speed around 155mph. Although well packaged, the boot will suffer from a marginal decrease in capacity but specifically tailored spring and damper rates, which are a first-rate Skoda speciality, will more than accommodate any dynamic handling nuances.

Skoda Octavia vRS PHEV

Skoda Octavia vRS PHEV

The other vRS models in the enhanced line-up will be conventional 245bhp petrol and 181bhp turbodiesel, available in the usual hatch and estate car bodies. It is abundantly clear which model will be most sought after by both private and company car users, both for road tax and Benefit-in-Kind reductions, the vast majority being snapped-up by leasing firms and user-choosers.

The new model benefits from all of the detail upgrades introduced by the latest Octavia range. However, the all-black interior of the vRS will be relieved by coloured stitching and glitzier screen graphics, the latest generation touchscreen and reconfigurable digital instrument panel helping to alleviate the darker shades of grey. Externally, the usual round of aerodynamic addenda, bigger air intakes and fat wheels and tyres will support the vRS principles.

The Skoda Octavia vRS remains a vital pillar of the brand. It is accepted as a classless performance contender and appreciated for its range of competences on every level. The prices have been creeping ever upwards and you will be unlikely to receive much change from £40,000 for the plug-in hybrid version but beneficial rental rates are sure to keep popularity buoyant.

Conclusion:    All will become obvious after Press day at Geneva, so you do not have long to wait.