Skoda Fabia vRS

Diesel has been ditched for petrol in hot hatch. Has the gamble paid off?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The new Fabia vRS is a class act, with the aggressive styling upgrades making it easy to set apart from lesser versions of the supermini. Yet although it looks slick and feels as well built as any Skoda, it’s short on flair. The sole engine, a 1.4-litre TSI, is smooth and revs freely, but above 5,000rpm it begins to sound strained. The fact the firm no longer offers a diesel option is another disappointment. Running costs will be low, though, and when you factor in the bargain starting price, Skoda should have no trouble selling plenty of these sporty little hatches.

The hottest-ever edition of the popular Skoda Fabia hatch has arrived. With an aggressive look plus a new turbocharged and supercharged engine, the vRS sounds great on paper – but how good is it on the road?

See the Polo GTI take on the SEAT Ibiza Cupra and Skoda Fabia vRS here:

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The model we drove was finished in Fabia S2000 rally car-inspired Rallye Green – a new addition to the options list and one which certainly leaves quite a first impression. On top of this, the hot hatch gets a long list of styling modifications.

There are four sets of 17-inch Gigaro alloys to choose from, a larger sports grille, tinted glass, a rear spoiler and flared arches. The flagship Fabia also gets LED running lights, a rear diffuser and chrome-finished double exhaust pipes. Its suspension has been tuned as well, with springs that lower the car by 15mm.

Inside, the cabin feels very well built, if not exactly exciting. There are comfortable, figure-hugging sports seats featuring the vRS logo, a three-spoke leather steering wheel and sports-style pedals. But these are the extent of the major changes.

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Under the bonnet, the 1.9-litre TDI diesel which proved so popular in the first vRS has been replaced by the twin-charged TSI petrol 1.4. This also features in VW’s new Polo GTI and the SEAT Ibiza Cupra. As with those models, a seven-speed DSG box is the only transmission option available.

This combination results in very good performance figures, with the Fabia vRS covering 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. It is cheap to run, too, with CO2 emissions rated at 148g/km and combined economy of 45.6mpg.

Yet despite the impressive specs, the replacement engine doesn’t have the personality of its oil-burning predecessor. The DSG box’s short ratios mean the unit revs quickly and freely, and there is plenty of pace at all times, but as it approaches the top of the range it makes a lot of noise and can become tiresome at high speeds.

The box also kicks down a bit too readily, which can make for a frustrating driving experience, especially on winding roads. Using the tidy, steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters makes the car far more engaging and enjoyable to drive.

Through corners the Fabia offers plenty of grip, the steering is accurate, if rather numb, and there is virtually no body roll. The combination of its sorted suspension, lower ride height and clever new XDS electronically controlled slip differential means the Skoda is easier to drive fast than the previous vRS, too.

Despite all the sports tuning, the ride is good, and the Fabia promises to be easy to live with day-to-day. Low running costs will make it a good city car as well.

And that’s before you consider what excellent value for money the newcomer represents. At £15,700, it undercuts the Ibiza Cupra by £295 and is likely to cost a staggering £2,300 less than the latest hot Polo.

We wish there was a diesel, and the limited driver involvement lets the car down. The uninspiring cabin doesn’t help, either. But with its all-round performance, practicality and great price, the Fabia is an appealing package.

Rival: R’sport Clio 200 Cup Entry-level Cup version of the Renaultsport Clio weighs in at only £15,750. It’s stripped out and not the easiest car to live with, but is arguably the most thrilling hot hatch in its class – and is difficult to beat.

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