Life with the 2021 Skoda Octavia RS wagon is shaping up to be pretty great, but can it entertain even through Melbourne’s restrictive coronavirus lockdown?
- You can customise it to your heart’s content
- Neat ‘Simply Clever’ value-adds
- Refined around-town driving manner
- Frustrating lack of physical buttons
- Infotainment system is prone to hiccups
- Naff fake engine noise automatically turns back on after every restart
After a relatively exciting few trips in the 2021 Skoda Octavia RS wagon long-termer last month, the reality of coronavirus returns. Melbourne is back into the thick of lockdown through August, and rendering all drives down to the simple supermarket shuffle.
That said, it’s no huge drama as I’ve been meaning to update you on how this car fares through the everyday schlep. Yes – it’s not the most exciting lens to review a car through, but I’ve found the Skoda rather endearing even through the boring stuff.
When we first collected the Octavia RS, I was taken aback at the amount of customisation and features on offer – almost to the point of bewilderment. The 10.25-inch instrument cluster is eminently customisable – you can choose from several gauge layouts, a bunch of background colours, choose what information is displayed within the screen… It’s a lot.
|2021 Skoda Octavia RS wagon|
|Colour||Velvet Red metallic|
|Price (MSRP)||$62,490 (as-tested drive-away)|
|Options as tested||$9500 (Premium Pack, panoramic roof, metallic paint)|
|Servicing 5yr||$1400 (pre-purchase)|
|ANCAP safety rating||5-star (2019 – Octavia range)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
That’s just the instrument cluster too. While it’s nice to have the option to fully customise a vehicle to your specific tastes, it’s not a simple process by any means – you’ll no doubt have to reference the manual as I did.
The widescreen infotainment system itself contains a rivalling level of complexity, though the part I’ve taken issue with is having key vehicle controls hidden within the 10.25-inch touch display. Some of the folks around the Drive office have come around to the idea that start/stop functionality, driving modes, air-conditioning, music playback, and volume controls are accessed through the touchscreen, though I’m not one of them. I’ll happily die on my hill shouting the praises of simple buttons and dials over touch controls.
In any case, features within the system are plentiful and functionality is simple. There’s a home button to the right of the screen and a menu button that helps you quickly get to what you’re after. The maps are nicely presented, and even the voice assistant has played ball and dealt out my commands diligently.
I mentioned in the last update that the software has a tendency to crash or display bizarrely, which unfortunately continues through this month. Ad-hoc stories colleagues have shared involve the speakers not playing any audio, half the screen going dead, and Bluetooth being reluctant to connect. Many of these issues are fixed with a reset of the system, but with a large number of problems (commenters have complained about the same issue with their cars), hopefully Skoda rolls out an infotainment update or fix at some point.
The office collective and I are continually discovering a series of unique hidden details in the Octavia RS, which Skoda likes to call ‘Simply Clever’ features. My favourite is the umbrellas stored inside the door cards like a Rolls-Royce, but there are other cool tidbits such as an ice scraper stored within the fuel filler cap, a reversible plastic/carpet boot mat, extended head rests for back seat passengers, rubbish bins in the door cards, phone holders in the map pockets, and ticket holder on the windscreen.
While they sound small and insignificant on paper, I have no doubt that Skoda owners will find joy in discovering the cool and unique aspects that the Czech brand does over and above rival manufacturers. Each time you find one is like finding a little easter egg in a video game.
Practicality through the day-to-day is made as simple as can be with the Octavia RS wagon body in particular. Keyless entry is quick to register an intention to lock or unlock, the electric memory seats slide between preset positions, and once you figure out that the hands-free electric boot release requires a kicking motion rather than a swiping one, that too is quick to register time after time.
The boot is a configurable space with the aforementioned dual-use boot liner, a bunch of nets that tie down luggage, and two cargo pockets behind each wheel well. As well, the rear seats can be flattened with a handy lever in the boot.
The simplicity continues when you’re driving it. I’m a fan of the little nub gear selector becoming commonplace in Volkswagen Group’s products – it allows for more storage space for items. After years of persistence with a dual-clutch transmission, Skoda’s tamed it to the point where it is very well behaved around town.
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|2021 Skoda Octavia RS wagon|
|Engine configuration||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||180kW at 6500rpm, 370Nm at 1600–4300rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel consumption (combined-cycle claim)||6.8L/100km|
|Fuel consumption (combined-cycle on test)||9.2L/100km|
|Key competitors||Peugeot 508 GT wagon | Mazda 6 GT wagon | Subaru Levorg|
Switching between drive and reverse is a quick process, and the car doesn’t hesitate nearly as much as we’ve come to expect in prior products. Visibility and manoeuvrability are high points, with mirrors that dip down to help you gauge your distance to the kerb when reverse parking. Its turning circle is also a manageable 11.1m.
For more of a feel of how the Skoda Octavia RS drives further afield, check out our last long-term update, but in short, it blends in to negotiate suburban life as well as it does spirited driving.
As mentioned through the introductory update, materials use throughout the cabin is very nice. It feels as though Skoda’s made the jump from Volkswagen-esque interiors to emulating Audi ones. The Alcantara accents on the door cards and dash add a sporty touch, while the red stitching and leather/leatherette seats feel quality.
Our time with the Skoda is nearing an end. Before handing it back, I’ll get in front of the camera in the next update and show you a few of the pros and cons to Octavia RS ownership.
I imagine I’ll be a bit sad to see this one off because it’s shaping up to be a car I’d spend my own money on. It’s ticking all the right boxes.
2021 Skoda Octavia RS wagon long-term review: Daily driver duties
Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive. As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories. He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content. Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.