What is it?
At face value, you would have to be stoutly committed to diesel to choose this TDI take on the new Octavia vRS instead of the petrol version.
Both cars are striking to behold and equally well equipped but, for a premium of just £25, the higher-revving TSI gives you 45bhp more. The fact we’re talking about moderately hot hatches here, rather than the 300bhp-plus sharks, makes the discrepancy even more acute.
So what does the TDI deliver in return? Superior fuel economy is an obvious one. On paper, the 197bhp TDI (16bhp more than before) is virtually teetotal compared with the TSI, and an indicated average over 65mpg on 30 miles of motorway elicited a genuine double take at the smart digital instrument readout.
Clearly, on the continuum of real-world pace versus low fuel bills, few sit higher than this Skoda. And, unsurprisingly, the diesel engine also makes more torque, although so rounded and capable are the modern Volkswagen Group petrols that the advantage is slimmer than you might expect: 295lb ft arriving at 1750rpm plays 273lb ft from 1600rpm and the petrol’s peak torque band is wider.
Chassis-wise, both vRS models sit on 15mm-shorter springs than the regular Octavia. They both get the same set of Lamborghini-esque 19in wheels shod in Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres, too. You can then add Dynamic Chassis Control and choose from almost countless damper settings, just like you can in the Volkswagen Golf GTI. However, our car didn’t have this £995 extra, and so rode on passive dampers, which control the macpherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension. Note also that the vRS models get a wider rear track.
What’s it like?
From your position within the Skoda’s heavily bolstered and vaguely JDM-esque cloth bucket seat, things get intriguing when you hit the back roads.
For one thing, compared with the vRS TSI Estate I recently drove, the TDI hatch feels more intimately connected with the road and gives more detailed steering feedback through its firm, perforated (and, come to think about it, also JDM-esque) leather rim.
The difference is actually quite stark, although whether that’s to do with this car’s lack of DCC dampers, the physical differences of the diesel engine and the effects they have on the suspension set-up or possibly the fact the wagon was deliberately made to feel more diffident in character, you would need a Skoda engineer for reliable comment.