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Old 13th August 2011, 21:44   #1
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Default Skoda Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Its been six months and some 9000 km since the silver Skoda Fabia 1.6 came home.

A bit late for an initial ownership review? May be; but then that's the kind of time it takes to get to know this car. For, whenever I took the driver's seat, the car never failed to delight me. Yet every time I read the horror stories of Skoda A.S.S, I told myself that I should be doubly sure before posting my impressions on T-BHP. So I drove around - mostly on urban roads, did a bit on highways, climbed some mountains and experienced the Skoda A.S.S before I decided that I can safely recommend the car.

Buying Decision

"Why this strange choice ?" asked a friend when I told him I bought the new Fabia.
"Because the ikran chose me", so I said.

When I decided to upgrade from my 14 year 135000 km old M-800, I knew I wanted another hatch. I drive alone for most part, and holiday driving is just the two adults and a kid. So space of a sedan wasn't necessary, while a hatch is great for urban traffic.

I also knew I needed a petrol with my average monthly running no more than 1500 km.

I had set my eyes on the Polo 1.6 or Punto since these two hatches looked the best.

So one winter weekend in Delhi I TD'd the Polo 1.2 and Punto - but didn't feel exactly right. Polo 1.6 would be available for TD only the next weekend so I checked out the Figo and Ritz - didn't feel right with either.

While at the Ford showroom I also drove the Fiesta (later Fiesta Classic) available at a discounted 6.4 lacs - What a Car ! If i were to buy a sedan I would have bought the Fiesta then and there.

Thats when I noticed the Skoda showroom across the road. Fabia 1.6 wasn't even on display. But took the 1.2 HTP for a ride. A short distance into the drive and I knew this is the car I was looking for. Took another longer TD the next day and booked the 1.6 Elegance. The car is a bit heavy at nearly 1.1 ton and I felt the 105hp 1.6 engine would be better suited than the 1.2.

I believe a good TD must precede any buying decision. Reviews, recommendations, discounts must all take a back seat in this regard. The TD should be as long as possible and through varied conditions if possible. Let the car express to you and you need to feel connected - somewhat like choosing your Ikran if you were a Na'vi Warrior.

Dealership

Guys at Jai Auto, South Delhi were pleasant and knew the car well. No aggressive marketing. Black and Silver were readily available and other colors would take two weeks. Chose the silver over black and took delivery on 13 Feb. Registration was completed within 20 days.

Negatives :
The dealer didn't advise me on the zero depreciation insurance available at some other dealers.

Price

5.99 lacs ex-showroom. 6.59 on road with Skoda Shield (4 year / 10000 km warranty + insurance).
Negatives : No discount and hardly any freebies - just foot mats and non-OE mud flaps.

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Initial impression
When you drive the Fabia 1.6 for the first time, what hits you is how sedate this car is for a 105 hp engine. No squealing of tires, no getting thrown back in the seat. Its more like a reluctant sheep.
Its not until you drive around a bit that you get to see what's wrong. When you gently press down the accelerator, the initial signal to engine is so calibrated that speed build up is slow. Even in neutral, the engine doesn't race for a few mm movement of the accelerator. Its like a play in the accelerator and you need to understand the sweet spot where the engine takes off (as fellow bhpian @shivir put it),
Once you get the hang of it, you have unleashed the wolf. Car is really quick at all speeds. Particularly impressive is the ability to accelerate even in fifth gear at speeds above 100 kmph.
more on the driving dynamics later.

Last edited by rajcs : 4th September 2011 at 11:49.
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Old 14th August 2011, 11:26   #2
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Looks

There is no doubt that Punto, Polo and I20 are better lookers than new Fabia.

However, New Fabia looks Conventionally Contemporary. Its not radical like the Beat or retro like the Swift. It looks best from the side, the longer wheel base giving it a grown-up hatch stance. The new front grill, reshaped headlamps and best-in-class fog lamp assembly have enhanced the appeal from front too.

On the negative side, the rear is disproportionately large and with the rear wiper missing is too monotonous. New Fabia is also too similar to the old model.

