Watch your speed

Road test: Škoda Fabia vRS estate

A regular question: “What’s on test this week?” Erm, it’s a Škoda Fabia estate.  But it is a vRS! Those in the know will understand this is no ordinary estate car; others might require a few facts and figures (or a test run) to be convinced.

The Fabia is a small hatchback which, in sporty trim, manages to look quite funky. In estate guise, it looks a little more of a moose from certain angles but is improved in vRS trim with those distinctive green badges and 17″ wheels. The Fabia isn’t a big car; it sits in that B-segment mid-ground, competing with the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo in terms of size. The estate variant offers some additional, useful capacity at the rear while keeping the overall size down.

Škoda has had the luxury of being able to cherry-pick from the VW group parts bin and on the day this petrol vRS was conceived, only the best bits were selected. So there’s the wonderfully free-revving 1.4 TSI engine, pushing out 180 PS. Mated to this is the ubiquitous DSG gearbox with seven ratios.

I was fortunate to have planned a 450-mile weekend trip over the weekend, and had looked forward to making the most of the Fabia’s ample capacity and capable engine. With a healthy mix of motorway miles and cross country roads, this would provide a suitable opportunity to trial all aspects of the car.

The motorway sections were gobbled-up easily, although cruise control would have helped on some of the quieter sections. Gearing is quite short so even in seventh, the engine is spinning at 3,000 rpm at 80 mph. Fortunately, the drivetrain is smooth and quiet. The gearing and torquey engine make the little Fabia vRS quite lively, being able to sprint into gaps to change lane with seemingly little effort. In fact my sat-nav took delight in telling me to ‘watch your speed’ more than once.

There’s a little road noise with the firm suspension and 40% profile tyres; the stiff ride also contributes to a slight coarseness at motorway speeds and over potholes. On painted road sections (where the stripes are intended to encourage sensible, early braking) it feels rather like driving over a cattle grid.

The Fabia vRS is most at home on the A-roads, with good over-taking ability and pleasant poise through the bends. Unlike the VW group diesels mated to DSG ‘boxes, this wonderfully smooth turbocharged and supercharged unit isn’t left to wallow at low revs. I rarely needed to use Sport mode, instead choosing to nudge the ratios up or down a couple of notches manually prior to corners or before passing another car. With seven ratios, the paddle shifts on the steering wheel are a must; not ordinarily a fan, these work very well in this application.

It is gentle to pilot in stop-start traffic but when crawling along, it’s also easy to forget the wonders which lie beneath the bonnet and focus on the slightly plain interior. The only items which brighten it up over a standard Fabia are the (extremely comfortable and supportive) seats – which one cannot see when actually in them. It does have some simple but well-considered fixtures such as the retaining bins in the boot, sensible grab handle for the tailgate and a myriad of cup-holders. The load cover is robust and straight-forward – one of the better ones on the market.

The Fabia vRS estate, then, seems to offer everything. Too good to be true? A quoted combined petrol consumption of 45.6 mpg seems optimistic for a car with this performance but I came pretty close, despite having some fun. I prefer the hatch to the estate for aesthetics alone. Otherwise, this Fabia manages a rare combination of fun and utilitarianism: definitely one of Škoda’s greats.

Škoda Fabia vRS estate, £17,265 (Model tested includes painted black roof rails, 17” ‘Gigaro’ grey alloys, leather multi-function steering wheel, telephone/Bluetooth, mats and central arm rest bringing OTR price to £18,065)

Power: 180 PS (6,2000 rpm), torque: 250Nm (4,500 rpm), emissions: 148 g/km CO2 (band F), 0-60 mph: 7.3 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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