Performance, until now, wasn’t really a priority for car buyers and the rising fuel prices haven’t helped either. But there is still a class of buyers who demand more performance from their cars. However, performance cars are still at its infancy. Yes, we have the Volkswagen Polo GTI that gives buyers a taste of performance, but now, Skoda has launched the hot Octavia RS and it costs almost Rs 6 lakh more than the VW. Both use powerful turbo-petrol engines, both get focused and stiffer suspensions and both have a raspy exhaust note that turns heads everywhere. While the Octavia RS is more powerful, the GTI scores higher in terms of being lighter and more nimble. The biggest similarity by far, however, is the 0-100kph time that is just 0.1sec apart.
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE TO DRIVE?
First impressions in the Octavia RS are very positive. The 230hp turbo-petrol engine catapults the RS swiftly, and the pace is searing. In normal ‘D’ or drive mode, the RS feels just as exciting, but it is the more focused ‘S’ or Sport mode that really brings out its character. Engage this, and you have a more responsive engine, faster gearshifts from the six-speed DSG gearbox, which hold the gears right up to the 6,800rpm redline and, of course, that raw and raspy exhaust note that crackles and pops between shifts. The engine has a wide powerband which means you can overtake with minimal hesitance. The paddle shifters too, are well calibrated and shifts are instant after every flex of the fingers. Handling is excellent. The stiffer suspension, lower ride height and the superb grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport tyres help its case; it also has a lot to do with the electronic differential which keeps the RS from understeering. All combined, the result is flat and composed cornering with loads of grip from both the front and rear. You do feel the length no doubt, but as you go faster, it shrinks around you. Downsides? Well, the ride does get jarring after a long stint over broken roads, and it feels a bit skittish on mid-corner bumps, but that’s about it.
The VW GTI may not have the show, but it too has a burly exhaust note, and if you mash the throttle you could easily get a similar heart rate. The GTI has a 190hp, 1.8-litre engine mated to a seven-speed DSG gearbox. Yes, it is a bit down on power, but with almost a 150kg advantage, the acceleration is just as exciting. In the sprint from 0-100kph, the Octavia RS crosses the line at 6.65sec and the GTI at 6.75sec. That said, gearshifts do feel jerky and you get quite a bit of that ‘head nod’ every time it upshifts. The GTI may not have the outright grip of the RS but it still attacks corners like a terrier.
The combination of the compact dimensions, stiffened suspension, sharp steering and electronic differential setup is so good, you almost forget the lack of rigidity from the Polo body shell. What’s surprising is that, even at cruising speeds, the GTI feels relaxed and this allows you to do long hours comfortably.
|Technical specifications and performance|
|Skoda Octavia RS||Volkswagen Polo GTI|
|Engine ||1984cc, 4 cyls||1798cc, 4 cyls|
|Peak power||230hp at 5500-6200rpm||192hp at 5400-6200rpm|
|Peak torque||350Nm at 1500-4500rpm||250Nm at 1250-5300rpm|
|50-80kph through the gears||1.98s||2.02s|
|20-80kph in kickdown||4.07s||4.18s|
|40-100kph in kickdown||4.73s||4.46s|
|Economy||14.45kpl (claimed)||16.35kpl (claimed)|
|Tank||50 litres||45 litres|
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE ON THE INSIDE?
‘Racy’ seems like a safe word to describe the RS’ interiors. All black with a hint of red in the stitching with carbon-fibre accents on the centre console. You also have the superb sport seats covered in Alcantara, with the ‘RS’ logo on the headrests. The seats are very comfortable and supportive as well; the cushioning is a tad firm but you need that with all the performance on offer. Apart from that, everything else is lifted straight from the top-end Octavia, which means you get the good build, plush materials, and buttons and switches that work superbly. In the rear, the seat is set a tad low and could have done with a bit more underthigh support. That said, there is ample legroom and headroom even for large-frame adults.
Overall design on the RS is identical to the Octavia but are all-black here.
The GTI, however, is on the back foot in comparison. The dashboard is strikingly similar to the Polo. The build quality is undoubtedly good and there is tartan fabric on the seats, which is interesting, but the feel-good factor isn’t a high as on the RS. Also, the front seats have extra side bolstering to support you. Distinguishing features on the GTI are the flat-bottomed steering wheel, sporty instrument cluster and a precise rotary adjuster for the seat backrest. Also, being a two-door, access to the rear seats is slightly difficult, and once seated, it is alarmingly cramped for adults; a far cry from the spacious cabin of the RS.
Interiors are identical to Polo GT, which costs half as much.
WHAT ABOUT EQUIPMENT AND SAFETY?
The RS comes with a lengthy equipment list. Taking centre stage on the dashboard is an 8.0-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. You get navigation, Bluetooth telephony, automatic parking with front and rear parking sensors. You also get electrically adjustable front seats, rear AC vents, a sunroof and cruise control. The highlight, however, is the front electronic differential which helps the RS corner with more confidence, and is a boon in terms of safety as well. Speaking of safety, you get eight airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC and Isofix points for child seats as well.
The GTI is falls way behind on the equipment front. While it does get a touchscreen, it’s a more basic one. There isn’t Apple or Android connectivity, and it even misses out on rear parking camera. What you do get is Bluetooth telephony, paddle shifters, full LED headlights with DRLs and cruise control. Safety, however, is diligently looked after. You get six airbags, ABS with EBD, and Isofix points in the rear.
HOW MUCH DO THEY COST TO OWN?
Both these performance cars are available in just a single trim. The GTI is a full CBU and what you see is what you get. There are no options and no add-ons, and it’s the same for the Octavia RS. So, the Rs 5 lakh deficit is all there is separating these two.
The Octavia RS launched at Rs 25.48 lakh is on the higher side, but with it, you also get Skoda’s impressive, 4 year/1,00,000km warranty. The VW GTI has a huge advantage with an ex-showroom price of just Rs 20.69 lakh, along with a 2 years/unlimited kilometre warranty. You can further extend this for 1 year/80,000km or 2 years/1,00,000km, which is advisable as its parts will be pricey.
|What will it cost you|
|Skoda Octavia RS||Volkswagen Polo GTI|
|Ex-showroom, Delhi price||Rs 25,48,644||Rs 20,68,895|
|Insurance||Rs 1,00,327||Rs 89,564|
|Registration (& taxes)||Rs 3,05,408||Rs 2,13,190|
|On-road price (Delhi)||Rs 29,59,326||Rs 24,02,551|
|Depreciation after 1st year||31%||29%|
|Depreciation after 2ndyear||21%||21%|
|Depreciation after 3rd year||19%||18%|
|Aftersales and service||Average||Above average|
WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?
Both the Octavia RS and VW GTI give those who love driving that requisite dose of performance and sportiness. While the GTI is Rs 11.5 lakh pricier than a Polo GT TSI, the RS is only Rs 3.5 lakh more expensive than a petrol Octavia, so relatively, the RS is better value. That said, the GTI’s compact dimensions will be loved by hot hatchbacks fans. Its two-door design and subtle exteriors enhancements do very little to distinguish it from the regular Polo, not good when someone is spending Rs 20 lakh. Missing features, cramped cabin and limited practicality only weaken its case. And that’s why the Octavia RS wins. With a punchy 230hp engine and sharp handling, this car is even better to drive. Its looks have been properly enhanced and you get all the features and practicality of the Octavia. So, the RS is a comfy, spacious sedan that’s also capable of satisfying your need for speed, and clearly the one to go for.