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Size:  63.7 KBThe sedate looks are also carried onto the badging. Unlike other manufacturers, the three trims available - Classic, Ambiente and Elegance - are not distinctly badged. Not even presence of ABS is indicated. Even the 1.6 ltr engine is not advertised as such - just a 16V indicating four pot engine. Modesty taken too far?

Last edited by rajcs : 15th August 2011 at 12:46.
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Old 14th August 2011, 12:00   #3
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

The Interiors

Step inside and you feel a world of difference. The beige and gray interiors are perfectly blended. Chrome is elegantly used and not flashy. Touch and feel of everything inside reek of quality.

The front seats are well crafted and afford good support. Driver's seat is height adjustable. Steering tilt and reach adjustment affords perfect setting for every driver. In fact with so many possibilities, it takes a few hundred km before you settle into your best combination.

With overall width of 1642mm, driver and passenger are very comfortable. One of the few hatches where you can't scrape the passenger's leg while shifting gears. Longer length of 4000mm affords adequate leg room for the rear passengers.

Interior lighting is one of the best I have seen in any hatch. Separate reading lights for driver and passenger, large roof light for rear passengers, lit boot and glove box all give the feeling of a premium car.
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There are no arm rests between driver and passenger or on the rear seat. But the large arm rest and roof handles on all doors provide relief during long journeys. Coat hanger on roof handle is a cool feature.

Both driver and passenger side sun visors sport vanity mirrors with sliding cover. No gender bias here
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Last edited by rajcs : 4th September 2011 at 11:52.
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Old 14th August 2011, 20:21   #4
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Storage Space

Abundant storage space all around. 315 l boot is largest in class and its lit too. Folding rear seat will provide over 1100 ltrs of storage. However the rear seat is not split folding.

The pic shows a 26" suitcase stowed in the luggage bay leaving adequate space for two more:
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The parcel tray can be stowed at two levels or removed altogether and stowed at the back of rear bench. Only utility of this I found was to store a basket or icebox so that rear passengers can access food and beverages while on the move.
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Front doors have large storage space with bottle holder fit for 2 litre bottles. Elastic paper holder is convenient for holding periodicals in place.
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Cup holders available in front and rear are perfectly shaped for beverage cans.
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Pushing the passenger air bag deeper into the dash enabled provision of two glove boxes. Only the lower one is lit. Both are surprisingly spacious.
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Pen holder and paper clip on the glove box lid is a nice touch

Last edited by rajcs : 15th August 2011 at 12:45.
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Old 15th August 2011, 10:33   #5
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Convenience

This is really a car of convenience. You get surprised as to how many little things have been thought of by the designers.

Central locking. You get two great looking key fobs along with a code for re-ordering in case you lose any.
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There are a few features that stand apart in central locking.
- One click on the key fob opens only the driver's door. Double click to open all doors. Anti-hijack feature to prevent unwanted entry into the car as you unlock.
- Boot alone can also be opened with the remote. Doors are not opened. Car locks automatically as you close the boot - chances of locking the key inside the boot
- Car locks itself once you reach 20 kmph speed. It does not unlock when ignition is turned off, say at traffic signals. Unlocks only when the key is withdrawn. There is also lock / unlock buttons in the central console for opening the boot and doors - useful for security checks.
- Car locks itself after 30 sec after unlocking using remote in case no door is opened .
- The doors can be opened from inside even if the central locking is on. When any door is opened all doors get unlocked. Only the rear doors are provided with child lock, which prevents opening door from inside. Child lock can be activated / deactivated only using the ignition key.
- A blinking red LED on the driver's door indicates that the car is locked and armed. One click on remote locks and arms the car, two clicks only locks. I don't get the point since no alarm is provided in Indian version. This is sorely missed.

Fuel
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- Fuel lid is not locked at all, fuel cap is. But fuel cap can be opened only with the ignition key. So you have to get out to fill fuel. Strange feature! Dealers explanation - Most fuel stations are unmanned in Europe
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- Fuel specified is 95 or 91 RON. Since standard petrol in India is 91 RON, car can be fueled anywhere.

