Škoda Fabia Hatch Monte-Carlo – Simply refreshing

In Car Reviews, Skoda by Kieran Bicknell

Some things in life are known for being refreshing; The first sip of a cold drink on a hot summer day, a warm shower first thing on a cold winter morning, getting to work without having to fight traffic jams or wrestling for a parking space. Now we can add driving the Škoda Fabia Monte Carlo to that list.

Initially, it may seem almost spartan compared to its VAG stablemates such as the Polo or Ibiza. In some respects, you’d be correct: There’s no keyless entry or start, for example, the wipers and lights aren’t automatic either, and the seats aren’t even heated…sometimes you wonder how we managed! But these are all, in fact, good things; …Very good things indeed.

You see, in this age of cutting-edge automotive technology and design, everything can get a bit too… busy. Dashboards can seem like the road-going equivalent of a Boeing 747, there are probably enough electrical driving aids in some vehicles that a chimp could become a competent driver, and that’s before we even get on to the subject of in-car entertainment. It all becomes a little too much at times, and that’s where the Fabias’ charming simplicity shines through.

Don’t confuse ‘simple’ with ‘ill-equipped’ however. The Fabia Monte Carlo benefits from trim- specific seating with added bolster support, touch-screen infotainment, SmartLink – allowing Apple Carplay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connectivity, rear parking sensors, climate control, Bluetooth… you get the point. This is not an under-equipped car by any means. The difference here is that the layout is far more user-friendly, with controls spread out in a logical fashion rather than all being crammed together on the centre console or the steering wheel.

On the road, the Fabia behaves exactly as you’d likely expect. It’s small and agile, and is undoubtedly more suited to minor roads and around town than long motorway slogs (though the 6- speed 110ps may alleviate this issue) while the uprated ‘sport’ suspension fitted to the test car gave a firmer – but not harsh – ride which further enhanced the sporting credentials of the so-called ‘Monte Carlo’ edition.

The 95ps 1.0-litre engine puts power down through the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. Performance results in a reported 0-62mph time of 10.7 seconds; Certainly not enough to make you hold on for dear life. It just feels spritely enough if you keep the car in the powerband, and rev-matching on downshift is easy thanks to the instantaneous response from the throttle pedal.

Inside the cabin, the car is striking and benefits from several updates and styling points that are exclusive to the Monte Carlo trim levels. The first thing you notice when opening the doors are the stylised sill covers engraved with ‘Monte Carlo’ graphics, to match the emblems on the B- pillars. The seats are finished in a striking red and black combination which brings a well-needed pop of colour to an otherwise rather dark interior. The Monte-Carlo is a special edition model – having been built to celebrate the brands’ success in world-rallying. The additional bolstering on the front ‘sport’ seats is very welcome when driving on twisting roads, but crucially this is not at the sacrifice of comfort. On a near-on 4 hour round trip in the Fabia, I am happy to report that no trace of discomfort or back pain was suffered – top marks to Skoda for interior comfort.

Practicality is excellent too, and in typical Skoda, tradition is all very well thought-out. Storage spaces abound in the Fabia, with door pockets big enough to hold water bottles, cables, snacks, booklets, even paper maps if you’re still old-school. Phone storage is neatly taken care of with the small cubby below the climate control, in the boot, there’s all manner of small compartments, as well as a very impressive 330 litres of boot space which puts it amongst the largest in its class, which can be expanded up to 1,150 litres with the back seats down. Speaking of the rear seats, legroom in the back is surprising given the size of the car – it’s more than enough for fully grown adults to sit in the back, while the fact the Fabia is 2+2 rather than the usual 2+3 configuration allows it to avoid the awkward debate over who has to sit in the usually cramped, tight middle seat.

That’s not to say its all rosy, however. The simplicity is fantastic for the most part, but there are certainly parts of the car that seem somewhat dated. The infotainment is responsive and clear with Skodas’ Smarlink+ connectivity, but the screen is smaller than the majority in its’ class (6.5”) and the hands-free phone isn’t anywhere near as crisp as it should be. In complete contrast to this, however, the voice dictation system (through Apple Carplay) was fantastic and transcribed my instructed text messages perfectly. Motorway journeys are also somewhat of a chore with the lack of cruise control, and the lack of a sixth gear.

The big elephant in the room here is the lack of an authentic ‘hot’ version. The vRS Fabia was a fantastic success and are still very common in tuning culture here in the UK – yet with markets changing, sadly there is not a vRS available with this generation.

The ‘Monte Carlo’ edition is also only cosmetic in nature; The powertrain is available with lower-spec Fabia models, meaning if you can forego the styling changes of the special edition, you can have virtually the same car for less. The SE model, which also features the Monte Carlos’ infotainment system, front safety devices and parking sensors starts at £15,520 with the same engine and gearbox combination. This represents fantastic value for such a dependable and well-thought-out everyday car, versus the starting price of £17,560 for the Monte Carlo. The OTR of the vehicle tested was £18,780 after options for reference.

So, to conclude: The Fabia Monte Carlo is an aesthetically pleasing, refreshingly paired-back driving experience which gives relief from the over-stimulated nature that is so present in a lot of today’s hatchbacks and superminis. Some areas feel dated, overall it more than proves itself to be a comfortable, dependable everyday car that’s easy to live with and well thought out – what more could you ask for.

Car reviewed: Škoda Fabia Hatch Monte Carlo 1.0 TSI 95PS, on the road price £18,345 0-62mph 10.8secs Top speed 116mph Engine 999cc 3-cylinder unleaded Euro 6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 61.4mpg CO2 emissions 103g/km Max Power 95PS@5000rpm Torque 160Nm@1800rpm Transmission 5-speed manual

Kieran Bicknell

Motoring writer

Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.

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