Change to petrol power does not dent vRS

Hot hatch diesel? Julie Mar­shall tries the lat­est from Skoda even if it is now a petrol­head.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES -

I FIRST ex­pe­ri­enced the Skoda Fabia vRS at the launch of the first model in 2003 and I couldn’t be­lieve the car I was driv­ing was pow­ered by diesel. So much so that I ac­tu­ally pulled over and checked in­side the fuel cap to be sure.

It was an amaz­ing lit­tle car and re­mained one of my favourites right up un­til it ceased pro­duc­tion in 2007.

The new model was a long time com­ing. So much so that I de­spaired of it ever hap­pen­ing. My pa­tience, how­ever, was re­warded this year when new Fabia vRS was launched.

The tur­bocharged diesel en­gine I loved so much has been re­placed by a su­per­charged and tur­bocharged 1.4 litre petrol en­gine and I was pre­pared to be dis­ap­pointed by the change. Not so. It now packs 180bhp, can ac­cel­er­ate from 0-62mph in 7.3 sec­onds yet still de­liver 45.6 mpg so is even bet­ter. Other firsts are its mat­ing with a sev­en­speed DSG trans­mis­sion and an es­tate ver­sion.

The sil­hou­ette of the Fabia is not typ­i­cal of a hot hatch, the nose is longer and the wind­screen larger but these de­tails just serve to hide the po­tency of the en­gine in the vRS.

Bumpers that ex­tend closer to the ground, twin ex­hausts and an un­der­stated spoiler give some clues as to what is to come once the key is turned.

In­side it’s very much busi­ness as usual with the trade­mark Fabia qual­ity black plas­tics. The sporty al­loy ped­als, leather steer­ing wheel and vRS badg­ing give the game away though. The seats are com­fort­able and, though snug are not too re­stric­tive and there’s plenty of head­room in the back for pas­sen­gers.

Boot room is plen­ti­ful, 300 litres in the hatch, 400 litres in the es­tate (1,163 and 1,460 litres with the seats folded). Tak­ing the vRS out on the road is fun, but not half as much as it is it out on the track, par­tic­u­larly when you’re given guid­ance by a pro­fes­sional rally driver.

The abil­ity of this lit­tle car to stick to the road like glue even when sub­jected to the most ex­treme driv­ing is quite in­cred­i­ble. With­out go­ing into too much de­tail, much of this is due to the XDS sys­tem, an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled slip dif­fer­en­tial which im­proves the han­dling at speed.

Turn-in is sharper and more speed can be car­ried through cor­ners with­out un­der­steer. While this may not be some­thing nec­es­sary on the school run it con­trib­utes to the over­all safety of the Fabia, along with a raft of other di­rec­tional and sta­bil­ity aids. In ad­di­tion, the cen­tre of grav­ity has been low­ered and stiffer dampers and firmer rear springs added for even greater sta­bil­ity.

Six airbags, hill hold con­trol and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tors all come as stan­dard.

The price of the vRS hatch is a com­fort­ing £15,700 (es­tate £16,495) which is cheaper than much of the com­pe­ti­tion with more equip­ment and power for your money.

It’s also far eas­ier to live with. Too of­ten these mus­cle cars are great on the track and if driven briskly but pot­ter­ing around town or out on badly dam­aged coun­try roads they’re a dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

The new Fabia vRS is one of the best lit­tle hot hatches around and I think we are go­ing to get on just fine.

More: 08457 745745.

A GOER: The Skoda Fabia vRS with its 1.4 litre power plant proves a re­li­able per­for­mance ma­chine.

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