Good: classy yet classless, high quality, excellent engine, spacious cabin, big boot, comfortable and agile, economical
Not so good: needs a bright colour, this engine and trim make it a little pricey
In order to gain a better understanding of how the Byzantine Volkswagen Group brand management and control system works, this road test was granted exclusive and unprecedented access to a meeting of senior Volkswagen brand synergy managers and engineers as they reported on the careful calibrations undertaken to ensure each Volkswagen Group brand has its own sales and customer patch, without encroaching on the territory of another. It is a careful, precise balancing of Venn diagrams. What follows is a transcript of what our microphones recorded.
"OK everyone, let's go around the table and report on what we have done this week to ensure that no Volkswagen Group model steps heavily on the toes of another. Let's start with you Hans..."
"Very good. And you, Dirk?"
"Excellent. What have you been up to Wolfgang?"
"Fantastiche. And you, Hermann. You were in charge of making the new Skoda Fabia just slightly less good than the updated Volkswagen Polo. What have you done to ensure this? Fitted an aged and out-dated engine?"
"Er, no, mein Herr, we have not. There was no memo issued to this effect so we fitted the same 1.2-litre TSI turbo petrol as you get in versions of the Polo."
"Wait, you mean the one that is almost as economical as a small diesel? That gets around 45mpg in daily driving, yet has the sort of smooth running and low-down torque to make it feel like a much bigger engine? The one that makes the Fabia feel like a car from two classes up?"
"Yes, that one."
"Oh dear. Well, presumably then you fitted it with terrible suspension, yes? Springs and dampers that make it clearly inferior to the Polo."
"Um, not quite. You see when the springs and dampers arrived at the factory, we scanned the appropriate barcode and they seemed to be the correct ones to fit to the vehicle. Certainly, they make it comfortable over sharp-edged city bumps and speed ramps, and they keep the body under excellent control out on the open road. They give good agility too."
"And the steering? You made the steering terrible, yes?"
"Well, we aimed for a precise corridor half-way between the very sharp and heavy steering of the Ford Fiesta and the too-light setup of, say, the Citroen C3."
"Sooooo... exactly the same as the steering on the Polo, then?"
"Yes, so it would seem. But it's a coincidence, I assure you."
"Well, OK - no harm done. You obviously made the interior look and feel a bit cheap and nasty then, didn't you? Made it much worse than the Polo?"
"Oh yes. Yes. Definitely. Sort of. Mostly. I'm pretty sure..."
"Well, not really. You see, we have to use the same plastics and components supplier so we really end up with bits and pieces that are much the same. We tried to make it much less classy, we tried to give it seats that were much less comfortable but... well, we failed I'm afraid."
"You gave it much worse equipment though, right?"
"Oh yes. But you see, this one we were working on was in Style spec, so it comes with air conditioning, keyless ignition, rear parking sensors, three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, 16-inch alloys, colour touch screen with Bluetooth, twin front and side curtain airbags and LED daytime running lights."
"OK, so what does that all cost?"
"Well, according to our data, in the Irish market for instance, you could get all that for €18,195."
"So that's less than the Polo?"
"Well, um, I don't quite have the figures to hand..."
"And the practicality of it all? Please don't tell me you gave it a big boot and still managed to fit a full-sized spare wheel underneath?"
"Well, if you don't want me to tell you then I won't..."
"Dear heavens above Hermann, I don't think you've quite grasped what we're supposed to be doing here..."
"Oh, hang on, I forgot to mention the fact that it's more spacious in the back than the old Fabia and around 65kg lighter, model-for-model too. That's making it worse, right?"
"Look Hermann, you've made a bloody pudding of this, a right pudding. See me after the meeting..."
At this point, we were requested to stop recording, but even so, we managed to gain a rare and valuable insight into the way a modern car company works. For more on this subject, why not wait for the launch of the new Skoda Superb?