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Skoda Fabia vRS

Click to view picture gallery“You’ve met the Stig. Now say Hi
the Skod! Skodas little hottie,
  the vRS, burns rubber like no other
  in the hot-hatch segment. And with
  an engine that
s turbocharged and
  supercharged plus a 7-speed DSG
  transmission, the
vRS will make
a lot of keen drivers very happy...

NAME ASIDE, the new generation Fabia vRS is conspicuously different from its predecessor. For a start, the body is new and, unlike the previous version which was powered by a 1.9-litre turbocharged diesel unit driving through a manual gearbox, the latest vRS is powered by VW's 1.4-litre turbocharged and supercharged TSI engine. This produces 180bhp and 184lb ft of torque from 2,000 to 4,500rpm and, instead of a manual change, it uses a seven-speed twin-clutch semi-automatic DSG 'box.

Whichever of the seven gears you're in, the newly-installed 180bhp TSI engine provides all the performance you'll ever really need. In light running the 1,390cc in-line four-cylinder engine is refined but press the loud pedal to the floor and the crisply eager rasp tells you this is no ordinary Fabia — no problem, because you wouldn't want this kind of easily accessible power and not want to hear the engine singing its battle song!

Wherever you are in the rev-range the 1.4 TSI is feisty, delivering a healthy punch mid-range without becoming breathless at the top-end. Zero to 62mph is despatched in 7.3 seconds and the vRS maxes out at 139mph. If you want to go faster, you can always buy the vRS estate — it tops out at 140mph!

While purists may
bemoan the lack of a
straight manual gearbox,
that doesn
t stop
s little sizzler
from serving up
an engaging and highly
entertaining drive
Dynamically the vRS is agile; it steers and grips well, ably assisted by ESP and the XDS electronic differential system which operates unobtrusively in the background. While purists may bemoan the lack of a straight manual gearbox, that doesn't stop Skoda's little sizzler from serving up an engaging and highly entertaining drive.

As outside, so inside. The vRS's cabin is like the body: subtle, not showy. Open a door and settle in one of the supportive 'vRS' badged sports seats — the embroidered motif is sown into all four backrests and looks smart rather than laddish. Something else you won't have been expecting from the outside: lots of space, particularly head and shoulder room.

As is the norm for Skoda, the cabin is smartly finished with satisfying fit and finish. The dash is neat and uncluttered with the two main dials separated by a driver's information display: the rev-counter red-lines at 7,000rpm; the speedo at 160mph and is helpfully calibrated in 10mph increments up to 80mph and thereafter in 20mph steps to 160mph. A small gauge (temp and fuel) is sited within each main dial at the six o'clock position.

On a practical note, there's lots of storage: in addition to usable door pockets there are four open trays in the centre console, another in the fascia, a fair-sized glovebox and a deep, non-slip pocket in the passenger's fascia for an MP3 player with a 'media in' connection socket. Plus handy out-of-sight lidded storage bins under the front seats. Nice touches include the overhead sunglasses 'case', non-slip rubber inserts in the rotary 'wheel' controls for the air vents and the parking ticket holder on the screen — indispensable on windy days.

The driving position is spot-on, with a fully adjustable (for reach and rake) steering wheel and comfortable and supportive sports seats. The driver sits square to the pedals and visibility from behind the wheel is first class, both to the front and to the side; even the rearward visibility is not bad.

The SatNavs 3D
graphics are absolutely
first class and it
incredibly easy to use —
hard to believe
Skoda only charge 600
for this!
The leather-wrapped rim of the steering wheel is just the right thickness and feels grippy enough for a trackday blast. Equally tactile is the fabulous fabric upholstery that's good to touch, good to sit on and which keeps you in place without being clingy. The seven-speed DSG transmission can be manually overridden whenever you wish using the paddle-shifts mounted on the wheel's horizontal spokes.

The SatNav and audio system share a colour touchscreen, the clarity and 3D graphics of which are absolutely first class; and it's incredibly easy to use. Hard to believe Skoda only charge 600 for this!

