IT’S ALWAYS a little strange when you get the impression you’re driving a Ferrari when you’re really hitting 40mph in a small hatchback. Powering along the north Kent coast in the Fabia vRS, towards a particularly excellent gastro pub, the car shrieked and howled so loudly you’d think there was a V12 under the bonnet.
But the Skoda Fabia vRS has the power to back it up, in this case VW’s excellent 1.4 TSI engine which has won so many awards it’s a wonder the bonnet isn’t see-through. The engine has a supercharger for low engine speeds and a turbocharger for higher ones which translates into a great deal of power, 180bhp in fact – yet the car still remains economical. It’s a feisty little beast, surprising you with acceleration that feels so spritely you need to be measured the first few times you do a parallel park. It’s swift to move through the auto 7-speed DSG gearbox and if you feel like you want to get a bit more hands-on when you’re hitting country road corners, there are some rally-style paddle shifters behind the leather steering wheel. The suspension has had a makeover which includes lowering the car and tautening the ride from the standard Fabia. The result is that the Fabia vRS darts around corners quite happily.
In fact, this hot hatch version of the Fabia has a lot of features inspired by Skoda’s S2000 rally car, including rear and front spoilers, tinted rear windows, 17-inch alloys, red brake callipers and twin exhausts, plus a leather covered handbrake, gearknob and steering wheel. This means that the Fabia – which is a small, boxy, unglamorous compact – has improved looks all round in vRS guise. With the contrast roof it’s obviously pretty eye-catching, three friends – albeit with untrained eyes – mistakenly likened the car to a MINI, which has got to be a pretty flattering comparison.
In-car gadgetry was unexpectedly excellent for a car of this segment; optional Bluetooth was really easy to use and for £220, a bit of a must-have, or at least, a why-not. The screen was a treat too, with very pleasing lime green features tastefully laid out and nice intuitive buttons to help you select your radio station, amongst other things.
The car mainly disappointed in the places where it felt small, like the boot, which would have accommodated a succinct shop from Waitrose but was a real squeeze for a family overnighter, even though we’d travelled as lightly as possible. Another Lilliputian surprise was the skinny cupholders – as if you’re only ever going to drink Red Bull when you’re cruising in this car – although maybe that’s the case for the target driver of a Fabia vRS.
The Skoda Fabia vRS feels well built, performs well and its undoubtedly great value for money. But more importantly it’s fast, a bit lary and great fun to drive and it gives rivals – like the Polo GTI, Citroen DS Sport and Seat Ibiza Cupra – a run for their money.
THE FACTS: SKODA FABIA VRS
TOP SPEED: 139mph
CO2 G/KM: 148g/km
MPG COMBINED: 45.6mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****