Skoda returned under VW’s banner and the Fabia saluted, pleasing owners with thrift, comfort and practicality
The Skoda brand was not new to Australia when launched in 2011 — what was new was that it returned to the market as part of Volkswagen.
As a born-again member of the extended family, Skoda sat below the main range. The cars were based on VWs but carried cheaper price tags.
The Fabia was considerably cheaper than its Polo cousin and the relationship wasn’t obvious at first glance. The Fabia’s lines were more chiselled and its bright highlights set it apart.
Inside, the cabin was functional and somewhat utilitarian but had comfortable accommodation for four adults. All occupants, front and rear, enjoyed decent head and legroom, and there was a good amount of boot space.
Rolled out progressively through 2011 and 2012, the range started with the 77TSI and Monte Carlo, followed by the hot RS.
The 77TSI, later to be badged the Ambition, and the RS were available in hatch and wagon versions, while the Monte Carlo came only as a hatch.
In the 77TSI/Ambition and Monte Carlo, the diminutive 1.2-litre turbo four-cylinder still packed plenty of punch, pulling enthusiastically from low revs, while returning impressive fuel economy (though it required premium unleaded).
The sizzling RS was something else again. It packed the 132kW punch of a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that was both supercharged and turbocharged — a combination that delivered instant low-end grunt courtesy of the supercharger and top-end performance thanks to the turbocharger.
The transmission choices were a five-speed manual or, as the automatic option, a sevenspeed dual clutch (DSG).
On the road the Fabia felt secure and responsive, the steering was direct and the handling agile.
There is a lot to like about the Fabia, as the respondents to our survey told us. All said they loved their cars and few had any complaints about them.
Most praised the handling, the engine responsiveness and the fuel economy, though one reported his RS used a lot of oil, which is a signal that the little Skoda is not without blemish.
As it shares the Polo’s mechanical platform, the Fabia is subject to the same problems that affect the little VW.
The two main issues secondhand buyers should be aware of are the problematic dual-clutch transmission, and the high oil consumption of the 1.4-litre.
The 1.2-litre turbo isn’t afflicted by high oil use, so anyone buying a Fabia with the smaller engine can do so with confidence. Those buying an RS should check with the seller to see whether the engine has been using oil, and whether a dealer has conducted a consumption test on the car.
On the issue of the DSG. VW recalled a number of cars in 2013 to fix problems with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and Audi and Skoda were also caught up in it.
That recall didn’t include the Fabia but it’s worth being extra cautious when signing up for a car with the DSG.
When test-driving your potential purchase, be alert for things like shuddering or hesitating when shifting. If you’re not sure, have an expert check it for you.
It’s worth noting that none of our survey respondents complained about their DSGs.
Also check for a service record to confirm the car you’re considering has been properly maintained.
David Scott I’m the happy owner of a 2014 77TSI manual hatch. I love the handling on country roads, the engine with its effortless mid-range torque, the practical features like cargo hooks and the storage spaces.
Alan Wilson My 2013 model 77TSI meets my needs, it looks good, is well designed, the interior is good and it doesn’t use much fuel. Matthew Renshaw The RS is a good little car, the engine is punchy, it handles well and the fuel economy is great, but it uses a lot of oil. Emma Edwards We haven’t had a single issue with our Ambition. It looks good, runs smoothly, it doesn’t use a lot of petrol, the boot is spacious and it has lots of great features.
Built in the Czech Republic, the Fabia is a sound little car that generally flies under the radar.