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Skoda Citigo could beat a path to Australia

Bouncing Czechs: The tiny Citigo could bookend a drip-feed of new products next year ahead of exciting new releases from Skoda in 2013.

Sub-light Citigo hatch could arrive next year ahead of Skoda’s 2013 new model blitz

Skoda logo28 Oct 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

SKODA’S Australian outpost is in talks with the factory about bringing its tiny Volkswagen Up-based Citigo hatchback Down Under, firming up the possibility of it launching soon after the Up’s local debut in roughly a year’s time.

If it comes here, the Citigo will form part of the brand’s trickle of new products for 2012 – including the return of the Roomster family wagon plus more variants for the Fabia and Yeti – before the real action starts in 2013 with the arrival of a larger, next-generation Octavia mid-sizer and the all-new Rapid small car.

At the recent Yeti compact SUV launch, Skoda Australia product marketing manager Petr Beneda told GoAuto a plan to import the Citigo was “on our papers” and that the brand “would like to bring everything that Skoda has to Australia”.

Given Skoda’s value-driven positioning within the Volkswagen Group empire and how aggressively VW is pricing its own-branded products in Australia at the moment, the Czech company could find it hard to prove a business case for an entrant in the low-margin sub-light sector.

VW has already stated its intention to price the Up hatch from less than $15,000 in Australia and competitive pricing of its facelifted Tiguan SUV put the squeeze on Skoda’s Yeti even before it was launched.

29 center imageFrom top: Head of Skoda Australia Matthew Wiesner, Citigo interior, Fabia and Yeti.



“There is not much space (below $15,000),” said Mr Beneda. “But we always try to go slightly under Volkswagen because that is our positioning.”

Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler told GoAuto that because Volkswagen led the sub-light vehicle development programme with its Up range, the group will concentrate on the launch of that product before letting its sub-brands Skoda and Seat (whose version is called Mii) promote theirs.

Since it re-launched here in 2007, Skoda’s Australian customer base in has so far been predominantly older buyers, with whom the practical Octavia and Superb have found appeal – and according to Skoda, wagon variants account for 60-70 per cent of volume.

Head of Skoda Australia Matthew Wiesner said sales of the high-riding, all-wheel-drive Octavia Scout had gone so well since April’s introduction of the automatic DSG transmission last April that it was “pretty much running out of production”.

He likened Skoda’s Yeti and Octavia Scout duo to Subaru’s similarly two-pronged Forester and Outback offerings in the compact SUV segment, suggesting that he saw Skoda as a European Subaru.

“Subaru have done a magnificent job here in Australia during the last 10-15 years in that space and as far as we’re concerned we want to be in there as well,” he said.

With products like the recently-launched Fabia light car and Yeti crossover, both of which are distinctive, fashionable and offer buyers the option of customisation with contrasting roof colours, the brand is beginning to appeal to a younger audience, meaning a product like the Citigo is more likely to gain traction.

To this end, Skoda is also broadening its sports sponsorship, which has traditionally seen the brand associated with cycling, with a deal to sponsor new AFL team Greater Western Sydney Giants from the 2012 season.

Mr Wiesner said the brand is “certainly starting to talk to a far broader audience, hence our investments with the AFL as we introduce the brand to a far wider audience from a product point of view.”

He added that the sporty-looking Fabia Monte Carlo, with its contrasting black roof, wheels, grille and exterior trim plus sports seats and steering wheel inside, is “creating a fair bit of activity around the network”.

“The second stage of Fabia happens in the early part of next year with the DSG models, with RS joining us, with a DSG version of the Monte Carlo so we really start to talk to a broader audience than we have with Octavia and Superb,” he said.

Mr Beneda said the returning Roomster people-mover, which from early next year will be offered with a single engine choice comprising the 1.2-litre 77TSI petrol engine as fitted to the Fabia and base Yeti, will be positioned “pretty aggressively”.

He said Skoda did not do well with the launch of the original Roomster in 2007, which in three years only sold 233 units before being axed last November.

“We brought in two models but didn’t invest in marketing (the Roomster) that much and the engine and price positioning wasn’t right,” said Mr Beneda.

Mr Wiesner confirmed the Yeti will receive a mid-spec 118kW petrol-powered all-wheel-drive variant in the first half of next year to plug the $9400 price gap between the petrol front-drive base model and the four-paw diesel range-topper, but ruled out a front-drive diesel due to the turbo-petrol 77TSI unit’s diesel-like torque delivery.

“There is obviously a bit of a space between (the 2WD petrol and 4X4 diesel) and it leaves us a bit of space for us to do something with a petrol 4X4,” he said.

“As far as we’re concerned (the Yeti) will be our volume product for 2012 as we head into some more interesting things in 2013.”

Mr Beneda said there were “lots of things coming (in 2013) from a factory point of view”.

“It’s going to be a big year,” he said. “The next Octavia will get a bit bigger so the small car (Rapid) will sit nicely between Fabia and Octavia”.

The three-door Citigo shares dimensions with its equivalent Up sibling at 3563mm long, 1641mm wide and 1478mm high.

With the inclusion of a 75kg driver the Citigo weighs 929kg and the upright styling coupled with a relatively long wheelbase of 2420mm provides a commendable 251 litres of boot volume with the rear seats reclined and a capacious 951 litres with them folded flat.

Power will come from Volkswagen Group’s new-generation 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, in 44kW or 55kW tune, paired with a five-speed manual transmission and claimed to return fuel consumption of 4.5 litres per 100km and 4.7L/100km respectively.

The more powerful of the two engines is said to emit 108 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre and provide 0-100km/h acceleration in 12.7 seconds. The 44kW unit emits a claimed 105g/km and reaches 100km/h in 13.9s.

Like the Up, the Citigo will feature a removable portable touch-screen navigation system that also controls the car’s infotainment functions.

What's coming fromSkoda:
Roomster 77TSI Q1 2012
Fabia RS Q1 2012
Fabia DSGQ1 2012
Yeti 118TSI Q2 2012
Citigo Q4 2012
Rapid 2013
Octavia2013

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