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Review

Fond Farewell (Skoda Fabia vRS Estate Long Term Test Final Month) car review

09/12/12

A BAD man has taken 'my' Fabia vRS away. Okay, he was really a nice chap, but that doesn't compensate for the Fabia-sized hole in my life. It could've been more economical and I've experienced quieter cars over long distances, however it was a lot of fun. And, at the end of the day, that's what it’s all about.

After choosing the Fabia I remember getting a lot of stick for selecting Skoda's trademark bright 'rally green' option. Yet I felt that if you've made such a left field choice as a Fabia vRS you can't bottle it with company car silver. The optional black wheels were the icing on the cake.

And let’s face it, it doesn't get more left field than a 180 horsepower supermini estate with a seven-speed DSG gearbox. I'm a big fan of estate cars as they add more value to your everyday life than a corresponding hatch or saloon. So when you add a performance variable into the mix, you get the best of both worlds: something quick and practical.

In the real world that decision to take the estate over the hatch paid off almost every day of ownership. The car’s load cover needed only a light tap to retract – no fumbling with a recalcitrant mechanism – and the adjustable load floor made it possible to divide the boot to stop the shopping from rolling around.

Flipping the rear seats down revealed an almost flat load bay, and further cemented the Fabia’s practical attributes. Granted, a similar size space is availabel to owners of the hatch variant, but it’s the ease of access – that wide opening tailgate – that should please fans of flat pack furniture.

All this talk of domestic bliss is in danger of overshadowing the real reason for picking the Fabia: driving enjoyment. Six months is plenty long enough to discover a car’s various quirks and, aside from a slightly slow-witted auto gearchange around town and an overly firm ride on poorly surfaced roads, my little green monster always prompted a smile.

The car’s gruff 1.4-litre petrol motor was a powerhouse of epic proportions, and never failed to deliver when the throttle was mashed to the floor. Not that you needed to do that very often, as the engine’s ample torque proved more than enough most of the time.

What stood out above all other experiences was the car’s straightliine speed and overtaking ability. The former could easily lead to a less than friendly chat with the police if you didn’t keep a lid on it, while the latter allowed you to (safely) overtake at will to leapfrog slower traffic on cross-country routes. The combination of the ‘instant on’ power delivery and the snappy shifts of the DSG gearbox ensured that sleepy motorists never stood a chance.

There’s no denying that such antics were addictive, but the Fabia’s power reserves allowed you to make brisk yet safe progress. Unlike the actions of some motorists I witnessed, taking a run up before pulling out or almost running out of puff and road before an oncoming bend or proccession of traffic were situations I never got myself into. And that scenario of the rapidly approaching bend never phased the Fabia, either.

With its weighty and accurate steering,you could confidently position the car with little effort. Sometimes the gearbox would annoyingly change down mid bend, but that was easily fixed by switching to manual mode, a decision that would often prove more rewarding regardless of the conditions.

Far from being a one-trick pony, the Skoda estate was a practical, versatile, fast, entertaining and enjoyable mode of transport. The perception that Skodas – and their owners – are always sensible and conservative was blown to pieces by the gruff-sounding and fun-loving Fabia vRS. While not perfect, the positives easily outweighed the negatives. More standard kit would’ve been nice – the rear parking sensors were a cost option – and it was a thirsty beast when driven hard.

However, Kermit, as it was soon nicknamed for obvious reasons, delivered a memerable ownership experience. Easy to spot in a crowded car park, its quirky character and appearance never failed to raise a smile. Driven sensibly 40-odd mpg was possible and the supportive seats helped make long motorway journeys tolerable. But really, what’s not to like about a bright green Skoda that’s capable of giving your average GTI a hard time?

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

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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