Yes really, a Skoda. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade you'll no-doubt be aware that Skodas are a more than acceptable transport choice these days. Before you acknowledge their decade-long rise to VW-rivalling awesomeness there is one thing to observe: they were already busy being awesome back when top-loading VCRs were cutting edge...
"Three crest over cut, don't ditch, 7000 right flat" Or some kind of rallying terminology.
Yup, they're cool. Dispel from your mind any jokes about heated rear windows for warm hands when pushing, or pedaling with your feet. Such quips are not welcome here. Instead think about it this way: if Skodas were busy being brilliant in the days when 'Carry On' films were were classed as amusing, think how good they must be now!
Buying any old Skoda for under £2k is easy as there are plenty about. You might not know, however, that your £2k could buy you an example of the Skoda that set the world alight. This car single-handedly reinvented the brand, thanks to its grunt, power and general 'up yours' attitude to people who suffer from brand snobbery. We are of course talking about the Skoda Octavia VRS.
To put it in simple terms the VRS is, to the the stock Octavia, what the RS is to the Focus. The only thing is, you get one of these for a hell of a lot less.
It's a good job it was quick really, because it ain't no looker. That's not the point of this car though; buying a VRS for its aesthetic qualities is like dating a supermodel for her knowledge of shoes. You buy a VRS for what it can do - and they could do a lot. This was down to the fact that they housed an engine borrowed from a certain Audi - a small, fast and usually silver one.
An Audi engine, without the aid of being in an Audi
In a moment of genius the good people at VAG opted to fit all the oily bits from the Audi TT, including the 180bhp 20v turbocharged engine. This gave the VRS a dose TT power from the off, all for a fraction of the price of the Audi from where the engine came. This made it faster than the Golf GTi of the time, and the market soon twigged and switching from VW to Skoda became a common theme. Even the Police jumped on board...
...in fact Avon and Somerset Police used them as armed response units thanks to their speed, agility and crucially, practicality.
So that's Audi TT mechanical stuff with 180bhp, the Police like them and they're cheap. Still not convinced - still having a hard time getting over the Skoda badge? Okay, have another picture to convince you...
See, just like its older relative, the VRS was a hit on the rally stages. Not surprising really seeing as it came with a 300bhp version of the 1.8 20v turbo engine. It wasn't the biggest success in the WRC but it didn't do too badly either. It wasn't trying to shake up the WRC, all it had to do was be there to promote the name. As an exercise in pushing Skoda into a more positive light it was a roaring success; sales of the VRS went up even more and the attitude towards the Skoda name began to improve.
Still not convinced? There must be something wrong with you. We're not ones to judge here at Not 2 Grand, we are merely here to enthuse and inspire, so have some more urm, inspiration...
...one hell of a transformation there through the addition of nothing more than the aid of some Audi RS6 alloys and shorter springs. Proof you can make the unattractive appealing. Think of us as a sort of automotive Gok Wan if you will. We might even launch our own show, 'How to look good lowered on Audi wheels' or of course, we might just stick to this blog.
Anyway, add one of these to the mix...
...which is a KO4 turbo from a 225bhp Audi TT and you'll be well on your way to, er, 225bhp, adding further joy to VRS ownership and further misery to everyone who laughed when you bought one in the process. You can bet they won't have 225bhp, the losers.
Yes, the Octavia VRS is an out and out winner in our book. Buying one of these - provided it's been looked after - could be the best thing you do. However, if you still don't think the Skoda is the way to go take a look at this:
Now go and have a look at what a Golf GTi of the same age and spec would cost you, bare in mind that it's 30bhp less too.
We reckon you'll become a Skoda convert around 8 seconds into looking at prices.
Mad props to Mr. Bevis for educating me in my (now edited) failures!