ROAD TESTS: @SkodaUK_Media Range Drives

Our good friends at Skoda UK had a range driving day in the glorious sunshine of "God's own country" (Yorkshire to thee & me, lad) yesterday, attended by our staff snapper supremo, Neil Denham.

As you can see, the new design language-festooned full range of Skoda goodness made for quite a sight it has to be said and goes to show just how far the increasingly-popular brand has developed in the last decade.
And with their all-new 4x4 Kodiaq coming later in the year, surely we can only expect more greatness from the Skoda stable?

Having a range diverse test, our Neil had a spin out in the new Octavia vRS 4x4 2.0 TDI 184PS, fresh faced Citigo Monte Carlo 1.0 MPI 60PS 3-door, funky Fabia SE L 1.2 TSI 90 PS, new-look Yeti SE 2.0 TDI SCR 110PS and formed an orderly cue to drool over the chrome-wrapped, air-slicing, 227mph Bonneville salt flats race record breaking 2011 Octavia vRS.

In his typically understated manner, snapper Neil said: "All the cars were well made and drove well. The driving position of the Citigo steering wheel for me hid the speedo. But the Citigo diesel went very well for the size of car and engine, but it did put out a lot of road and engine noise. The Octavia vRS 4x4 has a smooth acceleration with a smooth gear box and seemed to be very economical by the dash gauge. But I'm not too sure about the look or the colour (Meteor Grey) of the one I drove: The only thing to make a second glance was the exhausts (see above). The Yeti is van size, but a car and drives and handles really well. The Fabia handled well and the TSi engine pulled well too."

Looking at them in a touch more detail...

Octavia vRS 4x4 2.0 TDI 184PS

Tested in OTR price at £29,025 with the plush and supportive £925 heated leather sports seat option and £360 of Meteor Grey paintwork (which we like, in the pics), the lower-powered vRS 4x4 (versus its vRS 230 petrol big brother) is a sensible choice for those who love two things – a wolf in sheep's clothing stealth bomb and practical performance. Oh, and oil burning torque over revs and sweet petrol.
The 2.0 TDi is capable of a whopping 57.7mg (vs vRS 230's 45.4mpg) and still does 0-62mph in 7.6 (Vs 6.7s petrol) and can stomp onto 142mph (155mph vRS 230). It rides nicely too, thanks to its 18-inch Gemini anthracite alloys and 40mm profile tyres. The vRS 230 has 19s with 35mm profile. Nice to look at, but we suspect a lot more choppy anywhere but Silverstone. But the popular diesel comes at a premium, £1,000 over the more powerful and faster petrol variant. You go figure.
Interior quality, spec generosity and style is better than ever (and it was always good, even way back tot he first vRS in 2001). This is a spacious, speedy, stylish and understated choice for the family man with a dark side, still.

Yeti SE 2.0 TDI SCR 110PS 

The Skoka Yeti is still to this date one of the most pleasing, surprising and enjoyable family cars we've ever driven. Paradigm shifter and ground breaker alike. And the (prettier, less masculine) face-lifted, new version is as stylish and elegant as it is still rough, tough and cool in design.
Now two-wheel-drive only – where the new Yeti Outdoor range deals with the 2WD and 4x4 variants – it's more urban cruiser than river bed wader and green laner now, which is a shame. But it's still got the X-Factor, even if many rival manufacturers have ripped off the formula and tried to mop up some of the Yeti's success.
The mildly elevated driving position gives great visibility, the dash and interior layout is 100% practical and functional and the 2.0 TDi is just fast and frugal enough, doing 0-62mph in 12.2s, 109mph and 53.3mpg.
The test model was £22,405 OTR, with almost £2,500 of actually pretty good values extras, like the £150 Candy White paint, £395 Black Magic coloured roof and mirrors and £250 heated front seats etc.
Still a great car, but we prefer the rugged Outdoor 4x4 range – which is what the Yeti brand values are really about.

Fabia SE L 1.2 TSI 90 PS

Skoda's rally-bred pocket rocket Fabia used to be one of our favourites. It kicked ass in the hands of drivers like Andreas Mikkelsen and Guy Wilks, in S2000-spec half a decade a go. And we still have fond memories of road rallying a petrol vRS, ripping off its sump guard in a waterspalsh, but that's another story.
The new car is much less rally and much more sensible, more's the pity. And, at £16,430 OTR for the model we tested, I'm afraid it's just not cutting the mustard, for us. It's not that great to look at – even with the £535 (!) Rally Green metallic paint blowing an airhorn and the black Rock alloys. But Neil rated the handling (that rally derived chase pedigree lives on) and said the 60+mpg 1.2-litre TSI engine pulled well – as the 0-62mph 10.9s and 113mph top speed figures prove. Maybe I need to drive it again...?    

Citigo Monte Carlo 1.0 MPI 60PS

We might be biased (as we own a very similar, from the same stable, VW UP! Black special edition, with a massive 75bhp) but we love the little Citigo, especially in the young and fun Monte Carlo spec, with its Monte reference livery, kick plates, dashboard pad, window logos, seats and Tornado red paintwork, all coming FOC at part of the great value £10,670 price tag.
For that you also get the peppy three-cylinder 1.0-litre MPi engine, offering 60PS, more revs that you can shake gauge at and, amazingly, 1mph shy of a ton potential. 0-62mph takes some time (14.4s), but you won't care. The nippy, great handling Citigo loaded in all its red and black Monte Carlo goodies is so much fun and the frugal engine sips away fuel at 62.8mpg and costs you about £35 at current fuel prices to do c400 miles, safely, and loaded with cool, with features like the PID (Portable Infotainment Device) - inc Bluetooth, media player, satellite navigation, trip computer taking the strain. 
What a great first car, second car, city slicker this is. Love it. 

More pics to be seen from the range driving day on Facebook.


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