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Future Classic Friday: Skoda Octavia vRS

Published 17 November 2017

The Skoda Octavia was the first of the Czech manufacturer's cars to be wholly developed under Volkswagen Group ownership, and it was one that truly transformed the brand. Spacious, comfortable and great value, it was also a wonderfully reliable workhorse.

Based on the platform of the Golf Mk4, but with older tech, simpler engines, the Octavia was the perfect car for no-nonsense motorists, purists of the Skoda brand, and those that were prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

The Octavia turns 20 in 2018, and in that period it has earned a terrific reputation as Britain's favourite minicab - hardly glamorous, but a real testament to its dependability.

Aware that the Octavia was, dare we say, a little dull, Skoda decided to work some magic on the car to create what would become (in the UK at least) the first truly desirable Skoda. Using the 1.8-litre 180bhp turbocharged engine from the Golf GTi, along with some neat chassis and suspension tweaks, the Octavia vRS caused quite a stir when it appeared in 2000. 

Skoda Octavia V RS (2)

Here was a car that could out-GTi the Golf GTi, with a sharper chassis, better steering and comparabe performance, all at a knock-down price. At £14,995, the vRS was the same price as a mid-spec Mondeo or Passat, yet was almost as big and had a larger boot.

The name, incidentally, was vRS for the UK only - elsewhere it was simply the Octavia RS, but here the company ran into trouble with Ford owning the RS trademark. The lowercase 'v' was actually a nod to the v-shaped accent, called a diacritic, which appears over the 'S' on the Skoda nameplate. The true pronunciation of Skoda is actually 'Sch-koda' as a result. How's that for a piece of pub quiz trivia?

The addition of an estate version of the vRS in 2001 added even more versatlity, making it a particularly desirable car for fleet user choosers, its low list price helping it achieve good benefit-in-kind credentials. The police loved it, too - a high performance, reliable estate that was perfect for traffic use.

The vRS, then, was a car that was loved by many, but numbers have dwindled in recent times. An unfortunate side effect of cars being known for their reliability means that many get run into the ground, and there are very few low-mileage Octavias of any kind - let alone the vRS - on the market.

Skoda Octavia V RS (4)

Prices are picking up, too. There are still a few shabby sub-£1000 examples out there, and if you get lucky you might even find a decent car at that price level, but where cheap vRSs were plentiful 12-18 months ago, there aren't many left to choose from.

Good ones, on the other hand, are starting to creep up. You'll pay £2500 or so for a really good example, which is quite a lot for a car that's at least 12 years old - but not a lot for a high-quality performance saloon that's still more than capable of everday use. Buy one, enjoy it and look after it, and you probably won't lose a penny. The Octavia vRS is an on-the-cusp classic, and it won't be long before demand outstrips supply.

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