Driven - Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo

The Volkswagen group's new kid on the block in Australia - Skoda - is actually the oldest marque in the group's many brands. While the company and its products have been through some ups and downs over the decades, the current range is impressive for its design and build quality. And Australians are gradually starting to wake up to the value for money message which Skoda encapsulates so effectively.
The recently released Fabia is now in its second generation in Europe. With the local Skoda importers aiming to have the company's full range here, the little Fabia is a welcome addition. It's based on the VW Polo - and that's no bad thing. So far, Skoda only offers the manual gearbox and the 77TSI 1.2-litre with a little turbo as a standard car and the up-spec Monte Carlo version. Automatic and the ball-tearing RS are coming later...

If you know much about modern Skodas, you'll be familiar with the way their products offer pretty much the same as their Volkswagen counterparts but with more equipment and at a lower price. The same goes for the Fabia.

A Volkswagen Polo lurking underneath is a fine car, and the suspension tuning to suit the Skoda is outstanding - the handling and comfort balance is commendable. The engine pulls well beyond the expectations of a 1197cc - and it does good service in the Polo and Golf. The gearchange is good to use and suits the slightly sporty nature of the Fabia.

The Monte Carlo benefits from stylish black 16-inch alloy wheels, really excellent sports seats, sports pedals, a body kit, metallic black roof and body highlights and Monte Carlo badges. The lights and grille are also blacked-out. There's no performance differences in the Monte Carlo spec. It costs an extra $3K, and aside from the better seats, is pretty much aesthetics. That said, it does make it a chic little car - taking the Monte Carlo way beyond the Japanese and Korean fodder, but still below the cost of a Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 or Polo GTi.

Is it any good? Absolutely. There's no doubting the build quality. The equipment levels are competitive and it's something a bit unusual - all pluses. Minuses? Nothing major except that some people still equate Skoda with their awful period in the 1970s...

 Engine type: 4-cylinder 1.2-litre turbo
 Power: 77kW
 Torque: 175Nm
 Transmission: 5-speed manual
 Performance: 0-100km/h 8.9 seconds
 Price: $21,990 at time of writing
 Text & photo - Paul Blank (copyright)