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Car reviews - Skoda - Fabia - RS

Launch Story

Skoda logo20 Jun 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

SKODA Australia has launched its long-awaited Fabia RS pocket rocket from $27,990 plus on-road costs, headlining a model range expansion that also includes the addition of wagon variants and – for the first time – the availability of an automatic transmission option.

The Fabia range had been a hatch-only proposition since its Australian debut in September last year, available only with a five-speed manual gearbox matched to a 77kW/175Nm 1.2-litre turbo-petrol engine.

The new RS – available as both a five-door hatch and a unique, elongated wagon – is based on the popular Volkswagen Polo GTI hot hatch and features the same 132kW/250Nm turbocharged and supercharged ‘Twincharged’ 1.4-litre petrol engine.

This is enough to propel both the hatch and (more aerodynamic) wagon versions from standstill to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds – 0.4s slower than the 64kg-lighter Polo – while consuming a claimed 6.2 litres of 98 RON premium unleaded on the combined cycle.

Like its Polo twin, the Fabia RS in not available with a manual gearbox, with power channelled via the front wheels through a standard seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with a manual mode and paddle shifters.

This same transmission is now also available as a $2300 option to the existing five-speed manual across the rest of the Fabia line-up (without paddles), including base 77TSI hatch and wagon variants and the Monte Carlo hatch.

The $27,990 starting price for the RS hatch is $1000 lower than the equivalent five-door Polo GTI, while the roomier RS wagon commands a $2000 premium over the RS hatch, kicking off at $29,990.

As well as the Polo, the RS hatch will compete with less-powerful rivals like the Hyundai Veloster and Suzuki Swift Sport (both from $23,990 plus ORCs), and the three-door Honda CRZ and Citroen DS3 Dsport.

However, there is no obvious direct rival for the wagon.

Said to have been inspired by the successful Fabia S2000 rally car, the RS is cosmetically distinguished from its lesser siblings by 17-inch ‘Gigaro’ alloy wheels, red brake callipers, dual exhausts, darker window tinting, chrome highlights, a rear spoiler and black rear diffuser.

Like its Volkswagen twin-under-the-skin, the RS also features what Skoda calls an Extended Electronic Differential Lock (XDL) system that brakes the inside front wheel to negate understeer, as well as lowered sports suspension.

The RS range features MacPherson strut suspension at the front, a “compound link crank-axle” at the rear and electro-hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering, sits on wider 205/40 tyres and features four-wheel disc brakes (the base 77TSI continues with rear drums).

Inside, the RS features front sports bucket seats, stainless steel sports pedals, leather steering wheel, handbrake and gear-shifter, and chrome interior highlights.

Standard features include rear parking sensors and climate-control (both of which are optional on 77TSI and Monte Carlo variants), an eight-speaker sound system with MP3 inputs (though a USB plug is only optional), leather steering wheel with radio and phone controls, Bluetooth phone streaming, LED daytime-running lights, front fog-lights and cruise control.

As well as the RS version, the all-new wagon bodystyle is now available at the entry-level 77TSI specification level with the same $2000 premium over the existing hatch, priced from $20,990, or $23,290 with the DSG self-shifter.

Both manual and DSG versions of the 77kW/175Nm 1.2-litre wagon variants consume a claimed combined 5.3L/100km on 95 RON premium unleaded – the same as the hatchback.

Skoda Australia does not offer the wagon in higher-spec Monte Carlo guise, while both the 77TSI and RS wagon variants miss out on the range of optional contrasting roof colours offered on the hatch.

The small entry-level wagon gives Skoda an almost unique presence in the light segment, with the only other comparatively sized load-lugger being the significantly more expensive Peugeot 207 Outdoor, priced from $26,990.

The elongated bodystyle – at 4276mm, it is 250mm longer than the hatch – gives both the 77TSI and RS versions the same class-leading cargo space of 480 litres, expanding to 1460 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded, making them roomier even than many larger hatches and small SUVs.

The 77TSI wagon has the same features as the equivalent hatch – including 15-inch steel wheels, manual air-conditioning, MP3 eight-speaker sound system, power windows all-round, fog-lights, trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a full-size spare wheel – but gains black roof rails as standard.

Safety equipment across the entire Fabia model range includes six airbags – dual front, side and curtain – electronic stability control, brake-assist and electronic brake distribution.

However, unlike many rivals, the Fabia manages only a four-star ANCAP safety rating.

The Czech company will be aiming to make headway against bigger sellers such as the Mazda2 and Toyota Yaris in the light-car segment, where the previously threadbare Fabia line-up managed to gather just 0.5 per cent market share and 257 deliveries to the end of May.

Overall, Skoda’s sales in Australia are up 106.9 per cent this year, thanks largely to the new Yeti compact SUV.

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