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Octavia RS 1.8T Review – Overrated or Future Classic?

Octavia RS 1.8T Black Front right corner veiw

In this Octavia RS 1.8T review I’m going to share my thoughts having been driving a 300bhp RS for the past 3 months. The questions I want to answer are these:

Does the MK1 Octavia RS still make sense in 2023?
Are there better options out there?
Is the MK1 Octavia RS a future classic?
Should you buy one?

Octavia RS History

First a bit of history.

The MK1 Octavia RS was released in 2000/2001 and was based on the MK1 Octavia platform which had been available since 1996. The Mk1 Octavia platform was based on the MK4 Golf platform which also did service in the MK1 Audi A3 & S3 and MK1 Seat Leon. Out of all the cars that used the Golf platform, EVO rated the MK1 Octavia RS as the best to drive, and generally the best sporting VAG product of the time.

The MK1 Octavia RS was the first Skoda model to use the RS/vRS badging and it’s release coincided with Skoda’s entry into the WRC for the 2000 season with Armin Schwartz.

At it’s first outing at the Monte Carlo Rally it finished in 7th place proving more reliable than the Focus RS of Colin McRae, the Impreza of Richard Burns and the 206 WRCs of Panizzi, Gronholm and Delecour.

Octavia RS 1.8T Review – Specs

The Octavia RS was equipped with the 1.8T 20v motor but not the 150bhp version as used in normal MK4 Golf GTIs but a 180bhp version used in hotter A3s, Golf GTIs & Boras, engine code AUQ.

Compared to the normal Octavia, the RS has:

  • a lower front bumper,
  • white carpets,
  • half leather bucket seats with white centre sections,
  • perforated leather 3 spoke steering wheel,
  • perforated leather gear knob and gear knob gaiter,
  • silver gauge faces,
  • a rear wing,
  • a modified front anti-roll bar,
  • stiffer dampers,
  • larger brakes,
  • internal chassis stiffening for rear suspension
  • 16/17 inch alloy wheels
  • and the aforementioned AUQ 180bhp motor.

Performance Specs

0-60mph: 7.9 seconds
Top Speed: 235kmh/146mph
Kerb Weight: 1300kg

Bore x Stroke: 81 x 86.4mm
Max Torque: 173lbs/ft @ 1950rpm
BHP/Ton: 137
Front Brakes: 318mm
Combined MPG: 8L/100km, 35mpg UK, 29mpg US

Living with the RS 1.8T in 2023

Those are the specs, what’s it like to drive?

Suspension

Compared to the modern MQB platform cars, the progress in suspension technology is obvious. And the most obvious sign of the chassis’ age is the amount of roll. Even compared to cars of a similar era the roll is more noticeable. It’s not that the Octavia lacks grip in slow and medium speed corners but at high speeds, 140km/h plus, it becomes an act of faith to put big cornering forces through the car because the stability just isn’t there, even with new sport rear dampers and H&R springs as fitted to this car.

In this respect there is a chasm between the new cars like the MK7 Golf and the Mk1 Octavia RS

The problem with the RS appears to be a combination of too soft a spring and too soft a damper. I think the only solution to the roll and stability is to fit a quality set of coilovers. The issue I think is too large to be overcome with anti-roll bars.

Steering Feel

There is definitely more feel than with the new cars. The new cars have tonnes of grip but it’s more of an act of faith to commit to a corner than it is acting on information gained from the steering. The RS on the other hand gives all the feel & feedback I need and doesn’t leave me wondering if it’s going to stick. Not a blatantly lift-off oversteery chassis, I would say the handling balance is neutral & definitely not understeery as other cars using the MK4 chassis have been accused of.

Interior

Another area where there is a chasm between the new cars like the MK7 Golf and MK3 Seat Leon and the MK1 Octavia. The new cars feel much more spacious inside and feel much more modern in general. I’m quite big and it feels like a bit of a squeeze getting into the Octaiva but once I’m in the car feels compact. The car feels small on the road against the new stuff and this is great. It gives more options driving down a country road. But for a day-to-day car the new cars are much better.

Steering Wheel & Gearknob

The steering wheel feels a bit low even though it’s adjustable for tilt and reach but the gear knob falls easily to hand. The centre armrest is nice on long journeys, and it includes some storage space which is a bonus, but it can get in the way if you need to change gears regularly. The armrest can be folded up out of the way so it’s not a deal breaker.

The steering wheel is about the right size and feels good with the perforated leather.

The gear knob on the other hand is not great but I’m not a fan of standard gear knobs in general. The Octavia RS item falls down because it’s too big and it’s too light (like 99% of standard knobs), the knob feels hollow. To cure this, I’ve fitted an aftermarket carbon gear knob with a core of solid metal. Much heavier, solid to the touch and gives much better gear change feel.

The bushes in the gear change mechanism are a known weak point and this car is no different. The shift is vague and imprecise. The good news is there is plenty of aftermarket support for upgraded bushings so a problem that’s relatively easy to fix.

