Skoda Fabia Sport
CZECHS AND BALANCES
We’ve never really considered the Fabia a sporty model and the Sport versions probably aren’t going to change that fact. Andy Enright reports
As long as you don’t get too worked up by a Sport badge that confers no dynamic advantages, the moniker on this Fabia variant being a mere nameplating job, there’s a lot to like about this car. It’s good value, looks a bit less pedestrian than other Fabias and is decently equipped.
It’s easy to get very cynical about cars that wear a Sport badge. More often than not, the only sport they’re good for is raising the hackles of a neighbour who’s got the bog standard version. Whenever we receive notice of a Sport model, the first thing we tend to check is the suspension. If it’s been uprated, then we’ll give a certain degree of respect. If the engines and tyres have been given a pep up as well, then that car is fine in our books.
Then there are models like the Skoda Fabia Sport; resolutely unsporty cars, given some window dressing. That’s not to say this Fabia is a bad car – far from it. Merely that if you’re expecting something a little more focused to drive than a normal Fabia, you may well come away disappointed. Think of it as a stock Fabia made a little better looking and it seems a sweeter prospect.
There are no great surprises as to how the Fabia Sport drives as it is mechanically identical to the rest of the Fabia range. This in itself is a car that borrows heavily from the underpinnings of the original Fabia, a car that never really focused on keen drivers. Even the vRS model was a rather modest diesel. The latest Sport model can be specified with either of two petrol units or two diesels, so there’s no shortage of choice.
The petrol range kicks off with the three-cylinder 1.2-litre HTP 12v engine, developing 70bhp. The next step up is the 105bhp 1.6 16v engine. Go for diesel and there’s a 1.4-litre TDI unit good for 80bhp and a 1.9-litre TDI that’ll make 105bhp at the top of the range. The basic underpinnings - a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear - haven’t changed a great deal from the old Fabia but tuning to the damping means this car rides a good deal more smoothly. The steering wheel requires a bit of arm twirling lock-to-lock but it’s a decently accurate helm and the gearchange is one of the best in its class. Visibility out of the car is a bit of an issue with the thick pillars but otherwise the Fabia is one of the easiest cars to drive on the market today.
"Of all the Fabia Sport models on offer, the most convincing is the cheapest one"
Let’s take a look at the Sport-specific features of this model. As mentioned before, the engines and suspension systems are stock Fabia, so this is no go-faster version. Instead, customers get 16-inch alloy wheels, a boot spoiler, front fog lights, a chrome exhaust pipe and rear diffuser. The overall effect is to give the very unthreatening Fabia shape just a couple of degrees more attitude. If you’ve been paying attention to any of their show cars and concepts in the past few years, the shape of the Fabia will come as no great surprise. The front end mimics that of the Roomster mini-MPV while the rear end is a lot cleaner, offering a more conservative tack than the Roomster’s weird kinked window line. In fact, the splayed shoulder line of this car and neatly sawn-off rear pillars aren’t dissimilar to the Suzuki Swift. It’s a very tidy styling job and serves to make the old Fabia look positively archaic.
It’s a notably bigger car too, the subsequent growth of the family hatch in size giving this Fabia a bit more room to let its belt out and remain a fully fledged supermini. Skoda claim more rear knee and headroom than any rival, helped by the fact that the Fabia is 22mm longer and 47mm taller than the model it replaces. Boot capacity stands at an impressive 300 litres with the seats in place or a massive 1,163 litres when they’re folded.
As well as the wheels and spoilers and other external trimmings, the Fabia Sport is reasonably well equipped inside too, with a three-spoke leather trimmed sports steering wheel, curtain airbags, sunset glass and sports seats. Skoda claims that this little lot tots up to £1,825 of added value for a premium over the Fabia2 on which the Sport is originally based of just £940, making this virtually a half price sweep through Skoda’s options list. Prices start at £10,660 for the 1.2 12v and £11,735 for the 1.6 16v petrol with the diesels costing £12,115 for the 1.4 and £12,795 for the 1.9-litre car.
Equipment levels were never the Fabia’s strong point, relying instead on solid no-nonsense build quality. This time round there are items like electronically-controlled Climatronic air-conditioning and an MP3/iPod compatible stereo but if you go to your Skoda dealer expecting to be granted a view of the state-of-the-art in small car electronics, you’re likely to be disappointed. Decent build quality, on the other hand, you can take for granted.
The ethos of the Fabia Sport are best expressed by the Head of Skoda UK who notes that "there’s a proven appetite amongst British buyers for sporty looking cars that don’t come with the added expense of a big engine. The Fabia Sport looks fantastic, but won’t break the bank when it comes to insurance premiums and fuel bills – which is particularly pertinent at the moment." It’s hard to argue with that sort of logic.
Let’s compare the petrol 1.2-litre model with the 1.4-litre 80bhp TDI and see how things pan out. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll assume you do 10,000 miles per year and you’re going to run the car for three years and then trade it in. The 80bhp 1.4-litre diesel Fabia will cost you around £1,455 more to buy than the 70bhp 1.2-litre petrol car in equivalent trim but over three years you’ll save a mere £82 in fuel bills. Both are bracketed in insurance group 2 so there’s little in it there, and private buyers will not see any difference in road tax charged. Sounds like a no brainer. With over £1,000 separating the prices of the equally powerful 1.6 16v petrol and 1.9TDI diesel, petrol looks the way to go here as well.
If you want a sporty Skoda Fabia, my advice would be to keep saving for the ‘proper’ vRS model and give this Fabia Sport a miss. If, on the other hand, you like the standard Fabia’s low running costs and practicality but can afford to splash a few quid on getting one that looks a bit more Y chromosome, then why not? Taken in isolation, the Fabia Sport is a very good car. It’s one that’s clearly built down to a price but it’s got an endearing personality and offers plenty of solid, no nonsense attributes.
Of all the Fabia Sport models on offer, the most convincing is the cheapest one. The 1.2-litre engine is comfortably the sweetest of the bunch and more than justifies itself in terms of running costs over the diesel models. As long as you don’t get too aerated over the disingenuous Sport badge, there’s very little to dislike here.