Power Windows

- All four doors provided with power windows. Driver can operate all four and can also lock / unlock windows of passengers.
- Great Feature : Windows can be opened / closed with remote. Keep unlock button on remote pressed for five seconds and open all four windows simultaneously to the desired extent. Also remote close the windows by pressing lock key for five sec. Open remotely to relieve heat inside before a drive or remote close a window that was left open.
- All four windows are convenience operation. Single Touch can open and close.
- All windows are bounce back. Window will roll down automatically if a finger is caught while closing.
- Windows can be operated up to a minute after withdrawing the ignition key. Of course remote operation using key fob is possible all the time,
- Pressing the driver's window button down for five second without inserting the ignition key will roll down all four windows simultaneously.

Last edited by rajcs : 4th September 2011 at 12:01.
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Old 15th August 2011, 12:10   #6
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Lights

The headlights (H4/H4) are not brilliant but adequate for city and highway. On unlit roads, I frequently had to switch to high beam to get sufficient visibility.

Headlights and parking lights are operated through a separate rotory switch and not through the steering column stack. Headlights will come on only if ignition is on. An alarm chime warns the driver if key is withdrawn with either headlight or parking light on.

Front fog lamps (H8) are excellent. Single rear fog lamp (21W) is on the right side. Fog lamps can only be switched on if either parking or head lights are also on. Front fogs must be on for rear fog to work.

Single reversing light (21W) is on the left side and provides just adequate lighting for reversing. Single reversing light is increasingly becoming the norm in India. Anyone knows why?


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Twin rear parking lights give the car characteristic C signature of Skoda.

DRL
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Daytime Running Lights are mandatory in EU since Feb this year and can't be turned off. DRL in new Fabia is housed along with front fog lamps. The 21W bulb is sufficiently powerful for many well-meaning passersby to warn me that 'fog lamp' is ON, particularly since DRLs are not so common in India. It does add to the visibility though not in the league of DRLs on Audi or BMW. DRLs remain ON while driving unless either headlight or parking light is switched on.
Would like to see a debate on utility of DRL in India.

Interior
When the car is unlocked with remote, both front and rear roof lights light up brightening the interiors. Looks cool. These remain on until ignition is turned on or the car is locked. Lighting in boot and glove box is useful at night.
Engine bay is not lit though.
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Old 31st August 2011, 16:17   #7
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

On the Road

When you turn the ignition key, you will be surprised by the noise of the petrol engine. It growls like a diesel and then settles into a silent idle at 800 rpm within a second.
Fellow passengers have often asked me if this is a diesel engine when I start. The explanation for this unusual noise is given in the manual - the engine is equipped with an automatic valve clearance adjustment system that maintains the tappet clearance hydraulically. This eliminates need for tappet setting at regular intervals. Hydraulic power is provided by engine oil pressure; so when the engine is started valve clearance is not optimal until engine oil pressure builds up and this causes the unusual noise.

It takes a while before you learn to put the 77kW power to optimal use on road. The gear ratios, specifically, second and third feel a bit different from other cars. Elsewhere it is reported as lack of low end torque - but I am not sure if thats the case. You can engage first and second gear without pressing the accelerator and car moves up to 15 kmph on level road with engine at idle speed. I haven't seen this in any other car I've driven.

You got to learn to press the accelerator a bit hard every time to rev the engine - even when idling! Change gears around 2000 rpm and you'd be fine.
You can quickly accelerate to 100 kmph in about 15 secs without excessive revving. Above 3500 rpm the engine becomes audible - but it sounds sweet and there is no hint of straining.

Max speed of 1.6 engine is 5250. If you push beyond 5500, the fuel cuts out automatically and rpm drops to 5200 preventing overspeed.

100 kmph comes up in less than 3000 rpm and 140 around 4200 rpm. There is enough power to quickly accelerate from 100 to 140 - a boon on our highways. Max I've done is about 160 on speedo - GPS speed around 155.

The gear shift is slick and sure. Five forward gears are positioned in the usual manner.

