Regular readers of PetrolBlog will remember William Patterson and his wonderful Peugeot 106 Rallye. You may also remember that he made a reference to his other motor, a MK1 Skoda Fabia vRS. Quite the petrolhead garage.
Well now it’s time for the Fabia to be thrust into the spotlight, with Will’s Real World Review.
Back in 2009 I found myself with an 80 mile a day commute. My 1.4 Polo wasn’t especially economical, nor did it offer particularly brisk performance. So I decided that it was time to switch it for something a bit quicker and more economical. But in order to achieve these two somewhat opposing goals a diesel was going to be the best option.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m a bit of a VAG fan so it was pretty inevitable that I was going to end up with something from the group. Having owned a MK4 Golf GTI and driven a Golf GT TDI 150 this was my first starting point but at the time, but prices for MK4 Golfs remained quite high and affordable cars were slightly older than I would have liked. Ibizas and Audi A3s were also considered but in the end there was one car which seemed to best fit my requirements, the Skoda Fabia vRS. The Fabia has the 130bhp 1.9 TDI PD engine which is generally considered more reliable than the 150, a 6-speed gearbox, a good level of standard kit and by the old rating scale is four groups lower on insurance than the equivalent engined Golf.
Once I had settled on a Fabia vRS the next decision was the colour. Not being a fan of silver I asked a local garage to keep an eye out for a red or black one (the lovely blue special edition was a bit too expensive). That same day I got a call back saying that they had found a 2005 model with 50k miles in good condition…one problem, it was yellow! Despite plenty of abuse from my friends I decided I could live with the colour. A week later I was handing over my Polo in what was essentially a straight swap for the Fabia and I was now the proud(!) owner of a bright yellow Skoda Fabia. More than two and half years and 42,000 miles later I am still the owner of ‘CX05’.
The first impression of the Skoda was that it was a quality product and my feelings haven’t changed in the last couple of years. Everything feels well put together; the seats are extremely comfortable, the interior materials and switchgear are unmistakably VAG and are good quality, especially the leather on the wheel, gearstick and handbrake. Despite being a bit older than my previous Polo, the Fabia is well equipped with air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, adjustable steering wheel and a multifunction computer. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a couple of optional extras on my car such as cruise control and an electric sunroof. The engine produces 130bhp but more impressively 230 lb ft of torque, which makes for strong mid-range acceleration and effortless cruising. To quote some amusing Wikipedia stats, the Fabia vRS covers 50-70mph in 5.6 seconds which is quicker than a BMW 330i and covers 20-40 mph in 2.4 seconds, the same as an Elise 111R. For a car that cost around £12,000 when new, Skoda managed to make the Fabia vRS a bit of a giantkiller.
The power delivery is an acquired taste, you won’t find yourself hanging on for the redline in the Fabia, rather you have to keep the turbo working in its little power band between about 2,000-4,000 rpm, but within this range the Fabia pulls hard and is capable of making pretty rapid progress. The car handles well with a little give in the chassis and a degree of body roll, but not to the extent that it is too concerning. A weighty diesel engine up front makes the vRS quite nose heavy and it tends to understeer when pushed into a corner but rather amusingly it can have quite a lively back end and I have had a couple of incidents of lift-off oversteer on damp roundabouts. If I had to criticise one area of the driving experience it would be the ride quality, the vRS sits on fairly low profile 205/45/16s and coupled with fairly stiff suspension it can feel a bit bumpy at times and typically prefers smooth flowing roads.
Then there are the looks, I’ve put up with dozens of jibes about owning a sh**ty yellow Skoda, but frankly I love it. The colour has grown on me and I love the styling, I think Skoda managed to do a great job of turning the fairly boring looking standard Fabia into a sporty model. The chunky bumpers suit the shape nicely and the front one is finished off with some nice little vents. The exhaust looks just right (although makes no noise of interest), and the wheels and green brake callipers complete the package nicely.
My Fabia gets used for absolutely everything; it’s been all over the UK, it does short journeys to work, it goes back and forward across the M62, it gets abused on back roads and it takes everything that is thrown at it! Just last week it made its track debut at Blyton Park where it performed very well and whilst it wasn’t the quickest car out there I had a great time and it certainly didn’t feel slow! After so many miles I am intimately acquainted with the vRS and for what I use it for it is perfect. I’ve always had the car regularly serviced but otherwise it doesn’t receive much attention and although I may be tempting fate here, the Fabia has not once broken down or failed to start, and apart from routine servicing it has only really had three faults: worn front suspension bushes (a common fault), a cracked radiator and an oil leak from the intercooler. None of these issues have caused major problems and were identified and rectified easily.
One of the main reasons that I needed a diesel in the first place was for fuel economy and this is ultimately the Fabia’s party piece. In normal running around on short journeys the trip computer tends to show figures in the 40s, on a motorway run you will almost always see 50 plus and my personal best is a 64.6mpg average on a run up the M1. Even when really pressing on you have to be trying hard to get the economy figures down into the 20s, on track at Blyton Park it dropped to around 27mpg but was being pushed harder than I have ever pushed it before.
Although I have been very happy with the Fabia and am likely to hang on to it for some time yet, for anyone thinking of buying one there are a few points which are worth bearing in mind:
The Skoda Fabia vRS is without a doubt the best all round car that I have ever owned, it isn’t totally perfect in any respect but it does so many things and does them all well that you just can’t help but love it. If you are in the market for something that is fun to drive, comfortable enough for daily use and long journeys and returns great mpg then I would certainly recommend one!
2005 Skoda Fabia vRS
Details of scoring can be seen here.