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Old 15th October 2010, 18:35   #1
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Default First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol


First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1236.jpg
Skoda Fabia Facelift

List Price Ex Showroom (in brackets-OTR including skoda shield (SS) maintenance package) Delhi, in Rupees:

1.2 petrol
  • classic= 4,35,000 (4,83,590 including SS=26,600)
  • ambiente= 4,85,000 (5,37,290 including SS=28,300)
  • elegance= 5,68,000 (6,26,510 including SS=31,200)
1.6 petrol
  • elegance= 5,99,000 (6,59,850 including SS=32,300)
1.2 TDI CR diesel
  • classic= 5,40,000 (5,96,390 including SS=30,200)
  • ambiente= 5,91,000 (6,51,430 including SS=32,200)
  • elegance= 6,69,000 (7,55,020 including SS=34,600)
Key safety equipment
  • classic= driver airbag
  • ambiente=dual front airbags
  • elegance=dual front airbags, ABS MSR (motor speed regulation) and EBC 9engine braking control)
First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1227.jpg

What you'll like:
  • VFM pricing for a skoda after a massive price cut, especially diesel
  • Top class build quality, fit and finish inside and out
  • optimal interior space and comfort
  • balanced and mature ride and handling, strong high speed stability
  • strong mid range from 1.6
  • slick gearshift
  • skoda shield maintenance package
What you won't
  • cutting price=cutting on standard equipment, lots of essential goodies shockingly deleted from elegance variant
  • mediocre engine performance with uninspiring throttle response
  • questionable fuel efficiency and engine NVH levels
  • skoda's reputation for shoddy after sales service quality

Last edited by sidindica : 15th October 2010 at 18:37.
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Old 15th October 2010, 18:56   #2
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Excellent. I am actually looking out for an mid-sized hatch for my friend and this is right on-time.
Looking forward to this

Thanks Sid !
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Old 15th October 2010, 18:56   #3
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First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1223.jpg

Skoda's fabia, touted as "India's first premium superhatch" has failed to meet skoda's expectations and its success can be attributed as modest at best. Armed with equipment and loaded to the gills, it was launched in January 2008 with much fanfare and after numerous delays but the initial hoopla died down and the public did not exactly like the idea of an 8 lakh rupee small car.

On paper, the fabia had everything that time-great looks, solid European build quality, best in class fit and finish that we have come to expect from skoda, amazing ride and handling combo and road manners at high speed, diesel economy and above all, loaded to the gills with gizmos unheard on hatchbacks that time.
While all this appealed to premium buyers, less than stellar engine choices, unrefined and gruff 3 pot motors and a problematic 1.4 petrol "lemon" engine only tarnished its reputation in the market. Skoda's shoddy after sales service only added more nails to its coffin, and so did the numerous problems with engine stalling and oil consumption. However, the biggest drawback was just like what any other hatch buyer looks for and it failed to deliver-value and price. Horribly overpriced from day 1, it was just perceived as a rich boy's toy and skoda had to resort to huge discounts to move the fabias off the showroom floors in a market, already crowded by the big hatchback mayhem that we see today.
Talk about sauteli maa jaisa bartaav.
Until the real mother arrived.
Until now.

Volkswagen, armed with the teeth and determined to make a big impact on the small car market, launched the polo with an aggressive price tag (for a German car) and heavily advertised in many innovative manners (thank god they did not use that radio transmitter) and completely stole the limelight from its sister concern, leaving it like an orphan. The public gave a huge thumbs up and despite many compromises and cutting costs plus corners that VW has done to the Indian polo, it has met with success that it commands a 3 month wait list in many part of the country. Skoda is left a mere spectator.

Another bashing it has received is in the form of another fierce competitor-the Hyundai I20. Selling in record numbers in the past quarter, this is the car that has redefined the 6-7 lakh rupee B plus premium hatch segment. Another mail in skoda's coffin. About the jazz and the punto, the less said the better.

Time to hit back..

