Skoda's new Fabia RS is one of the surprise packages of the year. A figure of 180hp for less than €23,000 makes it a genuine bargain.
Inside & Out: 6/10
Transforming the rather staid-looking Skoda Fabia into a performance car from a visual point of view isn't all that easy. The fact that is has such a high roof means that it is always going to look a little awkward, but Skoda at least has gone quite a long way in giving it a good go. It has added smart 17-inch alloy wheels, a body kit, twin exhaust, rear diffuser and red brake calipers in order to 'tart up' the hottest Fabia - and it does look pretty good.
Inside, the same can't really be said. Apart from some 'RS' seats, the interior is rather black and a little dark, although there is a generous amount of equipment, such as climate control and perhaps most notably a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission with steering wheel paddles. This is fitted as standard in place of a traditional manual gearbox.
Engine & Transmission: 8/10
What is very impressive is the fact that Skoda has seemingly been let loose into what is the best of the Volkswagen parts bin and it has nicked the superb 1.4-litre TSI engine. This is not only turbocharged, but supercharged too and that adds up to a seriously impressive 180hp and 250Nm of torque, making it one of the most potent of the baby hot hatches. It is a little short of the power put out by the latest MINI Cooper S, but it is several thousand Euros cheaper and of course, better equipped.
The excellent seven-speed DSG transmission can be operated as a standard automatic or should you prefer, you can swap cogs manually. We have sung the DSG's praises before. The fact that there are two clutches and that the next gear is always standing by means that the changes are super quick.
This car feels really very urgent, even if the raw figures don't makes it massively fast.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
We tried the Skoda Fabia RS on a variety of surfaces and terrains in our week with the car, and this even included a few laps of Mondello Park Racing Circuit. The car is really nicely set up and it will be ideal for a novice-to-semi-talented driver who wants to feel like a bit of a superstar. The DSG makes all the gear changes smooth and the ESP system will intervene if you get a little too brave for your ability.
Away from the track the car is perfectly suited as a city runabout; again the DSG gearbox takes care of all the changes in stop-start traffic, making it ideal for tough commutes. The visibility is great all-round and it is really easy to park too. The ride is not overly firm either, so you are never left feeling too bruised and battered even after a long drive.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 9/10
When you look at the price tag of the Fabia RS, which is €22,690, and then look at what you are getting for that price the car starts to look like something of a bargain. It comes with climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth (that can operate both your phone and enabled music devices) and of course, that seven-speed DSG gearbox - which is an expensive option on other Volkswagen Group models.
Plus, there is no other car that offers this much horsepower for such little money. The beauty of it is that, the emissions are thankfully low. It emits just 148g/km of CO2 so it sits in motor tax Band C with annual road tax of just €302. Annual road tax is usually something of a burden on hot hatch fans so this is likely to make quite an impact.
Skoda, as is so often the case these days, has offered up one of the bargain cars of the year. Sure, there isn't a massive market for the hot hatch in Ireland any more, but at least this one is offering proper performance for proper value. And it doesn't cost the earth to run either. For all of those reasons it makes it quite irresistible.
Car: Skoda Fabia RS
- Engine: 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged and supercharged petrol
- Maximum power: 180hp at 6,200rpm
- Maximum torque: 250Nm at 2,000rpm
- Acceleration (0-100km/h): 7.3 seconds
- Maximum speed: 224km/h
- Fuel economy (combined cycle): 6.2 litres/100km (45.5mpg)
- CO2emissions: 148g/km
- Motor tax band: C
- Annual road tax: €302
- Retail price: Official price of test car without options is €22,690