After owning a BMW 318iS (E36) that was both slow, heavy, expensive to maintain and insure and dated I decided it was time for something new and a break from the norm. After doing my research I found both the Mondeo TDCi 130 and the Fabia vRS fitted my needs of being quick, economical, the right price and decently equipped. In the end I decided the Mondeo was a bit big and had heard some real horror stories regarding failed fuel injectors. So the end choice was kind of made for me, and despite 3 warranty claims within the first month I still don't regret it. :)
This car is decidedly muscular in its performance, with the ability to slingshot you towards the horizon with a prod of the noisy pedal should you so wish. On the other hand it's also a capable cruiser and sits happily and quietly on the motorway in 6th doing nigh on 50mpg if you stay at 70. Trouble is, with that huge dollop of torque available from 1750 rpm up to about 3000 rpm, tootling along is sometimes an exercise in self control. It will rev happily up to over 4k, but there's not much point as peak thrust has already tailed off and so you might as well change gear and re-use that wadge of torque in the next gear. Hitting illegal speeds is effortless from a rolling start as you power through the solid 6 speed box (1st gear is too low a ratio and is only there to get you going).
Normal MPG otherwise is about mid 40's, but as the engine takes so long to warm up you need to do long journeys to reach these figures.
Other drivers still don't know what this car is capable of as they all insist on driving up my rear end, causing me to annihilate them and spoil my economy. Sigh.
Handling wise the car does feel a smidgen top heavy, but handles the bends perfectly well should you decide to push into them, with excellent feedback from the precise, if slightly light steering. Many people complain about excessive body roll and understeer, but to be honest you have to be driving like a real loon (or on a track) to provoke those kinds of responses from the car. Apparently fitting a rear anti roll bar (the car only comes with a front one) fixes all this.
My only real dislike about the car is the ride quality. In order to make the car handle in a sporty fasion, I think Skoda replaced the springs with iron girders as you end up feeling every little bump on the terrible, neglected British roads. It might also not help that the car is on 45 profile tyres which have to be ordered in at my local tyre place as they're a funny size.
Equipment wise, for a small hatch this thing is pretty good. Mine has no optional extras, but comes as standard with A/C, E/W, electric heated mirrors, 6 speed box, sports seats, traction control (which has to be REALLY provoked to intervene), ABS, nice looking 16" alloys, a subtle bodykit and a whole host of mad little storage compartments in the interior.
At certain times I do wish the car had a little more shove as with a passenger and a full tank it does take the edge off the performance a little. A remap can take the car to 170bhp and over 300 ft/lb, but of course your insurers will poo themselves when you tell them. Also at certain times I think the seats are just a silly colour being white. A desperate trip to B&Q would not be sensible if you're still wearing your mucky clobber.
The dealers are helpful and willing, and parts are surprisingly cheap for bits compared to rip off BMW for my last 3 cars.
All in all, the combination of cheap insurance (group 9), good mpg (about 45), plenty of grunt (130 bhp & 229 ft/lb), good levels of equipment, decent comfort and sharp sleeper looks have made me a happy Skoda convert.
Since my previous review I have clocked up another couple of thousand miles and had my heater control flap replaced.
The heater was behaving strangely.... whacking out mega heat when set to 18 degress and cooler air when set higher. The dealer replaced the heater control flap motor and in the process managed to mess up the air recirculation, so when it was switched on it was sucking in fresh air and vice versa. Not sure how they managed that.
Took them 3 days to figure it out, which meant I had to use a Roomster TDi in the meantime as a courtesy car, which was just horrid. The day I got back my precious vRS I was overjoyed. It felt like an expensive rocket in comparison.
I've found now that the front end stone chips soooo easily. I end up touching up the paint every weekend which is a pain. Also, DON'T buy a touch up kit from Halfords if you have a silver Fabia. The paint does not match... the Halfords stuff is too dark and makes the car look like it has acne. I got some paint afterwards from the dealer themselves for £5.99 (cheaper than Halfords) and it's a far better match. The paint itself is very soft though and needs lots of care.
Other things to note are the importance of the types of tyres you fit. Mine's got Avons on the front and they're really noisy. The standard ones are Michelin Primacys and I shall be returning to those when these wear out. I've also heard that Toyo Proxes and Goodeyear Eagles are good too, being more grippy if a little less quiet than the Michelins.
Engine wise, it could do with a little more soundproofing, but I imagine it's one of those things Skoda ditched to save money. Apparently you can get the cylinder head soundproofing kit as fitted to the Seat Ibiza Sport TDi 130 for £30 from a Seat dealer, which makes a bit of difference in silencing the clatter.
I'm finding now I'm using the car more that the boot is a bit small. I've got a tub in there with my tow rope, water bottle, map etc and to be honest it may have to go as there's not much room for anything else. Hatching the car is easy enough though apart from the fact everything you put in the back has to be spotless due to the daft white seats which I've already had to shampoo. I'll be fitting Leather in it at the end of this year me thinks from a private firm, not the overpriced kit from Skoda, which does not include door cards.