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Fast Friend (Skoda Fabia vRS Estate Long Term Test Month Four) car review


AS THE days get shorter and the roads aren’t always as dry as I’d like them to be, I could quite easily start moaning about the pitfalls of running a Fabia vRS.

Having racked up a disproportionate amount of motorway miles lately, I can’t say the car’s fuel economy has been especially impressive. You’ve got to employ a fair amount of self-control if you want to see 40mpg or more in the real world on the trip computer.

You’d think that having seven gears would mean the top ratio would be a fuel-saving cog perfect for such activities. Well, in a way it is, but not for UK roads. Having experimented at, ahem, a little over the speed limit, it appears that the Fabia is happiest at speeds more commonly seen (and still legal) on the continent. Certainly, a trip under the channel confirmed that.

Before you ask, I haven’t had reason to try that ‘excuse’ out on a law enforcement officer and I certainly don’t plan on it. But it does highlight that a car’s gearing can greatly influence the driving experience.

So, about that fuel consumption. The Fabia vRS is happiest on a diet of super unleaded, which means you’ll be paying diesel-like prices to run a fast petrol car with a moderate drinking habit. Rummage through the handbook and you’ll even find strongly worded advice not to use 95 RON unless you really have to.

My conclusion? The vRS is a hot(ish) hatch so it’s daft to complain about economy when you you’ve got the ability to overtake with impunity on country roads. You don’t find Aston Martin owners complaining about mpg figures, do you?

All this talk serves to shine a light on the car’s core appeal: it’s a torquey, gutsy overtaking machine with an auto-style gearbox to make the process quicker and safer than your average three-pedal GTI.

Sure, the daily grind is a chore for everyone, and I doubt many owners can boast of regular 200-mile round trips as part of their working week, hence the economy gripe. Turning up the excellent radio takes the sting out of a long commute though, as does using the MP3-player cable or switching on Bluetooth streaming for the trusty iPhone.

But for every motorway marathon there’s an A and B-road blast to blow the cobwebs away. And it’s in this environment that the Fabia really shines. So much so that, in true Ewan McGregor style I’ve often taken the long way round to my destination when not chasing a deadline.

The reward has been the ability to scythe through the countryside at a very brisk pace indeed, and safely get past fellow motorists more intent on admiring the scenery.

Reckless? Me? Not a chance, as the Fabia’s got plenty of performance and, more importantly, braking power in reserve if you need it. Add a firm suspension set-up to minismise annoying pitch and roll plus a weighty steering delivering an accurate response, and you’ve got a car that feels stable and secure under all but the severest of weather conditions.

It is a car that likes to spin up its front wheels if you’ve got a heavy right foot, though. That’s the one downside to not having a clutch pedal to help you modulate the throttle, but at least the traction control system is smart enough to save most of your blushes when leaving junctions and roundabouts in a hurry. As we’re well into autumn and damp roads become the norm I’ll just have to be less impatient.

Clearly I must have had a bad day if it’s taken me this long to find fault with the Fabia. In truth it remains a blisteringly quick car in the right conditions and an easygoing machine around town. My left leg’s wondering if it’ll ever see any action again thanks to the DSG ‘box, and the spacious boot has had a brief rest from tripods, camera gear, food shopping and flat pack furniture.

Kermit, as it’s known has started to remind me through the trip computer that the first scheduled service is rapidly approaching.

Having experienced a fault-free run to date, I expect nothing less than a clean bill of health. Unlike some Fabia vRSs Kermit’s thirst for oil hasn’t matched its penchant for petrol, which might have something to do with the relatively gentle miles it’s spent away from an arduous stop-start urban motoring routine. I guess there’s something to said for spending most of your life in the fast lane after all.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Skoda Fabia vRS Estate, from £17,840 on the road.

Engine: 1.4-litre petrol unit developing 178bhp.

Transmission: 7-speed DSG semi-auto transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 140mph, 0-62mph 7.3 seconds.

Economy: 45.6mpg.

CO2 Rating: 148g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5 value verdict:    stars

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