2003 Skoda Fabia RS

The Škoda Fabia is a small 5-door hatchback built by Škoda Auto and is the first model to use the VW Group’s A00 platform, which it shares with Volkswagen’s Polo and SEAT’s Ibiza. It replaces the Felicia, which was discontinued in 2001. The car is also available in estate or saloon styles.

The range starts with the 1.2 6v Classic (which is cheaper than Volkwagen’s smaller 3-door 1.0 Lupo) to the 1.9 PD TDi vRS.

The Fabia was launched in 2000 with an array of engines, body styles and trims. The Fabia is available in hatchback, estate and saloon models. The hatchback most closely resembles Volkswagen’s own Polo, and is by far the most popular model. The estate has proved rather popular in its own right, despite estates based on smaller cars not being globally popular. The saloon variant is a classic three-compartment Limousine with a protruding boot. The saloon is much less popular than the other two body styles, especially in some markets where saloon cars are not popular, such as the United Kingdom. The Fabia will cease to be produced in December 2006.

Part of the Fabia‘s success is the fact that all of its mechanical parts are developed by or in conjunction with Volkswagen, but are offered in a package that is priced to undercut other models in the Volkswagen Group. The only trace of non-VW Skoda left in the Fabia is the 1.4 8v “MPI” Engine, which was a modification to Skoda’s own 1.3 engine, and was used in pre-Volkswagen Skodas such as the Favorit.

Later in the Fabia‘s life the mid-range Comfort Model was dropped for the name Ambiente to fit in with the rest of the range. Other models include and included the Ambiente, Ambiente SE, Blackline, Silverline, Sport, Bohemia (Estate) and vRS. Various safety features and minor changes were made over time. Easy and Junior models are sold in Eastern European markets where budgets are lower. Some of these Fabias do not even have painted bumpers or gloveboxes. Also sold in such markets is the Fabia Praktik, which is a van version of the Fabia with the rear windows and seats removed. A lesser powered version of the 1.4MPI with just 60BHP is also sold in Eastern Europe.

In 2005 the Fabia received a facelift, with changed front fog lights and grille, slightly different rear lights, new steering wheel and revised specification levels. Also the vRS had its final gearbox ratio changed. Most importantly the Sport model was added, with the 75hp 1.4 petrol being offered with a manual transmission. This engine was quickly dropped for the 1.2 HTP, which was not as powerful but is a much more free revving engine giving a more sporty feel, the sport also had its specification changed to include red seat belts and sunset privacy glass from the B Pillar to the rear.

Again in 2006 the Fabia range shown at Geneva along side the new Roomster model will have minor specification revisions. These include a center rear head rest, a central 3 point seatbelt and an additional 4 bodywork colours. The 1.4 16v 75BHP Engine is to be replaced with a more powerful 1.4 16v 79BHP engine.

Škoda Fabia vRS

The range-topping Fabia vRS, while not the first diesel hot hatch, is the first exclusively diesel hot hatch, having no petrol equivalent. The engine is VW Group’s 1.9 litre Pumpe-Düse Turbocharged-Diesel producing 96 kW (129 hp) and 229 ft·lbf (310 Nm) at 1900 rpm, with a six speed manual gearbox.

Official figures state 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) takes 9.5 seconds, but many motoring magazines have timed this to be less than 8 seconds. The in gear acceleration times are 50-70 mph in 5.6 seconds, quicker than BMW’s 330i which needs 6.0 seconds. 20-40 mph in 2.4 seconds is as quick as the Lotus Elise 111R. Despite this the Fabia vRS can achieve better than 5.4 l/100 km (45 MPG US). The vRS was shown to be quicker than a similarly priced MINI Cooper around Top Gear’s and Fifth Gear’s test tracks.

Features

Distinct, Skoda have stuck to their guns with a chromed front grill and badge. The scooped front bumper oozes style, complimented with a small rear wing. The body is wrapped with a slightly curved rear hatch – that opens to reveal plenty of room for the shopping or overnight bags.

Subtle in metallic black, there are a couple of things that will have you frown in deep disbelief that this couldn’t be anything out of the ordinary – until you get behind the wheel and find out yourself.

