For many of us the luxury of owning two cars is out of the question. The best we can hope for is a company car for biffing around in and something a little tastier for ourselves on the side. But if you’ve got to be a one-car petrolhead in Europe, you could do a lot worse than a MkIII Skoda Octavia vRS.
There are plenty of big cars for sale below £10,000 in the classifieds, but not too many are as little as five years old. An early hot Octavia ticks a hell of a lot of boxes. Built to move the game on from the ageing MkII with which we compared it earlier this year, the MkIII felt like a much more serious piece of kit inside and out.
A sudden jump to optional and madly striking 19-inch alloy wheels may not have done the ride quality any favours but the Octavia’s genius recipe was better than ever. More legroom, more boot space and more performance from the chain-driven EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine joined more technology in the shape of on-the-fly adjustable damping.
The green and red vRS styling theme took its first big swing to the red side with a sea of scarlet stitching all over the cabin, from the seats to the steering wheel and just about everywhere else Skoda could fit it in. You’ll find a similar approach in the red-accented Vision RS concept’s ‘vegan’ interior, revealed earlier this week.
Our pick for this article comes fitted with aftermarket red-trimmed carpet mats, too. The seats were half-leather vRS items as per tradition, but there was more equipment both as standard and on the options list.
Xenon headlights were welcome, as was cruise control and parking sensors. The lights and windscreen wipers had been given (optional) automatic functionality, there was a central touch-screen and the whole thing was built with much higher materials quality than before.
That all helped make it the best Octavia vRS there had yet been. Also key was the upgraded incarnation of the evergreen EA888, bumped to 217bhp from the 197bhp of the late MkII. The 0-62mph sprint now came about in 6.5 seconds, for the lighter hatchback. An estate was also offered, if, like me, you like a rapid wagon.
Depreciation has not really been its friend, though. Higher-mileage examples are now down into four-figure prices. Our white, optioned-up hatchback from the classifieds has trodden over 107,000 miles to date in its five years in action, which has pushed its original £23,305 plus options purchase price down to less than two fifths of that.
That’s because the options spend includes the DSG gearbox. Whether you call it an automatic or a twin-clutch automated manual, it was – and is – a pricey extra to slap onto the deal. It’s a versatile unit, able to work to its own beat or with you calling the shots via short-travel paddles on the back of the steering wheel.
There’s forum talk of an inherent weakness present in some of the early six-speed DSG units fitted to a range of cars including the Octavia, but it tended to manifest itself much sooner in an afflicted vehicle’s life span than this so – fingers crossed – this one is probably not a sufferer.
We found it for sale with ROM Motors near Hinckley in the heart of England, close to Nuneaton in the Midlands. While we can see a fair amount of wheel kerbing, which will be costly to fix, this one does seem surprisingly cheap. The next-cheapest on Auto Trader is almost £1500 more for a manual estate with mileage of less than 90,000. Still, for a car that will perform just about any task you need it to, for the rest of your life if you could keep it running, we think it’s potentially a steal.