This car is a wonderful package for the money. It blends the power, performance, and handling of a hot hatchback, with the refinement, comfort and sophistication of a car costing far more than this does. As a result, this car is not only an outstanding package, but is quite unique on the roads today.
First off, the car is really good looking. Some magazines have criticized its looks saying its too plain or bland, but I don't agree with this. Excellent alloy wheels (16-inch) really suit the car, and along with its lowered suspension and vRS badges, bigger bumpers, spoiler and big fat tail pipe, I think this car looks the business. Certainly, I think its better looking than most, if not all hot hatches out there today, only the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, Ford Focus ST170 and Honda Civic Type R look as good or better than this car in my opinion.
That theme is carried on to the interior too, another area where its said to be bland. Well, its quite understated I suppose if you are after splashes of wild colouring inside, you don't get that, but the interior still makes you feel much more special than a car of this price has any right to. Door sills with the vRS logo, recaro style seats, again with the vRS logo, short shift gear knob with leather gator, leather handled handbrake, chrome ringed dials, leather sports steering wheel, vRS mats are all part of the deal. You get air conditioning, central locking, electric windows and mirrors, trip computer, cd player, and many other toys far too numerous to mention here. I still haven't figured out what everything does in this car. To put the icing on the cake, the interior is high quality, with no rattles as yet, and a solid feeling dashboard. You could just as well be sitting in a £16k-£20k car as opposed to one that costs just £12k.
I looked at its closest rival, the Ibiza TDI Sport 130, and the Skoda is better looking inside and out than the Ibiza, and it costs £2k less.
On the road, I have found little, if anything to criticized about this car. At first, the six speed gearbox seemed a little pointless on a car like this, but I am growing to like it. Although it does require more work, this is supposed to be a kind of hot hatch, so if you want a lazy cruiser, then you will be so much better off with something like a Golf.
However, don't be fooled into thinking this car can't cruise like a grand tourer, because it can. Its happy to sit in 6th gear at speeds of over 55mph, and a prod of the accelerator will send you surging forward with surprising ease considering its 6th. You also have a 5th gear to use on the motorway which makes for even keener progress, and already I have surprised the owners of various sports coupes as I leave them far behind on the motorway, only to have them tear past me 30 seconds later, engine furiously revving, long after I have finished making my point. It is said that the car can accelerate from 50-70 in less than 8 seconds in 5th gear, and that is definitely believable. My old car was a 1.4 Micra, and you would have to use 3rd gear to get such acceleration on a motorway, and even then it would sound breathless and would still be slower. At 70 mph, the engine revs at just over 2,000rpm in 6th, so there seems little point in even changing down to overtake in most circumstances. I feel this relaxed muscle and massive torque would surprise many a petrol engined hot hatch out on a motorway.
Out on the B roads, and this car proves it can also entertain just like an old school hot hatch. Its massive torque allows it to power around, and out of corners, and it seems very keen on corners, although it is a heavy car, and it does feel it, this car probably won't handle as well as the best hot hatches, but it most certainly is an entertaining car to chuck around corners, and if you care more about pleasing yourself than racing against the clock, this car certainly won't disappoint.
In town, once again its superior torque allows you to nip across town in an effortless fashion, although really, the car comes into its own out of town, where I don't really feel the vRS is any better than my Micra was (but I still have more fun).
There are a few things to bear in mind with the performance of this car however. First of all, getting used to its relaxed, muscular torque after a screaming petrol engine takes some getting used to. At first, I would chicken out of overtaking maneuvers because it seemed the engine was not really trying. However, show a little faith, and make sure that rev counter is showing 1,900rpm there or thereabouts, and you will overtake with ease, even half a dozen cars in a long straight will not worry this car. Also, although I have been running it in, having driven a run-in one, I can say that the power band is pretty narrow, and extends up to about 3,000rpm, after which there is little point in carrying on revving, although admittedly it is quite easy to exceed 3,000rpm. Again this will take some getting used to, and is one reason why this car is probably more suited to the open road than through town, as 3,000rpm in 2nd is a mere 30 mph. This car generally seems happier at higher speeds. Finally, watch your speed!!! This car is so quiet and refined, that although you feel the pull quite convincingly of this engine, you still won't feel like you are going that quick, but that speedo needle will shoot towards the 100mph surprisingly quickly for a car which appears to be hardly trying to get there, so it IS deceptively quick on the open road. There are few cars on a motorway that will be able to live with this Skoda.
Now, this is what I would call a hot hatch for someone who wants a comfortable, good looking car, still wants to have fun, but doesn't want all kinds of unwanted attention, and doesn't want the sky high insurance premiums or high running costs that go with it. Including some spirited driving, this car does an average of about 45 mpg according to the trip computer, whereas my 1.4 Micra struggled to reach 35 mpg. Finally, the insurance group is group 9, which is pretty low for a car of this performance, which normally run into group 13 or above. It costs myself, 25 year old with full no claims £500 a year to insure.
Overall, I am delighted with this car after only 600 or so miles. Its fast, effortless, fun, yet also refined and comfortable, to get all of this right is some achievement, but to do it at £12k is incredible. Forget about the Skoda badge, this is a VW in drag, and it looks pretty darn good in drag, I can tell you!