Negative: Reverse gear is to the front and left of first gear and engaged by firmly pressing down the gear lever! Why can't they have a common code across motoring world? Engaging reverse by pushing the gear lever to the back seems to be intuitive and should be adopted.

Power Steering is smooth and is a joy in city traffic and more importantly in hills. Steering has no play and does not feel light even at 140 kmph.

There is limited body roll at speeds above 100, but is not alarming once you get used to it. Directional stability i s good at all speeds - car goes where you intended to.

Car is a joy to drive in the hills - excellent directional stability, effortless steering and slick gear shift along with great power. You can torque your way up the winding roads.

Cabin is well insulated from noise. In fact the horn sounds very muted with windows rolled up. One gets so used to the silent cabin at low speeds that beyond 3500 rpm engine and road noise becomes very audible. After some 10 klicks on highway you forget about the noise. It will be interesting to use a noise meter in different cars to know which has the most silent cabin.

Air Conditioning

The AC is very good. Even in Delhi summer touching 48 deg C, the cabin cooled quickly. I rarely had to use fan speed above 2 out of four positions. Although I haven't yet invested in sun control film, the light tinted glass help in reducing cabin temp. Thanks to the remote opening of windows, it is easy to relieve accumulated heat in the car before entering.

Negative:
The fan makes an unusual noise at the lowest speed. I don't know what it is, so I always use speed 2 and control temp by the temp knob.

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Temp and fan speed are controlled by two large rotary knobs - easy to use while driving. The recirculation and fresh air is controlled through a touch button. Thankfully the last setting is retained in memory when the car is started again. If you keep the temp control knob to extreme left - coolest - the ac compressor will always kick in when the blower is started.

I've seen reviews that say car has rear AC vents. This is not exactly true. There are two vents under the front seats. Air is passed to this only when feet mode is selected. I think these are for warming the feet rather than cooling.

Audio

The OE fitted Skoda audio system provides good sound quality through four speakers in the front of the cabin. Two speakers are on either doors and two tweeters are on A-pillars.
There is provision for two tweeters and two speakers on the rear doors, but these are only wired and not provided. Mostly driving alone, I didn't feel the need to add these speakers.

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The system can tune to FM and AM. It can play audio and MP3 CDs. It accepts aux input through an Aux Port provided next to the hand brake. So iPod or MP3 player / cell phone can be connected. Aux input is selected by pressing the CD key twice.
Radio reception is excellent. FM reception in city is good even without the detachable roof antenna.

Negative: Audio system does not have blue tooth connectivity, steering mounted controls or USB input. There is no equalizer either. Bass, treble and balance can be manually controlled.

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The 2-DIN system has large display fonts and two rotary knobs for volume and tuning. Even the touch buttons are fairly large. This is an excellent feature because it allows driver to fiddle with the audio without taking eyes off the road.
Negative: The audio system does not pick up metadata from the CD / MP3 /Aux and does not display track details - only track # and time.

Tires

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Apollo Acelere 185/60R14 provides good performance and looks chunky. No punctures in 9000+ kms.
But the large wheel arches cry out for 15" wheels. While sibling Polo is provided with 15" Fabia has been strangely relegated to 14" unlike its European versions. I wish there was an option to upgrade without voiding warranty.

Tire pressure specified varies widely from 31psi to 48 psi at rear depending on the load.

Negative: Spare wheel is not alloy.

Wipers


The Bosch Aerotwin style wipers are great. Rubber is supple and windshield is cleaned without a streak, It has withstood the extreme weather of Delhi - 10 to 48 deg C and harsh sun. Three speed wiper control plus three separate interval wiping are provided to suit all climatic requirements.

Negative: Lack of rear wiper is the single most negative feature of this car. It should have been offered as an option at least.

Visibility

Front and side visibility is good. Visibility to rear while reversing isn't great. I would advise an aftermarket rear parking sensor since these are not in OE fitment.

ORVMs are no longer electrically controlled and heated. However the mechanical internal adjustment works as goos as the electrical one. Only you got to reach out for the left ORVM - not an easy task given the width of the car,

The IRVM is good and has an excellent night mode. There is no shift in image when you switch to night mode.

