WHO has put the “vroom” — for want of a better word — in eco-driving? Believe it or not, the Czech car manufacturer Skoda has, with its vRS models.
The one I have been driving this week, the new Skoda Octavia vRS Estate, has good “green” credentials: it achieves 61.4mpg on the combined cycle, can climb up to a maximum speed of 143mph and notch up 0 to 62mph in 8.2 seconds.
And yet it is an estate car — which in the past has conjured up visions of something plodding and well meaning. Not so this new Skoda estate: it would give any boy racer in a sporty GTi a run for his money.
But it is also a car with a brain a lot larger than that of your average boy racer.
After you have put your foot down to check if the “vroom” factor is there and had your fun, the Octavia’s computer comes up with an “eco-driving tip”.
Like an old-fashioned homily delivered by an older and wiser being, a message on the car’s computer screen suggests that you might get even better “green” performance from the car while stepping on the gas.
What more could you want from a car? A speaking voice perhaps offering tips on your driving performance so far? Oh, it will happen, believe me: and it cannot be a bad thing except for those who already find that the dulcet tones of the lady on your average SatNav is a subtle form of nagging.
Anyway, truth to tell that in the past half dozen years I have found most of the new Skoda models a revelation: the Skoda Citigo I was moved to make my car of the year a couple of years back.
This new Octavia I have been driving is a flyer no doubt about that. You would actually think that about the car at first sight: it looks as if it means business yet poses quite demurely as a family estate.
Indeed, it has a cavernous load space that would be invaluable to any family. However, flicking through the brochure I think certain Skoda accessories would prove very helpful here.
The rear load space is so huge — the estate offers 610 litres of space with seats up and a football field-size space of 1,580 litres with rear seats folded down — that it would easily swallow your weekly shop plus a lot more besides. That is an awful lot of acreage for things to rattle around in, so I think the netting system — valuable for keeping shopping in place and separating heavy and light items — would be a good investment at £50.
And if you are one of those hale and hearty types — such people widely populate Gloucestershire — then the heavy-duty rubber boot mat at £60 would be an asset for muddy wellies and raingear.
So what you get with this new Octavia is a practical, economical car with more than a bit of fire in its belly: the 2.0 TDi diesel engine is a cracker and there are petrol options if you want them.
What I really liked about the Octavia was its willingness to participate. Some cars appear reluctant to perform, simply because the power-to-weight ratios are wanting, the engine being too weak or small to respond.
As far as eco-driving goes, the essence of most engines is that the power is suppressed so that you get the greener “performance” — which is usually a bit of a contradiction in terms because performance on some eco-cars can be seriously wanting.
But on the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate, all the eco bits and pieces were there.
These include the stop-start facility, and the computer information on how to drive eco-style.
But there was also a lovely surge from the engine when you wanted it.
And for those mindful of emissions, for its power and willingness to go, the CO2 emissions of the Octavia are 119g/km — that’s not far off the magic 99g/km mark that distinguishes “serious” green cars from the rest.
All in all, then, this is an excellent car in my opinion — the new Skoda Octavia vRS Estate.
And hats off again to the company that has managed to turn itself around and make Czechs proud again of the name Skoda.
• Car tested: Skoda Octavia vRS Estate 2.0 TDi manual
• Price (recommended on the road): £24,060
• Some key features of all vRS models
• 18in Gemini anthracite alloy wheels
• Acoustic rear parking sensors
• Automatic post collision braking system
• Bi-Xenon headlights
• Black door mirrors and handles
Daytime running lights
Driver alert system (fatigue detector)
Dual zone air con with humidity sensor and control
Driver knee airbag
Touchscreen Bolero (with CD player)