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REVIEW – Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer


Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95PS Monte Carlo
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride/Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4

Summary

The Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo, with its black contrasting features, is a great-looking car. The interior – with flashes of red and carbon-effect leather seat bolsters is bold and exciting. Despite having a mere 95PS from its 1.0-litre engine the Fabia is surprisingly fun to drive. With the optional sports suspension it handles great too. It’s hard not to like this car; with a few more gadgets it could be perfect.


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Exterior Styling

Big and broad seems to be the styling of choice in the small hatchback market these days. That much is especially true when you look at the VW Audi Group models.

The VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, Skoda Fabia and recently-launched Audi A1 are all beefier than ever before. Furthermore, all are now strictly 5-door models. It’s a good thing, with all of these being worth a look in for that small family car.

The Skoda Fabia you see here is no ordinary one. It’s the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo; the sportiest-looking model in the absence of a SportLine trim.

It features contrast black details: alloy wheels, front grille, door mirrors, roof, rear spoiler and rear diffuser. This looks great with just about any colour, but the Corrida Red of our test car is, in our view, the pick of the bunch.

LED daytime running lights are incorporated into the angular headlights. The bonnet features a raised centre section, as well as sweeping lines to the outer edges.

Our test car had optional 17-inch alloy wheels, which were a nice step up from the standard 16-inch design. There is even a further 18-inch option: these are the most striking design too.

There is a Monte Carlo badge on the B-pillar, evoking images of one of the most iconic rallies on the WRC calendar. There’s also a prominent body line running from front to back, giving the Skoda Fabia a broad, muscular feel.

At the back there are yet more bold lines on the tailgate. There are no visible exhaust pipes, which is a bit of a shame, but the gloss black diffuser finishes off the exterior styling nicely.

Interior Finish

The rally-imagery continues on the inside of the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo. Don’t worry, there’s no roll cage or hydraulic handbrake, but there is a sporty feel that resonates throughout the cabin.

And the centrepiece is, without question, the seats. The front sports seats have a fixed headrest, giving a much more aggressive appearance.

They are finished in black and red cloth with contrast white stitching. The side and leg bolsters feature a ‘carbon’ leather finish, which looks fantastic.

Sitting right in the driver’s eye line is a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Another sporty feature, finished in perforated black leather with contrast red stitching.

The dashboard is finished with a carbon-effect trim. It doesn’t really look like the real deal – this is a small family hatchback after all – but then neither does the ‘carbon’ leather. Nevertheless it still looks good, and is a fitting finish for a Monte Carlo.

Nestled into the centre of the dashboard is a 6.5-inch touchscreen multimedia system. It does look a little on the small side, especially given how the Skoda Fabia is now a bigger car than ever.

We are starting to see virtual cockpit options appearing on Skoda models, starting with the bigger ones. It hasn’t yet filtered down to cars like the Fabia, which is a shame. Certain Audi A1 and VW Polo models do have this option, so maybe it will happen in the future.

On the whole the quality inside the Skoda Fabia is good. There are a few hard plastic surfaces – like the lower dashboard and parts of the door cards – but it didn’t cause us great dismay. The cabin does feel incredibly well-built, with no squeaks or rattles, so no complaints there.

Engine/Performance

Despite this being the most sporty-looking trim in the Skoda Fabia line-up, our test car featured the smallest engine. It’s a 1.0-litre TSI; a 3-cylinder petrol engine complete with turbocharger.

Power is a modest 95PS, with 160Nm of torque. This power is sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. The performance figures don’t make for particularly exciting reading: 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 114mph.

In truth, these figures don’t tell the full story. This little engine has a big attitude. It happily revs right up to the red line. The soundtrack is a satisfying 3-cylinder thrum, adding further character to the 1.0 TSI.

Around town the Skoda Fabia zips around happily. It’s reasonably comfortable on the motorway too, for the most part.

It’s only on steeper inclines at motorway speeds where you notice this is a small engine. Acceleration slows significantly, even requiring a drop down to fourth gear to maintain speed on occasion.

Given that the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo has such a strong image, this engine doesn’t really have the substance to back it up.

Don’t worry though, because there is another option. Still a 1.0 TSI, but with 115PS. An extra 20PS may not sound like a lot on the face of it, but it represents a 21 per cent hike in power. And that should give the Monte Carlo the extra oomph it deserves.

The larger-output engine comes with the choice of a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG gearbox. We’d still stick with the manual for the most engaging driving experience. There is no denying, however, that a DSG unit would be slick and smooth.

Ride/Handling

Given the 1.0 TSI 95 is somewhat lacking in straight-line speed, it’s left to the handling capabilities of the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo to ensure a fun driving experience. And thankfully, the Fabia delivers.

We should state from the outset that our test car was fitted with the optional Sports suspension, which gives a lower ride height and firmer suspension. It costs just £125.

On the 17-inch alloy wheels it was nicely balanced and not too firm, but we are unsure of how this would fare with the even lower-profile 18-inch wheels. And be aware; you cannot specify the 18-inch wheels without opting for the Sports suspension.

This latest-generation Skoda Fabia has seen tremendous success as a rally car. Whilst the Monte Carlo is a completely different animal to the mighty R5 that competes on the stages, there is a basic proficiency to the chassis.

The steering is a little on the light side for our liking, and it lacks feel. But there is no denying it is direct. You can chuck the Skoda Fabia into a corner with much vigour, and the nose will find the apex with precision.

Even with the firmer suspension the ride is spot on. On the motorway the Skoda Fabia is comfortable, thanks in part to those bolstered sports seats.

