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Skoda Fabia vRS
7/10

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Skoda Fabia vRS road tested

Driven October 2010

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If it weren't for cloning, this Fabia vRS might be a dwarfy little inbred, stuck with all the worst bits of the VW parts bin. It's genetically identical to the Polo GTi and Ibiza Cupra, and if you drove all three back-to-back - blindfolded, with fingers in your ears - you'd never tell the difference.

The vRS has the same 1.4-litre petrol engine as the Polo/Ibiza, which uses a turbo and supercharger to make 177bhp and reach 62mph in 7.3 seconds. It also has the same chassis and quick steering, with an electronic diff that helps hook you into corners. It's a package that behaves best with a perky driver, especially one who's hard on the brakes and early on the throttle. At anything less than 75 per cent, it feels slightly inert, so dawdlers should look elsewhere.

The dual-clutch 'box also likes a work-out, though it's better around town than the one in the Ibiza Lifer we've just lost (see p174). That was stubborn; this is more obliging, and tends to keep you in a lower gear for squirting into traffic gaps. But like Seat, Skoda has revoked the right to change gears with your left limbs, and won't sell you a manual version. This is a shame, as it would help connect you just a little bit more to that lively chassis.

If quick-'n'-easy access to rear seats is on your wish list, you'll be pleased to see five doors. Despite this, the Fabia is 6cm shorter than the three-door Ibiza, thanks mainly to short overhangs. And it manages to have a bigger boot. So it's smaller and somehow, well... bigger, at the same time. This is where the vRS starts scoring points over its less versatile siblings, and it's about to get even more spacious with the estate version, which we'll drive next month.

Unfortunately, all this usefulness makes the Fabia the gawkiest of the trio. It's slab-sided with a narrow glasshouse, and the 17-inch alloys are lost somewhere beneath it all. You can compensate for this by painting the roof a different colour so it looks like it's floating over the car, like the one on a Mini or Citroen DS3. Then you can make the wheels black and the bodywork pea green, all of which helps to cover up the odd proportions.

Further compensation comes with the price. Because it's a Skoda, and Skoda is still the cheap(ish) and cheerful wing of the VW Group, it's the least expensive of three, at £15,700, compared to £17,020 for the Ibiza and £18,275 for the Polo. Each has very similar standard kit, though the Polo has slightly retuned suspension, steering and exhaust noise (the vRS sounds a tad bland and could do with the deeper whoomphiness of the Polo). But essentially, you're getting the same mechanical bits and bobs, the same frisky chassis and the same feel of quality.

If only they'd give it a manual gearbox and drop the price by a grand or so. Then it would be a proper little pound-stretcher.

Dan Read


On your drive for: £387pcm
Performance: 0-62mph in 7.3secs, max speed 139mph, 45.6mpg
Tech: 1390cc, 4cyl, FWD, 177bhp, 184lb ft, 1318 kg, 148g/km CO2

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