ON THE ROAD: THE Octavia vRS is the sporty saloon that puts the room into vroom.

A family car with a 2.0 litre engine shoved up front, the vRS aims to be something of a jack of all trades.

Available in both petrol and diesel form, we had the latter on test and found it coped well in the recent inclement weather.

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Wet and slippery roads were no problem, the vRS managing to keep all four tyres squarely on terra firma and while its fitted with lowered sports suspension it doesn't make the ride harsh and unmanageable on the school run or trips into town.

The Northern Echo:

There's 182bhp under the bonnet and, mated to a nifty six-speed DSG gearbox, it delivered power whenever it was required. Paddle shifters mean you can go through the box without ever taking yours hands off the wheel, should you feel like being a little more engaged.

It might not be as fun to drive as some of its rivals, but it's far from dull.

Top speed for our car was 143mph, with nought to 62mph coming up in a shade under eight seconds.

ON THE INSIDE: THERE are some sporty touches which mark this out from the rest of the cars in the Octavia range, such as the flat-bottomed steering wheel, red stitching and body hugging seats. Comfortingly, for me at least, the dash layout and buttons are sensibly laid out and they are clearly marked as to what they do. Vision is good out of the front and sides and okay out the rear though the rear parking sensors are a bonus.

WHAT DO YOU GET: ALL vRS models come with 18ins Gemini anthracite alloys, three spoke multi-function steering wheel with DSG paddles, acoustic rear parking sensors, Amundsen infotainment system and satellite navigation with CD and Wi-Fi capability. There's also the likes of Bi-Xenon, AFS and LED daytime running lights, fog lights, driver fatigue sensor, driving mode selection with choice of eco, comfort, sport and custom, dual-zone air conditioning, LED rear lights, electric windows, sports suspension, telescopic washers and vRS sports seats. Our car also came with £2,000 of options including heated front seats, metallic Race Blue paint, sunset glass, vRS leather and wireless phone charging with Bluetooth.

HOW PRACTICAL IS IT: IF you needed convincing of the Octavia's virtues, practicality should be the clincher. The interior is simply cavernous. Stretch out wherever you want, front or back, and you won't hear complaints from anyone else. Headroom is also very generous, while its load area will cater for pretty much anything you can throw at it. There's 590 litres to play with and that's before you put the seats down. Do that and you've got 1,580 litres to fill.

RUNNING COSTS: OUR diesel should be capable of returning 60.1mpg, according to Skoda. We managed an average of 42.1mpg, which was a little disappointing. CO2 emissions are 124g/km.

VERDICT: SOME rivals are more engaging, but the Octavia is a good all-rounder.

ALTERNATIVES: Ford Focus ST, VW Golf GTI