2013 SKODA FABIA RS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Light Hot Hatch
Price: $27,990 MRP | $28,670 Tested
Engine/transmission: 1.4 litre twin-charged petrol/seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 7.1 l/100km
The idea of a Czech-built hot hatch with a turbocharger and supercharger, 132kW/250Nm, and with DSG twin-clutch transmission for under $30,000 would have seemed highly improbable ten years ago.
Enter Skoda’s Fabia RS hatch.
But to say there’s nothing quite like it would be unfair, with sister-brand Volkswagen’s Polo GTI coming very close on spec, price, and even sharing the RS’ drivetrain.
More, the Fabia rides on the previous (2001-10) Polo’s PQ24 platform, but with plenty of fresher tech to keep it relevant.
There’s no shortage of alternatives from other manufacturers in the sub-$30,000 performance segment at the moment either, so we thought it time put the Fabia RS hatch under the TMR microscope.
Quality: Despite the RS arriving in Australia in 2012, the basic Fabia design dates back to 2007, so its interior design could hardly be described as fresh.
The dash layout is ergonomically sound, but, with dark grey plastics throughout, lacks visual flair. Interior fit is excellent however and a total absence of rattles or squeaks impressed.
Comfort: The highlight of the RS’ interior is its nicely bolstered cloth front seats, shared with the current Polo GTI.
These seats position front occupants quite high, but offer good support and comfort.
The multifunction, thumb-gripped, perforated leather wheel is also pretty good and is rake and reach adjustable.
There’s plenty of room for average height passengers to sit behind average height front occupants, and all are graced with ample headroom thanks to the Fabia’s tall-boy body.
Equipment: Standard features include trip computer, cruise and single-zone climate control, aluminium pedals and sill trims, 3.5mm audio and bluetooth phone connectivity, and LED daytime running lights.
Our tester’s Race Blue metallic paint represents a $490 option, plus the $190 Media Device Interface (MDI) to enable iPod and USB connectivity.
One notable omission is a touch-screen multimedia interface though.
Storage: Bottle holders in each front door combine with cupholders front and rear. There are also map pockets and drawers under each front seat.
Cargo capacity is a segment-average 300 litres, which expands to 1165 litres with the 60/40 split seats folded. A spacesaver spare sits beneath the boot floor.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Like all smaller Volkswagen Group models with the 1.4 litre turbocharged and supercharged four, the Fabia RS is a clenched fist, ready for action.
With its maximum 250Nm developed from just 2000rpm, the throttle is like an on/off switch - good if you enjoy a sporty drive.
Skoda’s claimed 7.3 second 0-100km/h acceleration feels entirely realistic, and the seven-speed dual clutch auto hammers through the gears while doing it.
Like most dual-clutchers, there can be a degree of jerkiness when moving from rest, but nothing serious.
You can tap through the cogs yourself via the gear-shift or paddles, or, select S on the gate, and the RS will shift with a delightful level of intuition and with aggressive downshifts under heavy braking.
Even left in D, the RS will overtake like a scalded cat and point-to-point blasting is a real hoot.
Refinement: Like all current Skodas, there’s an air of quality about the drive experience. Its hot-hatch character is reinforced by an appealing combination of induction growl, turbo whistle and supercharger whine, that constantly changes as each huffer hits its stride.
These sounds are joined by a nice rorty note from the twin exhausts and the now-classic dual-clutch ‘pop’ during heavy throttle upshifts.
Suspension: The RS’ simple MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear features a more sporting tune than lesser Fabias.
On rough tarmac, the ride is decidedly choppy, not helped by the 17-inch wheels and 40-series rubber. But it’s something you’ll forgive - it’s a hot hatch after all.
The electric steering is also sharper than ‘garden’ Fabias with a taut feel through the wheel that loads up nicely through bends.
There’s some bodyroll, in part amplified by the high seating position, but plenty of grip down below from the 205-section tyres.
Braking: Discs front and rear were well suited to the RS’ 1253kg kerb weight on test, giving substance to its red-painted calipers.
ANCAP rating: Only the standard Fabia hatch has been tested by ANCAP to date, but its matching safety feature list earned it four stars.
Safety features: Dual front, side, and curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction control, hill-assist, rear parking sensors and front seatbelt pretensioners are all fitted standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: The RS’ service intervals are set at 12 months/15,000km. Service costs can vary, so check with your Skoda dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Polo GTI 5dr ($29,190) - Costs more than the five-door Fabia, but with a fresher more appealing design. It shares the same twincharged 1.4 litre/DSG combination, but is 60kg lighter.
The three-door version is $200 less than the Fabia (but has two less doors). (see Polo reviews)
Toyota 86 GT Auto ($32,490) - Utterly trounces anything in the circa $30k bracket for dynamic finesse. The six-speed auto version however can’t match the Fabia RS DSG for acceleration and the rear seats are only for occasional use.
Booted 391 litre cargo area also cannot match RS’ hatch practicality. (see 86 reviews)
Opel Corsa OPC ($28,990) - Three-door and manual only, the freshly launched OPC matches the Fabia for performance, but its hotter looks come at the expense of the Fabia’s five-door practicality. (see Corsa OPC reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Skoda’s Fabia RS hatch is a good buying option in a sea of alternatives.
It offers a nice combination of performance, five-door utility, and DSG auto transmission for - relatively - so few dollars.
Volkswagen’s Polo GTI comes very close, but costs a grand to the north of the RS for the five-door option.
The Fabia RS’ understated design will appeal to those wanting their performance served subtle, and the Skoda brand’s relative anonymity comes with the engineering and backing of the Volkswagen parent.
Your mates may be sceptical till you put them in the passenger seat, but that supercharger and turbocharger twinned pair, and slick-shifting DSG, make the unlikely Fabia RS a really appealing drive.
We’d recommend a close look.