Standard equipment on the 15,700 vRS is pretty good and includes all the essentials beginning with a three-spoke multi-function leather sports steering wheel with paddle-shifts for the DSG gearbox, manual air conditioning, power front windows (the rear windows are manual wind-up items), electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, sports seats, sports suspension, stainless steel pedals, 'Sunset' tinted privacy glass (from the B-pillars back), LED daylight running lights, trip computer, a multi-device interface for connecting MP3 players and an 8-speaker MP3-compatible CD/radio.

Safety kit is comprehensive and includes driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags along with ESP, ABS, Hill Hold control, tyre pressure monitor and XDS (the electronic equivalent of a limited slip differential) to provide a very useful traction back-up. Another plus — the front belts are height adjustable.

'Essential' extra-cost options are priced amazingly low: SatNav is just 600 and 17-inch Gigaro black alloy wheels a paltry 100 — at prices like these, you'd be mad not to have them. Also useful are the Curve projector lights (260) and Bluetooth at 220.

Technically the vRS is a supermini — but not when it comes to space for people and luggage. There's ample room in the back for real-world adults, who sit higher than those riding up front, and with four aboard there's a practical 300 litres in the boot for luggage — but fold the 60:40 split rear seats and you'll have an impressive 1,163 litres for shopping or cargo. Just for the record, in estate guise — something not offered by any of its rivals — the vRS has 1,460 litres of load space.

Show the vRS a bend
and it will show you a
quick line through it —
feeling stable and very
secure every inch of the
way round and
reassuringly resisting
body roll even when
really pressing on
The hatch's load bay floor is not completely flat when maximised — there's a small ridge where the boot meets the folded backrest but this really isn't a problem and doesn't detract from the unexpected versatility.

More good news — beneath the boot floor is that rarity, a full-size spare wheel. And there's more: a flexible semi-circular luggage 'corral' for fragile items which can be unclipped in a moment when not required; and pop-out bag holders that will cope with real heavy-duty bags and not just flimsy supermarket throwaways. And, particularly useful, the boot floor can be set in a low or high position.

Rear seat passengers don't, incidentally, get a centre armrest but do have outer built-in rests which are fine, and while there are three 3-point rear belts there are only two headrests. Deep side windows keep the rear cabin pleasantly airy.

For a car of a decidedly sporting demeanour, the vRS offers surprisingly good levels of ride comfort; the well damped suspension, while firm, is never over-firm and copes easily with all but the very worst potholes.

Above all else, hot-hatches have to be involving. Trust us; this new Fabia vRS is most certainly that. Show the vRS a bend and it will show you a quick line through it — feeling stable and very secure every inch of the way round and reassuringly resisting body roll even when really pressing on. Nicely firm and accurate steering adds to the satisfaction. As, too, does the eager DSG transmission that changes fast whether you're in manual override or auto or coming up or going down the 'box. Plus there's a Sport mode for seriously-focussed driving. In a sound-bite, the vRS is pointy and squirty!

And despite being a front-wheel-driver, there's plenty of grip to stay on track through the twisty bits — courtesy of the XDS electronic diff and the traction control, both of which are fitted as standard. As for the brakes, they're good; discs all round (ventilated at the front) and of the 'you press: you stop' variety.

The vRS is one of those elusive cars that's fun to drive not just quickly on a quick road but in all circumstances — either when you feel like stirring the adrenaline or, equally important given that congestion has become as unavoidable as death and taxes, for when all you feel like doing is to chill and go with the flow. At such times the commendably untemperamental TSI engine is a boon, proving to be smooth and refined on a light throttle.

And the vRS doesn't cost much to run: CO2 emissions are 148g/km; the official combined fuel economy is 45.6mpg (urban 36.7, extra urban 54.3mpg). Over the course of a week's enthusiastic driving we saw an average real-life figure of 42.8mpg. And you really can't complain at that considering the performance.

What also adds to the vRS's appeal is the fact that, in spite of the striking 10-spoke 17-inch black alloys and red callipers, it is so not in-your-face. So take your 15,700 along to a Skoda showroom and buy yourself a Fabia vRS — not only will you get a lot of car and a lot of performance for your pound but you'll discover that Skoda's marketing jingle about 'making happy drivers' really is true; in fact it's better than that because the vRS is guaranteed to make keen drivers happy! — MotorBar

Skoda Fabia vRS
| 15,700
Maximum speed: 139mph | 0-62mph: 7.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 42.8mpg
Power: 180bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 148g/km