Skoda has been back on the Australian market for 10 years now. While new car sales are gradually rising they are still lower than most experts feel they should be.
Why? It’s hard to say as it’s a respected European brand and backed by the Volkswagen Group. Interestingly, the Czech car company is one of the world’s oldest, dating back to 1895.
Using manyof the same out-of-sight components as the Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo means Skoda Fabia has a lot going for it.
Slow sales may be bad news for the marketing guys and gals at Skoda / VW, but it’s good news if you’re buying a used one as there are bargains out there. For the time being at least as we suspect Skoda is finally about to hit its straps in buyer interest and sales.
This week we concentrate on the smallest model, the Fabia.
Fabia landed here in October 2011 with a five-door hatchback sold as a standard model as well as an interesting Monte Carlo version. Aimed at the BMW Mini market the Monte offered customising, including different trim colours and the option of a roof in a different colour to the rest of the body. Might be worth trying to hunt down one of these on the used market as some were quite fun.
June 2012 saw a major expansion of the Fabia range imported Downunder, with the introduction of a station wagon, as well as an RS high-performance version.
The Fabia wagon has a clever Varioflex seating system that lets each of the three rear seats be removed individually. You can remove the centre-rear seat then slide the two outer seats closer together – or further apart, to accommodate the wishes of the occupants. Or leave the rear seats at home to convert the wagon into a small van.
Skoda Fabia RS has the interesting 1.4-litre Twincharger Volkswagen Group engine, meaning it has a supercharger as well as a turbocharger. An output of 132 kW isn’t huge, but in a light car it provides plenty of performance. Just ask my son Robert who is the proud owner of one.
July 2015 saw the launch of the third generation Fabia to Australia (gen-one wasn’t sold here). The hatch is a tad shorter than the gen-two model, though only by eight millimetres. However it’s a significant 90 mm wider to provide more interior space. It’s 31 mm lower than its predecessor to give it a sportier look.
Fabia wagon is 265 millimetres longer than the hatch, making for pretty impressive luggage space for a car in this class.
There was another push on customisation. Six body colours are available, nothing special about that – however Skoda’s Colour Concept option meant a choice of four colours for the roof, including the A-pillars. Even the door mirror housings have a colour choice; silver, white, black or red.
The interior is also offered in an array of colours and combinations.
Depending on model, Fabia is offered with a five-speed of six-speed manual as well as a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The auto isn’t the DSG that gave VW grief, that was an older six-speed unit. But see our What To Look For section of this report. Like many dual-clutch units the Skoda one can be irritating at parking speeds.
Skoda dealerships in Australia are mostly tied in with VW ones so there are plenty throughout the country, with the usual bias towards major population centres.
Mechanical spare parts are often interchangeable with VWs, as are some in-cabin fittings. We haven’t had and real complaints about cost of availability of parts
Insurance charges for the standard models are reasonable for a European car and we haven’t heard of many big differences company to company. Costs for the RS may be higher and tend to tie in with driver age and experience.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Interior quality isn’t to the same standards as Volkswagen’s due to the use of lower cost materials. Generally there are no troubles but have a close look inside, especially if the car looks to have been out in the open for most of its life.
Fabia RS do seem to get the seriously driven hot-hatch treatment even more than others in the class. Look for signs of crash repairs.
Extreme tyre wear and lots of brake dust behind the wheels are other other clues to a cars’ history.
Check the engine starts easily and doesn’t hesitate overlong when you hit the pedal to accelerate.
Manual gearboxes are rugged units but can suffer from harsh treatment. Changes should be light and quiet. A fast downchange from third to second that’s not smooth may mean it needs an overhaul.
A recall was issued for the early dual-clutch Fabias. Make sure the rectification has been done, either by checking the service books in the car you’re considering, or by contacting Skoda Australia direct.
Budget on paying from $4500 to $8000 for a 2011 Skoda Fabia 77 TSI; $8000 to $13,000 for a 2014 Monte Carlo or a 2012 RS 132 TSI; $10,000 to $15,000 for a 2013 RS 132 TSI; $12,000 to $18,000 for a 2014 RS 132 TSI or a 2016 Monte Carlo; and $15,000 to $21,000 for a 2017 Monte Carlo.
CAR BUYING TIP
Sporty cars with lots of extras tend to be owned either by very fastidious car lovers – or lunatics. Which suits you best?