How I fell in love with a Škoda Liftback

How I fell in love with a Škoda Liftback

In my role, I’m fortunate enough to work with a wide range of vehicles. I occasionally get to experience those vehicles for myself so that I can better understand their appeal for a certain market. Typically, I’ll just go for a short drive in a vehicle during work hours, but sometimes I’m lucky enough to take home a vehicle for the weekend. That brings me onto the Škoda Octavia RS Liftback.

As a disclaimer, I’m already a big Škoda fan. Being from the UK, I was exposed to plenty of European brands while growing up, and did so in an era that followed the ‘old Škoda’ that previous generations used to make so many jokes about. Today’s Škoda really is an exceptional brand, and anyone that thinks it’s still worth the same jokes from 20 years ago is missing out. Good. That just makes it more exclusive for those of us in the know!

Even without my UK upbringing, I don’t think it would have taken me long to form a very positive opinion about Škoda vehicles. A quick Google search reveals just how highly awarded these vehicles are – and I don’t just mean for a ‘smaller brand’ (in New Zealand at least), I mean they’re very often the most highly awarded vehicle brand of all brands, across many segments.

Škoda vehicles were titled not just first, but also second AND third most satisfying vehicle to own in Britain, and they’ve scored an awesome 6 top titles in the most recent What Car? awards. Pretty sensational. Seriously, if you think this is a lesser brand, it’s time to pull your head out of the sand!

Anyway, brand aside, I’d always overlooked the idea of a ‘liftback’. You’d be forgiven for thinking that liftback is just an overseas-name for a hatchback. Not so; a liftback is a bit of a cross between a sedan and a hatch. At first glance, it has what looks like a short boot, giving it a sedan-look, but rather than just a short boot-lid, the whole rear end of the car lifts in a similar fashion to a hatch (boot plus rear window) and on top of this the rear seats fold down; again, more like a hatch.

The result is that you have the executive looks of a sedan without the large size and loss of practicality, and you have the practical function of a hatchback but with even more space.

Having never driven a liftback, I didn’t really appreciate this. I’ve always been more of a wagon or hatchback kinda guy. I love an executive sedan but would never own one as I have a dog and a car-seat-and-pram-aged son. So, when I was handed the keys to the Škoda Octavia RS liftback, all I really thought was “Nice, but I wish it was the Octavia RS wagon.”

Rear of the Škoda Octavia RS Liftback

From the outside, red detail and brake callipers, dual exhausts, big wheels and interior red trim showing through the windows reveal the sporty underbelly of this family car without a whiff of arrogance.

When I get to take home a vehicle from work, I generally experience it for myself and leave all of our baby-gear in my wife’s wagon; particularly our large pram which can be bulky and awkward to get into a hatch, and our large car seat which always means my wife – in the passenger seat – has to shift her seat forward so much that she’s too cramped to enjoy the ride.

On first getting home in the Octavia RS liftback, however, it was quickly apparent that all three of us would be able to pile in for a family outing. And for this reason, as well as my own more selfish motives, I genuinely fell in love with this car.

Octavia RS Interior

Put it in ‘RS’ mode or manually adjust each setting for your individual tastes.

My first drive was to Rapaki Bay to take some photos, putting this nimble car to work on the winding harbour-view roads and loving the punching-above-its-weight-and-raising-eyebrows growl of the 162kW (220bhp) 2 litre turbocharged engine (from the Golf GTI of the time). Tip: turn on ‘RS’ sports mode and leave it on. Forever.

Following that, we loaded up with baby gear (and baby) and drove to the Opawa Farmer’s Market, enjoying the masses of storage space, awesome ride comfort (highly comfortable not just for a sporty car but for any car) and small size that made it easy to navigate through the mass of parking cars and Christchurch’s Sunday (any day) drivers.

It really does have everything you need (watch the video above):

  • It’s small enough to feel nimble, lightweight and easy to park
  • Its styling is executive while being subtle enough to not feel even slightly arrogant, while…
  • Its sporty features are enough to make it feel special and for people to take a second glance
  • Its modern features don’t just ‘tick the boxes’, they’re generally amongst the best of their type (e.g. a huge touchscreen display with advanced ‘Park Pilot’ parking sensors, awesome navigation, etc.)
  • Its huge boot space fits our large pram with heaps of leftover space, allowing us to swing the pram in without fear of causing any scratches and scrapes (and the car seat fits without moving the passenger seat forward)
  • Its engine has plenty of grunt and provides a throaty warble that brings a smile to your face every time
  • As every new Škoda car does, it has lashing of nifty ‘Simply Clever’ features that help to make it the most satisfying car to own long term

Driving while cycling through the driving modes really makes a difference; but your foot down a little in ‘normal’ mode and you’ll accelerate just like any other car. Do the same in ‘sport’ and both the acceleration and the noise of the engine are vastly more aggressive. Repeat in ‘eco’ and… well… you’ll accelerate very leisurely and without causing too much upset to the trees.

Nifty touches include windows that raise and lower from the remote key, clever storage options throughout along with a 12v accessory charger in the boot, an electronically-enhanced tray for your smart phone in front of the gear stick that boosts your phone’s signal strength, automatic braking and multi-collision braking, halogen headlights and daytime running lights (these really life the look of a car against those old ugly yellow-ish lights) and heaps more. Funnily enough, this 2015 model didn’t have a reverse camera. But, to be honest, the full screen ParkPilot system was simpler and more effective, showing you how far away from objects you are both visually and audibly rather than leaving you to trust a camera alone, and also showing you your direction of travel based on the angle of your front wheels.

Škoda's ParkPilot Parking Sensor System

Škoda’s ParkPilot parking sensor system. At this size, it felt even better than a reverse camera.

For me, as a business man and family man, and as someone who’s not quite ready to grow up yet, this car couldn’t be more suited. It’s a gadget-full executive, family, city-slicking, highway cruising, reliable and practical muscle car that’s immensely satisfying to own and – starting from $47k, or $42k for this demo model – doesn’t have the big ticket price. And I love it.

I’ll be sad to give this back in the morning. Even my wife has started to fall for it. As I write this, she’s giving me plenty of space and quiet time as she knows that I turn a bit sullen and sensitive when I have to lose a favourite toy.

Škoda Octavia RS Liftback Gallery

 

All photos taken by myself. Video by that other chap in the video.