Sunday 19 November 2017

what great value, Man!

I could get Skoda into a right old spot of bother with the women if I had a mind to. Ah! I have a mind to. I think some testosteronic marketing boff got carried away trying to get a hot spiel and came up with the following: "Between being a boss, a husband and a father, take some time to be a man."

Now, some females I know might interpret this as meaning those getting behind the wheel of the Octavia vRS Combi (estate to you and I) should be exclusively male.

That really didn't bother me, one way or the other, as I careered around the country pushing this mix of a powerful, fast and practical 'hot' estate and family car. But. . .

Man (!), I had crunched up serious kilometres on tarmac when I went to pick up my niece. And then she shattered the illusion by claiming she could feel every little bump from the back seat as I ferried her home on a decent enough road.

As a result, I pledged I would give this a good afternoon over the back roads, the bad roads and the rickety byways of real Ireland.

Off along the creviced courses I went, tense with sensing every movement. My goodness, these roads have broken up since taking that battering from sub-zero temperatures in January. Like ministers' pensions, another expensive legacy awaits.

So I steered my Combi from Ballycumber to Rosemount and around rural Westmeath in a great big arc (often criss-crossing my path as I took roads less travelled).

Within a couple of hours I had reached an impasse. It was clear there was not enough room for the two cars to pass. This was deep, deep narrow-road country, and thank God both of us were driving slowly.

The other driver reversed the Laguna about 20 metres, just up to the apex of the bend where a sunken gateway provided passing room.

I let down my window to acknowledge the courtesy. "Is that a Skoda?" the woman in the other car asked. (May I at this stage point out the two key words: 'woman' and 'Skoda'.)

"It is," I replied, stopping.

"I might buy one of them. I don't like the Passat. That's why I bought the Laguna, but I like the Octavia." A female font of knowledge about Skoda. Where was that marketing boff?

Now it doesn't take much of a prompt for me to talk about cars, so I briefly (honestly) outlined the salient points.

This is a Skoda Octavia estate with a fine 2-litre diesel engine, a solid sporty chassis, leather upholstery, lots of comfort equipment and smart stuff to add to your comfort, and a fair bit of technology to put real zip and zest in the drive.

"You're a Cunningham," she says. That knocked me out of my spiel. Suddenly I was drafted back 40 years, back to her grand-uncle who worked many a summer's evening in the hayfield with us.

The family links that clicked into place last Saturday somewhere between Streamstown and Ballinagore left me in awe at the sheer coincidence of the moment.

But whatever about that, she certainly debunked the preconception that the RS is a man's car. She liked it. A lot, I think.

Mind you, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to work out that this was a Skoda vRS. There's a badge out front in the middle of the grille that positively screams 'Skoda', and the vRS is emblazoned in great big letters.

Frankly I don't like it, the way they herald it. I find it too garish and in-your-face, whatever. The car deserves better. It also deserves better than a 'male-only' slogan.

They both take from what is a rock-solid, punchy, hugely versatile piece of work. Maybe we'd all baulk these days at paying €28,000 or so for any car, but this knocks the socks off so many potential rivals.

I mean, there's room for three in the back, space for refrigerators in the cargo/boot area (and you can make it bigger by dropping the rear seats).

Being based on the Octavia gives this a good start, and having 170bhp zapping from that 2-litre diesel is a major play for performance.

The package translates well into something of a road-going barnstormer without being overtly 'hot'.

Whatever about back-seaters, I could not honestly say I was discomfited over those poor roads.

However, it was prone to a bit of torque steer (the front wheels grappling for grip when you slam the foot down on the accelerator) It has the pep of a good petrol hot-ish hatch, the frugality of a diesel engine and plenty of practical room.

It dispels the myth that performance comes at a price. Revamped and with an excellent audio system, this is, for what it is, the best value around.

You get the buzz and you most certainly get the bravado of a motor confident of its own ability.

But you also get a family motor. I said family motor. The sort husband, wife, aunt, sister, daughter can drive.

So here's my suggested changes to the spiel. "Between being a boss, a partner and a parent, take some time to be a driver." Where's that marketing man? What if it was a woman?

ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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