The Smug – Skoda Fabia 77TSI

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This month’s Test Drive sees the ‘Smug’ put the Skoda Fabia 77TSI (manual) through its paces, courtesy of John Oxley Motors on Hastings River Drive, Port Macquarie. 

When FOCUS HQ asked me to take out the Skoda Fabia as this month’s test drive, my first thought was – you want me to take a ‘what’ out? Although I’d heard of Skoda as a brand through my keen interest in World Rally Championships (WRC), I’d never actually driven one, let alone knew much about their latest offerings designed for the city streets.

The first thing I wanted to do before I went to pick up the car was to do a bit of background research, so I could keep up my facade of being a well versed ‘motoring buff’ and not come across to the sales rep as a total novice on this one.

What I found was that the Skoda company history dates back to before the 1900s and in more recent times was acquired by Volkswagon (VW), who is now the full owner of the brand. To bring the two brands together, the Skoda Fabia is designed to a lower cost bracket than its stable mate the VW Polo, which is a pretty tidy small car in its own right.

Now armed with at least the basics, I stopped by the dealership and paged the sales rep who was to show me to the little beast.

Now, it’s not often that I take a step back when someone walks forward to greet me (being a relative big man myself), but when said rep presented at around six foot five inches and solid as a house, I was taken aback and momentarily lost my usually confident facade.

I must say, that once we got down to talking about the car’s features and took a walk out to the lot to pick out the car, I’d regained some confidence and started to ask some regular questions as to the engine size and fuel efficiency, as well as asking about the optional extras.

We flicked through the brochures, and it was pretty clear that there was plenty more to this small car than meets the eye. From six airbags, ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control, smart-phone connectivity, 15” alloys and cruise control, just to name a few, on paper it did sit remarkably well within the price bracket and class.

What really surprised me was the fact that when my rep brought the car out from the lot ready for me to jump into, it didn’t look like the world’s tallest man entering and exiting the world’s smallest car. There was plenty of room to accommodate the most challenging of people sizes, which was a slight concern for me, being a tad wider than taller myself (allegedly). After all, we are talking about an upsized mini in the Skoda Fabia.

It wasn’t until I got this 1.2 litre pint sized beast out onto the open road that I really started to take it seriously. I gave it a bit of a squirt entering the highway, to see how quickly I could reach the speed limit – which is totally legal, of course. I could have sworn that I was in a 1.8 or 2.0 litre for sure. I couldn’t work out where the unexpected but welcoming ballsy grunt was coming from. I actually pulled off the highway to take a closer look at the spec sheets that I’d been given to find out. It became pretty clear that this isn’t your ordinary small car with a puny 1.2 litre engine. The addition of the TSI component, or Turbocharged petrol engine differentiated this buzz box from anything that I’d ever driven in this class of vehicle. There was no doubt that I was now really starting to appreciate the Fabia for what it was, somewhat of a ‘Supermini!’

Taking the bends was reasonably comfortable and when asked to give a bit more in the overtaking lane, the response was instant and reliable. I really didn’t have too much to complain about as far as handling on the dry and sunny autumn day that I had to take it out on.

To be fair, for a car priced under $20,000 you’re realistically not going to be owning all the features contained in a prestige car, but this little gizmo is more than enough for around town and has plenty of safety features included, to make sure that across town driving is as safe as anything else on the road.

One feature in the ‘optional extras’ range besides the rear parking assist, was the funky two-tone chassis/roof options, to really stand out from the crowd. This vehicle has a pretty broad reach when it comes to targeted demographics, and I’d suggest that the oldies would have just as much fun in this piece as the first car owners.

For those who are a bit thrifty with the coin, most small cars are pretty fuel efficient, and this one’s no different. At 5.5 litres to the 100 km (combined), you really can’t get much better fuel efficiency and value for money. But in this case, you’d be able to get from A to B, quite a bit quicker than usual if so desired – (enter safe driving spiel here).

Looking at the broad range of extras associated with the Skoda Fabia, I’d recommend taking a closer look at this one if you’re in the market for a ‘signage ready’ around town fleet car or a very tidy A to B option for any age bracket in these somewhat challenging economic times.

Clearly this vehicle was a surprise packet for me, and I’m really glad that I was given the opportunity to give it a crack.

– ‘The Smug’.

This story was published in issue 65 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus

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