Last edited by rajcs : 4th September 2011 at 12:34.
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Old 4th September 2011, 13:58   #8
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Instrument Cluster

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Two large dials for rpm and speed dominate the instrument cluster. These are easy to read both in day and night. Green back lighting may be outdated but gives good readability. Various indications and alarms are set inside the two dials.

Negative:
No engine temperature gauge. Only high temp alarm indication.


Between these is the Multi Function Display providing a cluster of useful info. Time, Odo / Trip and fuel level are displayed all the time. Ambient temp, current trip run time, instantaneous fuel consumption, current trip average fuel consumption, distance to empty, distance covered in current trip, average speed in current trip and speed limit (if set) are displayed in sequence by pressing a selection button on wiper stack. Current trip gets reset if these is a halt of more than two hours. It can also be reset by the button on under side of wiper stack. A separate trip meter that does not get reset automatically is also provided. Fuel consumption is displayed in litres per 100 km and takes a while of mental math to get used to.

Speed limit for each trip can be set by the reset button on the underside of wiper stack. It doesn't actually limit the speed; but when the set speed is reached an alarm chimes. I find it useful particularly driving in city in late night, when the sparse traffic gives a false sense of safety.

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The MFD also indicates time and distance left for next service.

Manual

The car is well documented in the two volume manual covering all features and service schedule. The only problem is the manual does not relate to the model sold in India at all.
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The manual starts by showing a pic of an LHD dash. Even the instrument cluster displayed is of another version showing separate analogue gauge for engine temp and fuel gauge, which are not provided on Indian Fabia. The book lists out a whole lot of optional features making the owner drool at the possibilities. But Alas!

Maintenance

One of the most comforting part is the large service intervals. The as-good-as-new feeling even after 9000 km gives me the confidence that I wouldn't need to visit the service center any sooner.

Following are the specified maintenance:-

After 15000 km / 1 year - Engine oil change (3.6 ltr of synthetic oil) and Oil filter change. Replace wiper blades.

After 30000 km / 2 yrs - Inspection of vehicle systems (mostly visual inspection for leaks, cracks etc), Battery check, Clean brake drums, Replace brake fluid

After 60000 km / 4 yrs - Replace spark plugs and air filter.

That's it. Sounds good. Only time will tell

Oil Consumption

Manual says oil consumption can be as high as 0.5 ltr per 1000 km depending driving habits. This is quite high. However, when I checked the oil consumption after 7500 km the dip stick level was at 3/4th and did not necessitate a top up. Neverthelss , I decided to top up just to see what oil the service center was using and how much would be the consumption. They use Shell Helix. I could only add just about one litre. So the consumption is about 1 litre for 7500 km. If you top up with half litre pack once in 15000 km it should be adequate.

There has been no drop in coolant level.

FE

I have been getting consistent 12 kmpl (tank to tank) in Delhi roads (average speed 30 kmph) with ac on all the time. Highway trips have shown up to 18 kmpl depending on the road and traffic.

Skoda A.S.S Experience.

I've been to Fahrenheit Auto at Moti Nagar in Delhi thrice and my experience has been satisfactory on all occasions.

After 1500 km, there was a slight sound from the front right suspension whenever there was body roll. Fahrenheit guys had it checked and decided a link rod in the suspension required replacement; although it appeared visually alright to me. They changed the part and the sound never appeared again. Both labour and part was free being covered under warranty.

Soon afterwards, I had an accident - landed up as the third in a three car pile-up. The engine bay of Fabia is longer than other hatches I had driven and I had underestimated the braking force that was necessary. Thankfully impact was not so much as to deploy the air bags - in fact I hardly felt the impact inside the car and car was still drivable without any sounds. But the damage to rear of the car ahead of me told me things weren't OK and sure enough I found the front of my car battered - dents on bumper, bonnet, side panels and some plastic parts holding headlight assembly broken. Repairs were done at Fahrenheit in five days, replacing bonnets, headlights and many other parts costing about 40000. Since I didn't have zero dep insurance I had to pay 10000. The entire process was smooth and car was as good as new again.

