Skoda has a rich rally heritage and Auto Express's road test editor, Oliver Marriage, has sampled it for himself, campaigning a Group A Fabia last year. But after he came back raving about the experience, I thought a challenge could be in the pipeline. After all, I'm as keen on my long-term Fabia vRS as any car I can remember, and Ollie was singing his motor's praises just as much. So I thought it was time to put these two Skoda siblings head-to-head on the test track...
But how would they match up? I never fail to be amazed by the amount of in-gear punch the vRS has. And what really gets me is how little torque steer there is, as you would normally expect a small car feeding 130bhp and 310Nm through the front wheels to suffer.
My vehicle certainly has the upper hand on paper, as Ollie's machine can only muster 100bhp from its 1.4-litre 16-valve petrol engine. But then the interior has been stripped to minimise weight, so maybe my podgier Skoda would prove slower off the line. As we took our starting positions at the track, Ollie's Group A Fabia looked the part, in all its stickers and livery.
However, my car was the wolf in sheep's clothing, as became obvious when the vRS scorched from 0-60mph in 8.1 seconds - Ollie didn't cross the 60mph mark until 10.6 seconds, even though the Group A car is equipped with a six-speed sequential gearbox, which meant he could keep his foot hard down and just bang the lever through the gears. This is one of the few modified parts on the Fabia rally car, as most of the rest of it is unchanged from the roadgoing Skoda - it even has the same air-con vents.
Unfortunately, although the vents are in place, the Group A doesn't actually have air-con, so Ollie was rather warm by the end of our challenge.
Worse was to come for the Group A. We tested the in-gear performance as well, and it was here that the vRS's superior torque made a huge difference: 50-70mph in sixth was despatched in 8.1 seconds, which was 3.1 seconds quicker than Ollie's motor. The story didn't get any better in the lower gears as the road car was up by 1.4 seconds from 30-50mph in third.
Of course, if you head off on to a mucky track the rally car comes into its own, and Ollie testifies to how great it is for pounding through forest stages. Nevertheless, the vRS continues to surprise everyone here in the office with people constantly reporting back to me how great it is after they've driven it. In fact, one or two members of staff have even enquired how much it is, as they're considering buying one for themselves. I doubt they'd say the same of Ollie's Group A Fabia. Piers Ward
I've always liked the Fabia, and even owned a 1.9 TDI model. But after road testing the vRS when it was launched last year, I became an even bigger fan. With seriously flexible performance, the Skoda is one of the most underrated performance cars money can buy. The comfortable seats impress as well. In fact, I can't find much to fault about our long-termer - even the silver paint suits it well. Owen Mildenhall, road tester