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Skoda Octavia Estate vRS

Does the new car market need a sporty estate right now? As we drown in SUVs and crossovers, it could be argued that an estate would be a breath of fresh air. But said estate would need to be a sturdy, no-shits-given workhorse—none of that giant touchscreen or ambient lighting nonsense.

And that's exactly what Skoda delivers with the Octavia Estate. However, we got our hands on the vRS variant—it's still an estate, but has an added slice of sportiness.

The exterior design hints at what is to come. The Octavia Estate vRS has a handful of extras that aren't on the standard model, such as a little spoiler, chrome exhaust pipes and alloy wheels. It also has its own bumper styling, all in the interest of making the car look a little bit mean.

There's nothing particularly revolutionary here. There's no slap to the face, no 'look at how bad ass I am.' It's all pretty low-key and familiar. Endearing, one might say. But hang on—check out that paint job. It is almost eye-watering. I kind of love it (for the short time I have the car at least). Perhaps a more subtle colour would emphasise my point about the understated exterior a little better...

A similar theme continues inside—it's all rather functional and sharp, without being snazzy or boisterous. There are nice touches here and there, such as the chrome inner door handles and the carbon fibre on the centre console. Not all the surfaces are gorgeous to touch, but it doesn't feel cheap and plasticy either. I also very much like the vRS seats, which are exceptionally comfy, as well as the panoramic sunroof (which is an optional extra costing £1,180).

There is a large infotainment screen (wait... what about the statement I made when I started this review...) embedded into the dash above the centre console. The system is nice and easy to use, and there is no major lag when loading maps. The screen almost seamlessly drops down to the climate control buttons below, as both feature a black glossy surface where they meet. Also, there is a choice of ten ambient lighting options for the doors (err...?)

The one incy-wincy downside to the interior is the area that sits above the touchscreen. It's only a small section, and includes the hazard light button and controls for the air vents, but it just looks terrible. Again, just a small section, so don't fret.

In contrast, the biggest positive with the Octavia Estate vRS (and it is a biggie) is the amount of space there is. It's giant. And yes, I've used this analogy to describe an estate before, but it really is like the wardrobe from Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But rather than entering the weird, perplexing world of Narnia, adventurers are greeted with a wonderfully functional and well-designed car interior.

And despite the enormity of it, the estate doesn't feel sluggish. The vRS variant that we tested comes with a 2.0 TDI engine that produces 184PS. It's not the most powerful engine you'll ever come across in an estate, but it provides enough oomph to satisfy those that like to sit in the fast lane. I'm far too sophisticated for that though.

The engine is paired with a direct-shift gearbox (DSG)—a type of automatic that has two clutches instead of one. The first clutch acts as normal, while the second is tasked with predicting what gear the driving is likely to use next. The idea behind this is to make shifting as quick and smooth as possible, though it's probably not going to work if you drive on the erratic side.

As with most new cars, the Octavia Estate vRS is equipped with a decent collection of tech to make driving safer and easier. Front and rear parking sensors are an optional extra, but standard fitments include forward-collision assist with pedestrian protection, and park assist.

The verdict

I like a good Skoda. They are no-nonsense, practical cars. The car maker with Czech roots seems to be a rock in the Volkswagen Group—while other brands are given slack to come up with concepts that may never be built, Skoda gets its head down and its hands dirty. It's paying off too, as Skoda's sales have consistently been positive when others have struggled.

The Octavia Estate vRS is exactly what I expected. It offers plenty of space for families, a smooth and comfortable ride for long commutes on the motorway, and enough tech to make life easier.

Price as tested: £34,755

Chutzpah rating: 4/5