So I am yet to get a taste of that monster all Skoda owners dread - A.S.S. Hopefully I can pull along with my good relations with Fahrenheit Auto.

Conclusion

The Car has been a delight every time I take the driver's seat. It gives me a feeling that it wouldn't let me down in a long time to come. Hopefully my next car would be a competent electric vehicle.

Last edited by rajcs : 4th September 2011 at 14:10.
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Old 4th September 2011, 14:32   #9
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Mod's note : Thread moved to the ownership section.

Conrats on the car rajcs and an excellent write up. Very detailed and crisp. Glad to know your enjoying the car.

Last edited by Vid6639 : 4th September 2011 at 14:43.
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Old 4th September 2011, 15:04   #10
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Congrats, rajcs. Thanks for the unbiased review. The car looks great.

What puzzled me was the need of ignition key to open the fuel cap. Is it the same in all Skodas? And the reason for being like this - unmanned gas stations
Why not 15 inchers? At least, for the 1.6 model. I have always been a fan of Fabia's (also Civic's) wipers. Just love them. 12kmpl is really good for a 1.6L.
Can you explain a bit more on Skoda Shield? Like what all comes under it and so.

Sorry about the accident. Thanks again for the review.

P.S: Try taking interior pics at night and post them.
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Old 4th September 2011, 15:10   #11
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Awesome review. Rated this thread 5 star.

It looks like Fabia has even better interior quality than Polo. But why did you choose Fabia 1.6 over Polo 1.6. Both the cars are similar in all aspects. And the VW service is supposed to be better than Skoda. Or is it not.
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Old 4th September 2011, 16:54   #12
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Congratulations for your Skoda Fabia. Very nice review and pictures, rating it five stars.

Hoping that you will be served well by Skoda A.S.S people.

Wishing you happy and safe driving!
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Old 4th September 2011, 17:29   #13
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Quote:
Originally Posted by oxyzen View Post
Awesome review. Rated this thread 5 star.

It looks like Fabia has even better interior quality than Polo. But why did you choose Fabia 1.6 over Polo 1.6. Both the cars are similar in all aspects. And the VW service is supposed to be better than Skoda. Or is it not.
Thanks oxyzen.

Three reasons for Fab 1.6 over Polo 1.6 in order of merit.

1. In Feb this year, waiting period for polo 1.2 was two months. Polo 1.6 ? "May be in six to eight months time. But I will see if you can be accommodated against any cancellations ...." - VW South Delhi. And i needed a car like yesterday.

2. I felt interiors of Fab 1.6 was better than Polo 1.6.. Its a personal preference though.

3. In the initial TD, I felt Fabia 1.2 connected with me better than the Polo 1.2.
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Old 4th September 2011, 17:42   #14
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Quote:
Originally Posted by rajcs View Post
2. I felt interiors of Fab 1.6 was better than Polo 1.6.. Its a personal preference though.
I too like the interiors of Fabia more than Polo. But the Tachometer X100 is not to my taste. I like the one on Polo X1000 type. But the biggest advantage is the option of Aux in for the ICE.


Quote:
Originally Posted by rajcs View Post
3. In the initial TD, I felt Fabia 1.2 connected with me better than the Polo 1.2.
Is it the dynamics? Or something else?
Can you explain a bit more.
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Old 4th September 2011, 17:58   #15
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Default Re: Fabia 1.6 - Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Quote:
Originally Posted by oxyzen View Post
Is it the dynamics? Or something else?
Can you explain a bit more.
I don't think it is the driving dynamics - except Fabia had better suspension to handle the city roads. But Polo was better than Fabia at higher speeds ( I managed to reach 100 on Delhi roads thanks to weekend morning traffic)

What put me off was the feeling in Polo of being couped up in the driver's seat. May be its the darker interiors. In Fabia I felt very free and in touch with the surroundings.

Each of us have our own comfort zone. Thats why a detailed TD is important prior to a buy decision.
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