Using the low revs/high-torque characteristic of the diesel engine, turbo-charging the beast gives a very smooth power delivery. Right from 1500rpm the boost rapidly reminds you of an jet-plane take-off, as you reach for another gear to keep the revs down and maximise the boost/torque production from under the bonnet. That, is where you find the speedo needle has quickly exceeded what you’d reasonably be used to – especially since there was no associated exhaust growl.

Driving, there is a lot of room for noise to fill the cabin. Noise from conversing passengers, ringing cellular phones or the CD/tuner providing background relief. Remove all of those elements and all you are left with is a low rumbling sound from the engine up-front, some tyre noise from the 205 width 16” wheels and the sound of the wind licking the body as it slices through the atmosphere.

Fuel economy wouldn’t normally be of concern with a smaller car, especially a diesel, yet it was another big tick. Typically a mix of urban/highway driving would yield 6. 5l/100km, with highway averaging 5.5l/100km. Topping up the 45 litre tank with $25 of fuel would easily carry you 700km. With New Zealand also requiring the additional Road User Charges on diesel fuel, the average costing of $24.74/1000km would roughly equate to a 1000km trip costing $60 in fuel and Road User Charges – not bad!

Inside the Fabia, it comes complete with all the trimmings of being European bred. The reversed indicator/washer positioning also sees the integration of the trip computer to the two-stalk system. Cleverly incorporated to the right-hand washer control, the up/down scroll button at the end of the stalk shows time/temperature/time from departure/distance from departure/fuel consumption/average fuel consumption. Adding to the feature list, the fuel consumption reverts to litres/hour when the car isn’t moving. Once the washer control has been mastered, flick, intermittent, rear wiper and wash functions are very easy to operate, although a temporary memory lapse could see all sorts of exciting combinations until you settle on the one you initially wanted!

The left-hand stalk controls indicator, dip/full beam and cruise control. Once again it is a control that takes a little to master, but with a little practise you can control everything without having to lift your eyes from the road. Quirky, the cruise control tended to run a little over the speed you think you’ve just set. With a little judgement you can set the speed a little below that intended, allowing for the speed to creep until it settles.

A very large flat dash area fills the front of the car, complete with passenger side airbag. The large nature of the dash tends to be a little overbearing, with the matt coloured black plastic prone to trapping dust and dirt – detracting from the uniform colour. The ’glove compartment’ area features a hidden area for the manuals with a neat little spot for holding a can of drink that features a variable air-conditioning vent to keep your favourite beverage cold.

The driver console has a nice silver outline around the large speedo and RPM gauges. With punctuated red trim, and green backlighting. The temperature and fuel gauges are easy to interpret – situated in the upper middle of the dash. The circular styling is easy to read and loses its European dominance by having a speedo calibrated in kilometres/hour.

Moving toward the centre console, the mid-mounted stereo system features a single disc CD player and AM/FM stereo tuner. Packed with plenty of puff to the generic system, the location of multiple speakers around the cabin give great depth of sound when playing your favourite music. The stereo console is replaceable with an after-market style should your taste suit.

The climate control/heater function is simply controlled by three rotary dials. One for temperature and the other selecting where you want the air to be directed and at what velocity. Complete with air-conditioning for those hot days or when windscreen de-fogging demands.

Other controls inside the Fabia include the heated side mirrors. Incorporated into the mirror angle-adjust control on the drivers door (adjacent to the door catch) – it surprisingly makes both very easy to find in the dark.

Part of the solid construction and feel of a Skoda, even the pedals come with a polished base and rubber grip blocks.

Not blessed with surplus room, tall bodies will fit quite adequately into the Fabia without having to hunch. Although rear seat passengers will force the front occupants to peg the seat inward a notch or two to allow their legs to fit in the rear. That is, should you feel the need to try and do the abnormal – fit oversize people in a smaller size car.

So, just how big is the power plant? Well, it is a 1896cc turbo-charged diesel, badged 1.9L TDI RS by Skoda. Supplying 96Kw at 4000rpm and a whopping 310Nm of torque at 1900rpm. Recommended retail pricing is $35,990.

If you are the sort of person to make a statement through your performance then you’ll love the snappy Fabia and the stares it brings – particularly the acceleration!

Scribbled on August 4th 2008 in Skoda, Skoda Fabia RS
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