Light Car mega-test: Skoda Fabia

20 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Light Car mega-test: Skoda Fabia

Light Car mega-test: Skoda Fabia

The Fabia offers more metal for the money, with a tall, roomy cabin and a decent-sized cargo area

Skoda has had a stalled start in Australia. The Volkswagen-owned Czech brand was established here with much promise in October 2007 – but the Global Financial Crisis in late 2008 delayed the introduction of more models. It’s now in the middle of a relaunch phase thanks to the Fabia small car and the Yeti softroader.

Of interest to us is the Fabia hatchback — already three years old by the time it arrived in Australian showrooms in August this year. Based on the Volkswagen Polo it comes crammed with equipment, including six airbags, stability control, remote entry, Bluetooth telephony and steering wheel-mounted controls for the phone and audio systems. Even the Volkswagen Polo, for now, lacks Bluetooth as standard.

Two models head the Fabia hatchback range initially, starting from $18,990 plus on-road costs for the regular TSI version or $21,990 for the up-spec Monte Carlo edition that we tested.

Currrently, the two Fabia models have identical engine and transmission combinations: a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (the same engine used in the Polo) paired to a five-speed manual gearbox. An automatic is not available at any price – until early to mid-2012.

The regular $18,990 TSI version which we presume will cost about $20,990 once automatic transmission is added.

As with other Skodas before it, the Fabia offers more metal for the money, with a tall, roomy cabin and a decent-sized cargo area. Indeed, our testers expressed it best when they noted that Skoda makes the best cars in the business for back-seat drivers.

We also noticed an immediate step up in quality and refinement switching from the Asian cars to this European model. The dash materials are soft to the touch, the engine is quieter and the car feels more supple over bumps. It feels like a car from the next class up.

It has other nice touches borrowed from the Volkswagen Polo, too, such as auto-up windows on all four doors (the others except the Suzuki Swift have an auto up/down window for the driver only).

It has a meaty, GTI-style leather steering wheel that’s a joy to use. A nice surprise: it has the best audio system of all the cars gathered here. Audiophiles and music lovers take note.

There’s also a parking ticket holder at the base of the windscreen, a decent-sized centre console, and a clever twin-lid glovebox.

On the road it was joyful. The Fabia loves corners, although you do notice it lean a little more than the other cars, possibly because of its tall body and soft suspension.

Overall, we were impressed. And then our Fabia was struck by the mysterious Skoda ghost. The lock and unlock switch in the car wouldn’t lock or unlock the doors.

Nor would the buttons on the key fob!

Earlier in the week, some other gremlins flashed mysterious lights in the instrument panel. They eventually disappeared and normal operation resumed.

We wish we could say Skoda problems were unheard of. But sadly, they’re not. Skoda offers a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty – and a factory-backed extended warranty that takes coverage up to five years for an extra cost.

It would be worth calculating that into the cost of the car.

The other serious cost consideration: resale value. Residuals are weak on establishing brands, and although Skoda will improve in time, it’s odds-on you’ll take a bigger hit on depreciation on this car than any other car here.

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