Day 1 The Skoda arrives looking surprisingly sporty. It’s bright blue for one thing, and the chrome round the grille is blacked out in a slightly sinister way. This turns out to be a £100 option. On the inside, the seats are unexpectedly racy with one-piece backrests like a Porsche 928. Or an old Jaguar XK. Or some kind of American coupe from the 1970s. Anyway, it all combines in a not unpleasant way.
Day 2 The mechanical bits of vRS seem to have been combined in a not unpleasant way too. It’s subtle but not without a bit of vigour. The engine is good and boosty, the gearchange is decent, all told a car that speaks softly but carries a big stick. Probably inside a nicely understated briefcase.
Day 3 By and large, the Octavia has a very acceptable ride. Only occasionally does it seem a bit firm. And I think the rough bits only occur to you because for the most part it’s so reasonable, like hearing Huw Edwards suddenly calling a waiter a sodding tit.
Day 4 Time for some brisk driving. The vRS responds in kind by becoming really quite entertaining. Other Octavias have a torsion beam rear axle. The vRS gets an independent, multi-link design. That must help. During some exuberant cornering on a slightly damp road there’s even a brief signal through the steering wheel that the front tyres are losing grip. Which is nice, if you’re interested in such things.
Day 5 There is a covered compartment in front of the Octavia’s gearlever. When you slide it open there is a tiny click engineered into the end of its travel and another one when you slide it closed again. Someone has done this. That was their job for, what? Six months? A year? Every night they came home to their family and maybe someone asked how the click was going. Yea, you know, slow going but we’re getting there they would reply. Well done Head Of Click. You have done your job well. The click makes you think you’re getting your money’s worth from this car. See also, the little parking ticket holder clip on the inside of the screen and the cupholder insert that holds your mobile phone. Nice touches. Although neither of these things has a built-in click.
Day 6 You know who liked the old Octavia vRS? The police. They’ll like this one too. Not in ‘Race Blue’ with blacked out trim but paint the body grey, keep the normal chrome trim and spec silver rather than gunmetal wheels and you’d have a very good plain clothes car. Or put fluorescent Battenberg cake up the sides, write ECILOP on the bonnet and you’d have an actual police car. Either way, Skoda should embrace this market by fitting traffic cones in the boot and a moustache comb in the glovebox.
Day 7 Give a mate a lift in the Octavia. Well this is all you’d need, he says sagely. He’s probably right. And he’s not even a policeman.
Goodbye That’s it. The Octavia vRS is proceeding in a westerly direction away from my house. It’s not the flashiest or most exciting thing in the world but nor is it boring and you come away reflecting on how likeable and pleasant it was, as you might after a weekend away in Bruges. It’s the kind of car you might buy if you want something brisk, entertaining and practical but you don’t want people to know about the first two things. I rather liked it.
The car talked about here is a Skoda Octavia vRS. It has a turbocharged 2-litre engine making 217 horsepower which means, according to Skoda, it can do 154mph and 0-62 in 6.8 seconds. It costs £22,990.