Hotter than thou: Skoda Octavia vRS 230PS vs Ford Focus ST comparison review
One look at these two cars should be enough to know that they aren’t exactly like-for-like rivals.
But there are key similarities. Both take a performance slant on what is usually a sensible small family car. Both use a two-litre petrol engine to score a sub-seven second 0-62mph and both have a 154mph top speed, and delving further into the numbers peels away more scope for comparison. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are similar, and there is less than three grand between the pair.
We mentioned the emphasis on performance, so how quick are they? Linked to a six-speed manual gearbox and with 226bhp at its disposal (or 230PS as the decal on the rear doors suggest), the Octavia vRS 230 does naught to 62mph in 6.7 seconds, while the 246bhp Focus does that in 6.5s.
Only a fifth of a second in it but the fizzy Focus feels the keener of the two, thanks to a nudge more torque.
The Octavia can be driven in four different modes to suit the driver’s mood. One press of the ‘vRS mode’ button will flick the car into either sport, eco, normal or custom setting; all pretty self-explanatory and all pretty effective at adding that extra pep or comfort (but overall, versatility) when asked.
The Focus ST’s angry growly mode can’t be disabled though, so its stiffer ride, rowdy back-end, and fuel thirst are a constant. Most hot hatch buyers would ask why this is a bad thing, but as we discovered with the Juke Nismo RS, there’s a lot to be said for taking it easy sometimes. With more cars on UK roads than ever before, we found the Skoda’s stop/start was a blessing at rush hour.
As their appearance suggests, the Focus targets a younger buyer and welcomes a more aggressive driving style with its Tangerine Scream paint job, Recaro seats, and flashes of red around the interior.
You know when you’re looking at a Focus ST, while the Octavia vRS takes a more restrained approach and it could easily be mistaken for a regular 1.6 diesel company car from certain angles.
From the outside, only the red ‘230’ stickers, and vRS badge on the rear denote the model’s performance prowess, while inside, there’s only a dash of red stitching, front headrests, and a few vRS logos to suggest anything special.
It depends on what you want from your car. The Focus ST will invite impromptu drag races at the lights, while the Octavia vRS 230 is comfortable and secure enough to do its own thing, and spring the odd surprise if required.
On the road
We’ve already told you that the Focus is the quicker of the two, and undoubtedly, it’s the driver’s car here.
With sharper steering, added zip, and the ride of a surfboard, the Focus ST practically invites you to hit it harder and taking it on the twisties is a hoot. The six-speed manual gearbox is the one tiny fly in the ST’s ointment; tightening up the box with a shorter throw and more direct shifting would’ve polished the package.
Just as with styling, the Octavia takes a more laid-back approach. Sure, it’s still quick, but the more forgiving ride and less direct handling make it better suited to longer distance driving. With softer suspension, there is more body roll in the bends but that never threatens to blot the experience.
Again, it doesn’t feel like Skoda has made much effort to adapt the gearbox for the Octavia’s sportiest incarnation, and it feels the same as it would in a 1.2 TSI.
To buy outright, the Octavia vRS 230 commands £2,355 more than the Focus ST-2 (£26,350 to £23,995), and that price gap is reflected on a grander scale in the leasing market, where you can expect to pay around £70 more per month for the Skoda.
A business can lease the Focus ST-2 for £284 on average, while the Octavia vRS rings in at £355. For personal users, that shifts to £339 and £428.
Overall, there’s no question that both deliver a rousing drive, but it comes down to your lifestyle.
For company car drivers keen to liven-up motorway stretches, the Octavia vRS 230 is adaptable and dependable tool, capable of calm cruising and urgent dashes.
But the Focus ST is the ultimate hot hatch in every aspect. From looks to what lies beneath the skin, not much comes close to the fast Ford.
Octavia vRS 230 & Focus ST at a glance:
|Skoda Octavia vRS 230||Ford Focus ST-2|
|Powertrain||1984cc TSI petrol engine, 226bhp, six-speed manual gearbox||2000cc EcoBoost 246bhp, six-speed manual gearbox|
|0-62mph||6.7 seconds||6.5 seconds|
|Torque||350Nm||345Nm (360Nm overboost)|
|Fuel economy (combined)||45.6mpg||41.5mpg|
|Boot space||590 / 1580 litres||316 / 1101 litres|
|Average leasing rates:|
business / personal
|£355 / £428||£284 / £339|
|Average leasing rates:|
business / personal (6+47 10k miles)
|£333 / £383||£258 / £305|