The Skoda Octavia vRS iV Estate Plug-in Hybrid aims to give you everything: performance, economy, practicality and value.
Skoda was traditionally the ‘value’ brand within the Volkswagen Group, but the latest Skoda Octavia vRS iV Estate also offers performance, a plug-in hybrid powertrain, a high-tech interior, and sporty looks – so with this car, are you actually buying a Volkswagen or Audi with a Skoda badge and a more affordable price tag?
The Skoda Octavia vRS iV Estate Plug-in Hybrid has a 1.4 TSI 245PS petrol engine mated with a 13kWh battery, an 85kW electric motor, with power channelled through a six-speed DSG transmission and a front-wheel drive chassis. Because it’s a plug-in hybrid, you plug it in to charge the battery.
There’s a practical and good-looking estate body, with a good-sized boot, sporty styling including 19-inch alloy wheels, and a high-tech interior – you even get a map displayed in the middle of the driver’s instruments, which is very Audi-like.
One feature that we particularly like is the ability to store the charging cables under the boot floor.
The Octavia vRS iV Estate has an interior that is light years ahead compared to the bland dashboards of Octavias from years ago. Most people should be able to get a good driving position and there’s even a nice, sporty steering wheel. And the Octavia vRS iV Estate is an increasing rare breed – it’s not an SUV, but an estate that sits low to the ground, providing a low centre of gravity for sporty handling (although the battery and electric motor means the PHEV is heavier than the petrol version).
If you’re driving the car in cold weather, as we were, you’ll be grateful for the heated seats and heated steering wheel (although these are an option, as part of the £435 winter pack).
The Octavia vRS iV starts off in electric mode, which is good, and the driving experience is as quiet and refined as you would expect from an electric powertrain.
If you swap to the petrol engine then the Octavia remains refined, with relatively sharp steering compared to previous Octavias, good body control, and a decent ride, unless the large alloys with low profile tyres hit a pothole, when the tyres don’t have much ability to absorb the impact. The tyres also contribute to some road noise at motorway speeds, which is the only thing that spoils the otherwise refined experience.
Overall the Octavia vRS iV can be fast and fun to drive, or it can be zero-emission, but with the torque of the electric motor (and petrol engine) going through the front wheels, there’s isn’t much grip when accelerating out of junctions on cold, wet roads.
The traditional gear selector for the automatic transmission has disappeared from the Octavia and it’s been replaced with a very small switch. This is obviously the future, but, sorry, we would still prefer a traditional, substantial gear selector. You can swap between D and S settings, and steering wheel-mounted paddles allow you to change gear manually, but there’s no ‘B’ setting for increased brake regeneration.
There are a number of drive modes to choose from: Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. And then there’s E-mode and Hybrid. One good feature is that you can select E-mode and Sport at the same time. One bad feature is that to save/not save the battery charge there’s a little tick button on screen that you have to select; lots of people are not likely to be aware of this. Also, it’s not possible to select a drive mode just with one press of a button.
And this leads us on to our only main issue with the Octavia – and it’s an issue with virtually all of the latest Volkswagen Group vehicles – the driver is always having to reach for the touchscreen for all the controls. There are some shortcut buttons under the screen but they’re not the obvious shortcut buttons that you would expect, such as radio or sat nav. There’s a button for climate, but when you get to the climate screen you have to press another button to adjust the climate controls in a traditional way. And when you get to the navigation screen, you’re given a diagram rather than a map (viewing a map needs a press of another button). The system really needs a user-friendly home button.
You also need to go into the touchscreen to switch off the lane departure warning system. There’s a diagram of the car which you can use to switch off different safety systems (similar to the system in the Honda e); this is better than the normal sub-menus within sub-menus, but there’s still too much button-pressing involved, which means too much time with your eyes on the screen, looking away from the road.
The Octavia has cruise control, but it’s hidden behind the steering wheel spoke so you can’t see it.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Skoda Octavia vRS iV Estate Plug-in Hybrid is 235.4 – 176.6mpg, with CO2 emissions of 27-36g/km. Officially it has a range of up to 39 miles on electric power.
As with all plug-in hybrids, what you’ll get in terms of real-life economy completely depends on how much you drive on petrol and how much you drive on electric – in other words anything between 30mpg and 1000mpg is possible. During our week with the car the electric range averaged 21 miles (in winter) and we averaged 68.4mpg overall. In our view a more useful figure is the economy of the car at 70mph on the motorway on its petrol engine, when the Octavia averaged 51.6mpg, which is respectable, and much better than a two-tonne plug-in hybrid SUV thanks to better aerodynamics, lighter weight and a more efficient engine. The Octavia displayed a 340 mile range on its petrol engine when the fuel tank was full.
When connected to a 3.6kW charger, the battery pack can be charged from empty to full in 3.5 hours. Using a domestic three-pin 2.3kW power source, the pack can be fully charged in five hours.
The Skoda Octavia vRS iV Estate 1.4 TSI 245PS Plug-in Hybrid costs £36,875. Our test car had options of ‘exclusive colour’ (Velvet Red metallic) (£975), Winter Pack (£435), Wireless charging (£335), Driver fatigue sensor (£45), bringing the total price to £38,665. The Octavia vRS iV is available as a Saloon or Estate.
The Skoda Octavia vRS iV Estate 1.4 TSI 245PS Plug-in Hybrid is a very appealing car overall. It shows that you can have everything: performance, economy (with zero emission capability) and practicality. And in our view, if you removed the badge, there’s not much difference between driving this and a Volkswagen or an Audi – yet the Octavia is cheaper, so there’s another win there. We’d prefer all-wheel drive, as the front wheels don’t have much grip when accelerating on cold, wet roads.
But the main issue with the car is that there’s too much button pressing on the touchscreen to operate basic controls. This issue isn’t specific to the Octavia, many new cars have the same problem. Hopefully someone will soon realise that spending lots of time looking for sub-menus on a touchscreen takes your eyes off the road and is therefore dangerous.
Our standard plug-in hybrid disclaimer applies: only consider a plug-in hybrid if most of your driving can be done on battery power. If most of your driving is long journeys on the petrol engine then you’re likely to be disappointed with the economy.
The Skoda Octavia vRS iV Estate 1.4 TSI 245PS Plug-in Hybrid gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.