With 180bhp from a tiny 1.4-litre engine, wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER says Skoda’s new Fabia vRS packs a surprisingly big punch.
FOR those in the know, Skoda’s little Fabia vRS has always been a very desirable pocket rocket – but since the latest range went on sale, there hasn’t been a vRS on offer – until now.
This new and much improved model went on sale at the beginning of August (2010), returning with an impressively potent 1.4-litre engine that punches way above its weight with 180bhp, mated to a seven-speed DSG gearbox, which combine to make it the fastest production Fabia ever built. And if you want practicality and performance, there is now an estate version for the first time.
It’s a great looking little car which certainly stands out from the crowd. It sits 20mm lower than the standard Fabia on smart 17in Gigaro alloys through which you can see the car’s red brake callipers. The front spoiler incorporates LED lights, while at the back, another spoiler extends the roofline over the top of the back window. Twin exhausts and tinted windows complete the package outside, but customers have the option of personalising their car by specifying either a white or black roof (£355) and combining that with white, silver, dark chrome or black alloy wheels.
Inside, you are welcomed into the car by sports seats with vRS badges stitched into the backrests, brightening up what is otherwise a bit of a dark interior, filled with black plastics, although they are good quality black plastics.
The instrumentation is clear and easy to read and I liked the two trip computers and the smart radio display. The car I tested was also fitted with the optional Bluetooth phone system, which is easy to use, and keeps you legal if you need to talk on the phone while you’re on the move – something a lot of people of are still doing when they should be concentrating on their driving.
At the wheel of the vRS, you certainly need to concentrate when you exploit its performance potential, which is hugely impressive for a car with such a small engine capacity. Skoda has employed a supercharger and a turbocharger to extract a mighty 180bhp from its small 1.4-litre engine – and the results are impressive.
The vRS is eager to please, and being a relatively small car, with this much power on tap feels particularly rapid when you plant your right foot firmly into the carpet, despatching the 0-62mph sprint in just 7.3 seconds. An electronic limited slip differential system (XDS) helps the car get the power down through the corners by preventing the wheel with the least weight on it mid-corner from breaking traction.
I have never been a huge fan of automatics in sporty cars, and although the DSG is actually an automated manual gearbox, most owners would struggle to explain the difference. In a nutshell, by using a twin clutch system, the DSG offers faster, more fuel efficient changes, and I have to say it works well in the vRS.
There are two ways of using the DSG gearbox, either as an automated manual, which changes gear for you, or as a manual Tiptronic, which allows the driver to decide when to change gear, either by pushing the gear selector, or by using the paddles on the back of the steering wheel. Where the driver will notice the difference between a DSG and a traditional automatic, is in the speed of the gear changes. With the DSG, the change is instant – the delay normally experienced with a traditional automatic box has gone.
The car handles beautifully – improvements to the steering system have given the car sharper responses and it now relishes swift changes of direction, and the sports suspension soaks up even the worst potholes with ease, providing a very comfortable car to travel in.
The brakes are also up to the job, and even after a twisty section of road with a succession of short sprints followed by firm braking, there were no signs of fading.
Skoda’s new vRS then, is a cracking little car. It provides enjoyable, accessible performance in a practical five-door hatchback with a boot – or even an estate, if you prefer.
As long as it keeps producing cars like this, Skoda will surely manufacture yet more happy drivers!
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Skoda Fabia vRS.
SKODA FABIA RANGE: From S 1.2 6v 60bhp (£9,330) to vRS 1.4 TSI DSG Estate (£16,495).
ENGINE: 1,390cc, 180bhp four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 7-speed DSG gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 148g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 139mph. 0-62mph in 7.3 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 36.7mpg. Country: 54.3mpg. Combined: 45.6mpg. Fuel tank: 45 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 27.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.
• All data correct at time of publication.