If any of you saw me commenting when I first joined this glorious website just the other day, you'd have noticed that I am a Skoda owner and I currently own the new Octavia vRS. Well, the car I owned before was this little pocket rocket above us, The Skoda Fabia vRS. Essentially, this is a VW Polo GTI underneath it's body and while I personally prefer the Polo's looks, the Fabia vRS isn't bad looking at all. You can also buy this Skoda for several thousand pounds less than the Polo and get free servicing and better customer care. What do you give up in return? Well, there's a little less prestige in the UK owning a Skoda but that is starting to change now and it can't be used as an excuse to not buy one anymore. Skoda pride themselves on offering exceptional customer care and great deals, and it's a formula that works for most people.

Performance

Being a hot hatch, the performance is going to be the headlining characteristic of this car. 180bhp and 184lb ft of torque is produced from its 1.4 turbo and supercharged engine and this is enough to get you to 60mph in 7.3seconds. However, while I had this car I tested this figure many times, and on many of the attempts this car did it in under seven. Rumours are never proven of course, but I've heard it said that Skoda's have slower 'official' times to make VW cars look more enticing to buyers. The gearing of the 7-speed DSG gearbox is emphasized very much on acceleration and this car really does encourage you to plant your foot down and go for it, it's incredibly good fun fighting the small amount of torque steer. Around the corners you'll find this car to be very lighthearted, it's not the most accurate car around the bends but it is highly entertaining, even though the suspension is softer than expected. If any of you have been to the Czech countryside though, you'll know the roads are rather bumpy and contain a few dips so the suspension here is far softer than, for example, that of a Renaultsport Clio. Does it matter? No, not really. You get plenty of fun lift-off over-steer when you want it and when you don't you get a far comfier ride than some of its competitors, perhaps at the expense of a little feel in that handling.

Interior/Exterior Styling

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Criticism is often aimed at Skoda interiors, saying they are boring or basic but I've always found that to be rather harsh. Is it as good as the Polo's? No, but it's a cheaper car, so it won't be anyway. I found the seats particularly good at doing both a great job at holding you in when you're flying around the country roads and keeping you comfy, and as you can see above they aren't basic or bland. The seating position is a little high, I'd like to be a bit lower but you certainly don't feel like you're on top of the car, and the steering wheel adjustment is for rake and reach so you'll find your perfect position after some adjustments.

On my model I specified the climate control with the sat nav, and this definitely improved the overall quality of the cabin, the basic cabin certainly doesn't have the same quality as the upgraded one you see above. I didn't find the sat nav particularly good though, I thought it was below average and on several occasions told me to take roads that no longer exist. Being a five door, there is plenty of space in the back and clever hooks and compartments for storage. If you wish you can even have this car in its estate (or wagon for you guys over the pond!) form, which gives you much more room for luggage and a top speed 1mph higher than the 139mph hatchback. It doesn't do anything for the styling though.

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The exterior of the standard Fabia is rather hideous, but the vRS does a much better job and I actually really like it. It's a little taller looking than the Polo but the shapes of the lights and the rear of the car with the 'diffuser' look very good indeed. Realising the Fabia wasn't as attractive as its competitors, Skoda added a lot of black parts where before there was chrome, and it did the styling no end of good. The wheels and the red calipers on the brakes behind them are a particular highlight for me and are a bargain of an option. I regret not choosing the Eibach lowering kit that can be fitted by the dealer as the car does need to drop that little bit to help fill those wheel arches, as the picture below shows you.

Costs

The best thing about this engine is that it will return 45mpg. 45mpg in a fast hatchback is really very good indeed, and you don't have to worry about tyres as they are cheap too, costing only around £80 per corner should you need to replace them. When you buy this car it's usually on either a 0% finance deal or you pay no VAT. These are great offers to take Skoda up on, and you can get the car at an astonishingly low price if the latter deal is on, paying only around the £13,750 mark if you thrash out a deal. Skoda plan on ending this car for good soon, the next generation Fabia will not have a vRS edition, and with the current generation coming to an end you can get fantastic deals and freebies on these even with the 3 years of free servicing.

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Summary

If you're looking for a car to brag to your mates about it's not really going to be the car you choose, but the performance for the price is exceptional and very addictive and you're not going to regret buying it for one minute. You can throw it around lanes and country B-roads to your heart's content with your mates comfortable in the back and even a full shop in the boot if need be, and let's not forget the Skoda Fabia has some rally pedigree, having won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge on a few occasions now.

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It looks good, it's cheap, and it performs as good as anything else out there for a much lower price. I'd love to see a shootout between this and the golden boy of the sector, the Fiesta ST, because it I expect it would be much closer than many people imagine. If you want cheap performance with hilarious cornering but still want the practicality, you should get yourself down to test drive one of these soon. Fabia vRS: Affordable, fun, and very underrated.