On a bumpier B-road the firmer suspension provides a good sense of what’s going on beneath the car. You can feel the bumps and undulations, but the Fabia absorbs enough to maintain composure.

This means you can carry more speed through corners, making up for the lack of oomph to get you from one bend to the next.

Economy

Small, turbocharged petrol engines are becoming much more commonplace, and not just in small cars either. For the first time in a while there is a sizeable gap between petrol and diesel at the pumps.

For lower-mileage users there is now a serious argument for choosing a petrol car, and we therefore expect that the 1.0 TSI will be a popular choice in the Skoda Fabia.

The 95PS model in our test car claims a respectable 47.1mpg under the new WLTP standards. We’re seeing much more realistic economy figures under the WLTP standards, and can happily report that with gentle driving the figures are attainable.

The main problem is that it’s hard to drive this car gently. When all is said and done, 95PS is not an awful lot. So you find yourself driving at full throttle all too often. And anyone who owns a turbocharged car will know that this is a sure-fire way of killing economy.

In terms of CO2 emissions, our test car emits an NEDC-equivalent 106g/km. VED is therefore £150 in the first year, and then the standard £145 thereafter.

For reference, the 115PS version of the 1.0 TSI emits 107g/km of CO2 and returns 45.6mpg on the combined cycle (106g/km and 43.5mpg for the DSG version).

This simply provides further evidence that suggests the 115PS manual is the most logical choice for the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo.

Practicality

As a 5-door only model, the Skoda Fabia is a relatively practical car for a small family hatchback. The rear doors make access easier. This applies to both loading and unloading children – no more human tetris trying to get them into their car seats – and also for adults.

There is a decent amount of leg room in the outer rear seats, providing the front seat passengers aren’t being overly liberal with theirs. The middle seat is based saved for children, and it can get a bit crowded with three people back there.

The boot space of 330 litres will be ample for everyday use. Buggies will go in no problem, as will the weekly shop. Even the family pooch – providing it’s not a Newfoundland – will have plenty of space back there. What the boot lacks in width it makes up for in depth, creating a very usable load space.

Despite looking broad, the Skoda Fabia is still a relatively compact car. Finding a parking space is a breeze, and visibility is great for parking and other manoeuvres. Rear parking sensors provide extra reassurance.

On the whole, the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo is a great car to live with. It even boasts a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, giving you peace of mind. It is marred only by a slight lack of refinement in the engine department.

The 115PS engine with 6-speed manual gearbox would certainly improve things when it comes to motorway driving. Having the DSG option with that engine also provides the opportunity for even more refinement, albeit at the cost of a properly fun, engaging driving experience.

Equipment

It is often the case that the models amongst the ‘flanks’ of the VW Audi Group have a more enhanced standard specification than the main brands. The Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo is one of those cars.

In addition to the unique exterior styling and black contrasting features, it gets privacy glass and LED rear lights as standard. Full LED headlights with adaptive lighting function are optional, but pricy at £960.

The creature comforts continue. Both driver and passenger seats are height adjustable. There’s climate control, Electric front and rear windows, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors and rear parking sensors.

For safety, the Skoda Fabia comes with Front assist which includes autonomous emergency braking. It’s one of the reasons the Fabia has achieved a 5-star Euro NCAP rating.

The outer rear seats have ISOFIX mounting points, and there are luggage hooks in the boot to make the most out of the space.

In terms of in-car entertainment, there’s a DAB radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s even an SD card slot, and the car will index this if in a suitable format. You can easily have your entire iTunes library with you on the go.

There are a couple of niggles, however. The 6.5-inch screen isn’t big enough. An 8-inch unit would have looked a lot smarter in the dashboard.

The lack of wireless charging pad in the Skoda Fabia also shows it needs a bit of modernising. Skoda might as well give the option of a virtual cockpit while they’re at it, too.

Value For Money

The Skoda Fabia, with the 1.0 TSI 95PS as tested, is the cheapest Monte Carlo model available. On the road price is £17,185. That makes it cheaper than the equivalent Ford Fiesta ST-Line. It also undercuts the equivalent VW Polo and Audi A1.

The most direct competition at this price point comes from the Seat Ibiza FR. With the exact same 1.0 TSI 95PS engine, it costs £17,610; marginally more expensive than the Skoda Fabia. That’s a tough decision to make between two competent – and handsome – family hatchbacks.

There are quite a few options available with the Skoda Fabia. You don’t necessarily need any given the standard specification of the Monte Carlo. That being said, there are some great value options to really spice things up.

The 17-inch alloy wheels seen on our test car cost a very reasonable £360. The Sports suspension is a mere £125. Keyless entry and go would be £325, and the Admundsen touchscreen navigation system is £770.

But the best value option of all is the more powerful 1.0 TSI 110PS engine. In Monte Carlo trim, it costs £17,835 with a manual gearbox. And that’s the best £650 you could possibly spend.

To us, it’s the final nail in the coffin of the 1.0 TSI 95PS, especially on the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo. It’s difficult to see why anyone would choose the lesser-power engine, given the price difference.

Facts and Figures

Engine 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max power 95PS at 5,000-5,500rpm
Max torque 160Nm at 1,800-3,500rpm
Drivetrain 5-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
0-62mph 10.8 seconds
Top speed 114mph
Fuel tank size 45 litres
Fuel consumption 47.1 mpg WLTP
CO2 emissions 106 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 1,046 kg
Towing capacity 1,000kg braked / 560kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 330 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £17,185
Price as tested £19,760
Company website www.skoda.co.uk/new-cars/fabia/fabia-monte-carlo

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