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Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo first drive

By raccars Published

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Skoda gives its popular Fabia supermini sporty Monte Carlo branding. The result isn’t too extreme but is good looking, easy to live with and great value for money.

Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo 1.2 TSI 90

• Price: £15,245

• Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo

• Power: 90hp

• Gearbox: Five-speed manual

• 0-62mph: 10.9 seconds

• Top speed: 113mph

• Fuel economy: 60.1mpg

• CO2: 107g/km

• On sale: Now

Three 2016 Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo facts

1: Skoda owns the rights to the name ‘Monte Carlo’ and it’s maximising its asset with a growing Monte Carlo range of cars

2: The latest Fabia is only available in five-door guise and the estate load-lugging alternative: there is no three-door Fabia

3:The 1.2-litre TSI engine is a three-cylinder motor but has a turbocharger that pushes output up to 90hp

What is it?

The Fabia supermini vies with the larger Octavia to be Skoda’s best-selling car in the UK. This latest model was new in 2015 and has built upon the success of its two predecessors, particularly in SE trim with the strong 1.2-litre TSI turbo petrol engine.

Now, Skoda is extending the range with a good-looking new model, the Monte Carlo. This is based upon the regular SE trim but adds a series of good-looking styling enhancements outside and in to boost its appeal.

Skoda says the extras are worth more than £1,000 but the list price step-up is much less. This is perhaps why the uptake rate of Monte Carlo models is currently running at over 10 per cent – it’s a sporty-looking model that has found favour with UK buyers.

The Fabia Monte Carlo is offered with a range of engines including the 75hp 1.0-litre petrol and 1.4-litre TDI turbodiesel, but the most popular remains the 1.2-litre TSI 90. For most buyers, this engine promises to deliver all they’ll ever need, as we discovered out on the road.

Styling and interior

The Monte Carlo styling pack is comprehensive and distinctive. Offered in several body colours, it’s a black-themed car with 16-inch black alloy wheels, black radiator grille and door mirrors, black trim detailing and, inside, a neat pearl grey roof lining.

Skoda fits front sports seats and a leather steering wheel, Monte Carlo pedals and a distinctive cherry red centre console. There’s even a panoramic glass roof included as standard, a smart extra that gives the Monte Carlo a light, airy feel inside despite the dark-tint rear glass.

Standout standard equipment includes rear parking sensors, Arkamys surround sound stereo, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Front fog lights are included, along with LED daytime running lights that, with the Monte Carlo styling pack, helps the Fabia stand out on the road.

The Fabia is very roomy inside for a supermini, with good driver adjustability and impressive room in the rear. The flexible boot is practical and handy as well, and we love features like the extra-large door pockets and sheer easy-to-use clarity of the interior.

Performance

The 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine punches above its weight thanks to the the addition of a small turbo. This gives it excellent pulling power even from low revs – an area where small cars can sometimes struggle. This easy-access drive means it’s an easygoing performer that doesn’t require frequent gearchanging to keep pace with other cars.

The engine is also quiet and smooth. It revs smoothly and is free from harshness; again, this helps the Fabia feel like a bigger car than it is. It’s even good on the motorway, despite the lack of a six-speed gearbox.

Only when you’re pressing on will the Fabia start to feel a bit down on power. Because it delivers so much in everyday use, the lack of significant extra go when you rev it through may take you by surprise. This is where the sporty styling may disappoint.

Handling

The Fabia is not set up to be a driver-thrilling hot hatch: despite its sporty looks, the suspension is unchanged so it doesn’t offer any greater grip or control over the regular model.

Fabias generally handle safely and easily, but without the engagement of the class-leading Ford Fiesta. That’s a car you’ll drive for the fun of it: the Fabia will, instead, satisfy you with its big-car stability and confidence.

So while it may not be the sharpest through the corners, it’s very good on the motorway, with well-controlled body movements that mean things don’t become too queasy despite the slightly soft suspension setup.

Ride quality is also excellent in town and on gritty country roads. Some small cars feel a bit lightweight here but the Fabia exudes substance and stays very comfortable. Again, Skoda’s decision not to make the suspension too stiff and sporty pays dividends here.

Price and value

Fabia Monte Carlo prices start from £14,795 in 1.0 MPI 75 guise and we’d strongly advise paying £15,425 for the 1.2 TSI 90 tested here: it’s a much better engine with far more capability. We wouldn’t recommend spending £17,425 on the TDI 90 diesel; the TSI petrol is all the engine you’ll need in this car.

Sat nav is an affordable £500 option, and it uses a full colour infotainment touchscreen so is straightforward to use. Skoda didn’t use to offer sat nav on the Fabia, expecting owners to pair their smartphone instead – but this feature wasn’t popular so sat nav was later made available.

Other good-value options include heated seats for £180, front parking sensors to complement the rear sensors for £290 and an ingenious Simply Clever storage pack for £65: this incudes nets in the boot, smartphone holders up front and even a tiny waste bin in the driver’s door pocket.

Fuel economy

Fuel economy is excellent. The 1.2-litre TSI engine claims on-paper economy similar to diesel models of just a few years back with a combined average of over 60mpg.

Claimed CO2 is also low, which helps keep VED road tax competitive. Skoda claims 107g/km which puts it into a Group B tax band; that results in free annual road fund licence.

Those using the Fabia as a fleet car will also benefit from this low CO2, particularly as the Monte Carlo pack adds extras that will look good in the company car park without adding too much to the list price.

Verdict

Skoda has created an appealing Fabia variant with the Monte Carlo. It looks good so will prove a head-turner on the road and also feel good to sit in – but it’s not too extreme, helping make it affordable to buy and easy to love with.

The engine is strong in everyday use and the chassis is comfortable; only if you expect hot hatch pace when you press on may it disappoint – but most won’t be bothered by this. After all, a full 1 in 10 buyers choosing a supposedly limited edition model can’t be wrong…

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