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Skoda Fabia RS 2011 Review

The RS's biggest surprise - it rides like a bigger car and there's a suppleness that is unlike rival small cars.
EXPERT RATING
8

A fiery Czech, with links to Volkswagen's top-rated Polo GTI, is joining Skoda's small-car invasion. But while the 132kW Fabia RS shares the Polo's underpinnings, Skoda broadens its appeal by offering it in two body styles - a hatch and a wagon - and plans a February debut in Australia.

It's a fresh face for Australia but its arrival will be eased in September by cheaper Fabias - the 77kW Fabia hatch which has two models; the entry-level for about $18,000 and a special edition Monte Carlo, wearing all the hot-hatch clothing of the RS, for about $22,000.

These two arrive only with manual transmissions with Volkswagen's DSG auto following in the new year. The RS, like the Polo GTI, is only available with DSG.

VALUE

Skoda Australia claims up to a 10 per cent discount to a similar product from Volkswagen. Based on the Polo GTI's $28,990 entry, it means the Fabia RS five-door hatch could hit Australian showrooms as low as $26,000 and less than $28,000 for the roomier wagon.

That's good buying for a four-seat car that goes like stink and looks the part as well. Knowing it's a GTI under the skin won't affect street cred by those who know, but down the road you have to ask if used car values won't favour the near identical Polo.

Regardless, the Fabia looks good, has all the features and is a great drive for the price.

DESIGN

Skoda says it has the upper edge by delivering the RS in two body styles. True, the wagon adds more centimetres to boot space and will mix it in the wild world of family duties quite well.

The wagon also looks less blunt in styling. The extra length over the rear wheels - the wheelbase is the same as the hatch - nicely smooths out the shape of the tail.

Inside, cabin treatment is very good though the hard plastic dash top shines in the sunlight and doesn't look properly finished where it meets the dashboard's soft-feel vertical surfaces.

Squeeze your eyes almost closed and the cabin is Polo. The difference is in the detail.

TECHNOLOGY

Again, like the Polo, the 132kW turbocharged-supercharged engine behind the fluted grille does a stirling job. It's to be expected. The same applies to the DSG, steering and suspension which is Polo, Polo and Polo.

Given that Carsguide last year gave Polo top honours as Car of the Year, it's all premium stuff.

SAFETY

Six airbags, electronic stability control and a five-star crash rating is all great news in a small car. The full-size spare wheel is a bonus.

DRIVING

If all the data says Polo, it drives like a Polo. Yes? No. The car feels less flighty and that can be attributed to the choice of tyres - 205/40R7 Continentals - and perhaps some extra weight, suspension tuning and maybe a bit of tweaking to the power steering unit.

The ride is firm but not choppy. It is better in terms of compliance than the Polo GTI which, by comparison, is harsh. This is the RS's biggest surprise - it rides like a bigger car and there's a suppleness that is unlike rival small cars.

Yet all this doesn't appear to greatly affect handling. It can, when pushed hard, carry itself into a corner with a bit more understeer than its sibling, the RS hatch. But it is such a controllable car with precise steering so minor errors made when the road curves can be adjusted quickly.

Seating is sufficient roomy though some heavier Australians may not initially like the traditional narrow Skoda seats. On the road it is remarkably sprightly. The engine will yell all the way to the 7000rpm redline but never shows malice.

It is a smooth, very responsive engine that, if driven with less haste than me, could produce some remarkable fuel economy figures.

The street roads in the Czech Republic, where this test was held, contain a lot of cobblestones - both the old stone rounded type and the new-wave blocks of granite. The tyre noise and the jarring is awful and even a Czech-built car isn't immune.

VERDICT

Sharing with one of the world's greatest small cars doesn't hurt Skoda one bit and the price discount will do a lot for the brand name in Australia. But is the price discount worth it?

SKODA FABIA RS WAGON

Price: est. $28,000
Engine: 1.4-litre, 4-cyl petrol super-turbo, 132kW/250Nm
Body: 5-door wagon
Weight: 1373kg
Transmission 7-speed DSG, front drive
Thirst: 6.2L/100km, 98 RON, CO2 143g/km
Warranty: 3-years/unlimited km
Service Interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety: 5-star Euro NCAP

Pricing guides

$11,646
Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,999
Highest Price
$13,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
63 MPI L.e. 1.4L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $4,300 – 6,930 2013 Skoda Fabia 2013 63 MPI L.e. Pricing and Specs
77 TSI 1.2L, ULP, 7 SP AUTO $5,400 – 8,360 2013 Skoda Fabia 2013 77 TSI Pricing and Specs
77 TSI Monte Carlo 1.2L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,500 – 8,580 2013 Skoda Fabia 2013 77 TSI Monte Carlo Pricing and Specs
RS 132 TSI 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $7,100 – 11,000 2013 Skoda Fabia 2013 RS 132 TSI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$9,999

Lowest price, based on 4 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.