Four styles and rim finishes are available, all 17in in diameter. Motorsport-style 'Gigaro White' is the best.Image Credit: Supplied
Iain Dooley's experience at the wheel of the new rally-inspired Skoda Fabia vRS leaves him dreaming of being a Special Stage hero. Can a little 1.4-litre really do that?
Published: 00:01 September 10, 2010
Apparently it's now OK to heap praise on Skoda. Despite what you might have read and heard in recent years, the cars have always been good. Knowledgeable observers have reasoned that Skoda's understated styling policy has allowed its cars to stay under the radar. Subtlety has been the Czech firm's biggest strength, which is why the performance vRS models have been quietly entertaining switched-on drivers for some time now.
The original Fabia vRS model was something of a departure from the genre, as Skoda chose diesel over petrol. The result was a torquey, rapid yet economical ‘sleeper' GTI, as visually it hid its potential extremely well. Skoda's newfound confidence has encouraged it to shout a little louder — look at the car's bolder colour options and distinctive alloy wheels — and it's made the switch to petrol, adding a fancy DSG transmission.
Alongside its reputation for producing durable cars, Skoda has a long tradition of motorsport competition. The Czech firm has been a consistent supporter of grassroots rallying, but more recently it has stepped up its game and also experienced considerable success at the fully-fledged ‘works' level.
It's therefore a happy coincidence that this second generation Fabia vRS appears at a time when Skoda is receiving more exposure than ever. And it makes perfect sense to make the switch from diesel to petrol. Employing the same 180 horsepower 1.4-litre TSI engine that you'll find in Seat's Ibiza Cupra and VW's Polo GTI, it has allowed Skoda to pitch the Fabia as a genuinely affordable compact hot hatch with added practicality. As such, it will only be available in five-door and estate trim.
This engine has already received plenty of praise and rightly so. Combining both supercharging and turbo technology, the former ensures plenty of low down responsiveness, while the latter takes care of delivering heaps of power higher up the rev range. The result is an immensely torquey engine, with the flexibility to make light work of urban motoring yet deliver a blistering performance on challenging country roads.
And like the Polo and Ibiza, the Fabia eschews a manual gearbox for the impressive seven-speed Volkswagen DSG unit. This direct shift 'box allows fully auto operation plus a sport mode for a more aggressive shift pattern.
Take control via the steering wheel paddles or gear lever and you can dictate the pace. The end result is a car easy to live with day-to-day, as the engine displays a pleasingly refined and flexible character. This is helped by the gearbox which, in auto mode, proves predictable and never skips a shift. Even the ride is sophisticated enough to cope with poorly surfaced urban roads, despite it being lower and firmer than normal and being tasked with reducing roll when you're pressing on at higher speeds.
And it's away from the city limits that the car comes into its own. It's worth noting that this Fabia offers similar performance to something like a GTI from only a few years ago. As a result, the little vRS's rapid acceleration and ability to cling on when cornering hard shouldn't come as a surprise to seasoned GTI drivers. That the car's electronic stability and traction systems don't intrude when you're having fun is another plus point. With the Fabia's eye-popping mid-range acceleration and the ability to simply click-click-click up the gears with the paddle shifters, making progress is both hugely enjoyable and incredibly easy. Fortunately, the car's 1.4-litre motor is not only up to the task but also capable of delivering sensible fuel economy — even when worked hard — further enhancing the ownership experience.
When you're not aspiring to be the next world rally champion, the Fabia's cabin offers plenty of space and demonstrates a level of solidity that would shame many in its class. Aside from the vRS-themed seats and subtle trim detailing, everything around you is pure Fabia; it will easily accommodate four or five in comfort and swallow plenty of luggage or shopping. Skoda's Fabia has always been a competent and easy to live with car — you only have to ask one of the many happy owners for proof.
For this second-gen vRS model, Skoda has injected a huge dose of GTI goodness, alerting those who would have otherwise opted for something Spanish or German to think again.
Specs & ratings
Model Fabia vRS
Engine 1.4-litre four-cylinder TSI
Transmission Seven-speed DSG
Max power 180bhp @ 6,200rpm
Max torque 250Nm @ 2,000rpm
Top speed 224kph
Price Dh89,000 (UK)
Plus Understated performance, value
Minus Not available in the UAE.
From Gulf News