Gauge Cluster

Gauge cluster faces are too fussy and are hard to read. I’d much prefer to have a Golf MK4 cluster in the car. I may add one in the future if the coding is not too difficult (and if it even fits?).

Carpets

The carpet and the seats are a complete nightmare because they’re white. A complete headache to keep clean. I’ll also say the seats are not the most hard wearing, I’ve seen many Octavia seats where the centra part of the seat has separated from the leather thigh support.

Seats

Seat comfort is not the best but the seats in this car have been through 220,000 km. Lateral support is good but the small of the back is not well supported. The seats don’t give any pain, even for extended periods it’s just they could be better.

Legroom in the back is good. Some have said it’s tight, but I can sit behind myself without a problem. In the back I also get a centre armrest, access to a 12v socket and storage in the armrest. The rear seats also have a 60/40 split and the trunk is big. And you can make full use of the space because the Octavia is a hatch.

Visibility

Visibility is good. The mirrors are a good size but in this particular car, there are gauges mounted on the A-Pillar which creates a bit of a blind spot. I’m not sure where else you can mount the gauges though because there isn’t a ton of space on the dashboard. There aren’t even cup holders.

Speaking of cup holders, the MK4 Golf which has a similar dash but manages to fit in some fold-out holders, it’s unfortunate Skoda couldn’t find a way to do the same thing. In this car there is an aftermarket solution with a holder installed next to the handbrake. It can make releasing the handbrake a little harder but when you are on the move you don’t notice it, so not the end of the world.

Engine

The engine is the standard RS models are fine. They have good torque low down, especially if they have been remapped, but they run out of puff above 4500 rpm. Going from 4500rpm to 6000rpm in third gear takes longer than I expected for a 180bhp car. The power delivery is also quite dull but if you keep the revs low, progress is decent and relaxed. Just not exciting.

This car is fitted with a K04-064 turbo from the MK2 Audi S3 and I’m told it has been dynoed at just over 300bhp. The engine and the car in general is very exciting with 300bhp and it dominates the driving experience. In a good way.

This modification is well supported with fitting kits available from many sources. If you can do the work yourself, you might be able to do the conversion for 2.5K.

Brakes

The brakes are great. 318mm front discs are a generous size. This car has Ferodo Premier pads and Ferodo brake discs and I have no complaints. Good power and good stamina. That’s not to say the brakes don’t smell after a good strop but I haven’t detected any brake fade yet.

Parts

One of the key things about the Octavia RS and the MK4 platform in general is the cost and availability of parts. A huge plus point for cars this age. There are plentiful options from respected aftermarket manufacturers and the cost is low for standard replacement and performance parts. There are millions of these cars on the road throughout the world, so I don’t imagine this situation is going to change in at least the next 5 years.

Gearbox

The gearbox on the RS is known to be strong. Not as strong as the six speed, but strong nonetheless.

Does the RS need a 6 speed box?

If the 6th ratio gave a more relaxed cruising RPM vs the 5 Speed, I’d say yes but it doesn’t, so I’d say no, the 6 speed is not necessary.

Would it be nicer to have closer ratios?

I don’ think so. The powerband is wide enough to not need 6 speeds.

Octavia RS 1.8T Review – Answering the Questions

Does a MK1 Octavia RS make sense in 2023?

In stock form, I’d say no.

Are there better choices than the 1.8T RS?

Things moved on a lot with the MK2 Octavia RS and if you’re looking for something fast and practical, the MK2 makes the better option because the prices are so close.

Is the MK1 Octavia RS a future classic?

The RS was launched in the same year as Skoda entered the WRC. And the Octavia MK1 was the first Skoda to wear the RS/vRS badge. For fans of the brand this will be enough to make it a classic.

EVO Magazine rated the MK1 Octavia as the best sporting VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda of the era, for fans of VAG this may be enough for it to be on the must own-list.

For everyone else, in stock form, it’s borderline. It’s practical and has a turbo motor but I’m not sure that’s enough but saying that, what competition does it have at today’s price point? It’s quite a unique car and that can make it very appealing.

Should you buy one?

Again, in stock form, they are a bit underwhelming, if you can live without a turbo motor, something like a Primera GT I’d say is the better choice, especially if you can find one with the SR20VE motor.

If on the other hand you are looking for something practical and turbo’d to tune on a budget, then I’d say absolutely it’s a buy.

I know of no other car that can get you to close to 300bhp for so little money in such a practical shell (except perhaps the Primera GT with a turbo kit). As long as you are not looking at the MK1 Octavia as a daily driver, I think it’s a great choice. If on the other hand it’s going to be your main car, I’d say take the MK2 Octavia vRS, you’re going to have less power for the same money, but I think the increased comfort will more than make up for that.

Find performance parts on ebay




This page was last modified Sep 13, 2023 @ 9:27 pm

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