Fast forward, October 13, 2010. Skoda re-launches the fabia at a cut throat price tag starting at just 4.35 lakhs, which is not only cheaper than the cheapest I20 era 1.2 petrol, bu also its cousin, the polo by 10 grand. Leave aside petrol, its the diesel that the talking point. The dated 1.4 PD is replaced by a much more modern 1.2 CR and along with that, also sees a massive price cut between Rs. 1-1.5 lakh depending upon the variant. tempted, aren't you? A proper European car for a price cheaper than the cheapest "premium" Asian hatch.

But, after the repackaging and repositioning, is it really worth all that hype and a force to reckon with? Read on to find out.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1221.jpg
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Old 15th October 2010, 19:13   #4
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Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
But, after the repackaging and repositioning, is it really worth all that hype and a force to reckon with? Read on to find out.
That is a million dollar question which I had been trying to answer from day one of the original Fabia release.
Except for the engine performance that is the only car, which matched every thing one wants; viz Ride, handling, comfort and build.

I sincerely hope the 1.6 Fabia, works out in affirmative!

Given the same platform. as compared to Polo 1.6, I would take the Fabia any day! But with Skoda service and spares?
Now that is a question that always leaves me wondering.
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Old 15th October 2010, 19:17   #5
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I think that the only plus point that Fabia might have over Polo and others for that matter would be interior space. a Fabia with VW's engines and skoda shield doesnt seem like a bad car.
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Old 15th October 2010, 19:20   #6
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Excellent write up man, keep it coming.

Amid the price cut and all the hoopla, I still would be apprehensive about plonking my money on it. This is one brand I love to own, but hate to put my monies on.
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Old 15th October 2010, 19:30   #7
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Design and Engineering

The skoda fabia is the second generation version of skoda's cheapest global hatch launched internationally in March 2007 and shares many of its bits and pieces with the VW Polo (current) and seat ibiza MK 2, both launched each a year after the first product on what is internally called as the VW PQ 25 chassis (which itself is a heavily revised version of the old PQ 24 platform). The car looks unmistakably a skoda, and thankfully, more mature than the dull design of the polo. While it would not win any beauty contests like the Italians, this version nevertheless looks decent and nice to most eyes.
Recently, as with every mid cycle refresh, this to received a minor nip and tuck and now mimics the more matured look of the laura and roomster (MPV).

Starting with the front, the rounded grille is now more pronounced and widespread, just like the laura. The headlights receive a more sharp petal like edges and are actually bigger in size, and so the newly sculpted lower air dam. The car I drove also had an anti scraping guard installed just underneath the front bumper (not like a flap but a plastic covering at the bottom) to protect the paint from scratches and the new larger fog lamps with built in daytime running lamps (yes, DRLs-more on it later) mimic the headlamp design and look more grown up.

the side is unchanged and looks pretty uncanningly similar like a bigger version of the swift, especially the greenhouse and design of the rear doors are a giveaway to this fact. The window frames, A and B pillars are all finished in high quality gloss black (A pillar) and matt shade (B pillar) which give a high quality matured stance.
However, the 14" wheels (standard on all models) look puny and make the car look like its standing on its knees, pretty incomplete to say the least. It cries out for 15" which skoda should have made it standard, at least on the 1.6 driven here.

the rear has absolutely no changes except a very slight alteration to the tail lamp lens colour, barely noticeable even to a trained eye.

Along with the face lift, skoda claims to have addressed the main weaknesses of the car, the underwhelming engines.
All the old engines-the 1.2, 1.4 petrol and 1.4 PD diesel have been replaced by engines which are a direct lift from the polo-
  • the updated 1.2 12V DOHC 3 cylinder petrol, 1198 cc, 75 ps@5400 rpm, 110 Nm torque@3750 rpm
  • the new "otto" 16V DOHC 1.6 4 cylinder petrol, 1589 cc, 105 ps@5250 rpm, 153 Nm torque@3800 rpm
  • the all new 1.2 12V DOHC 3 cylinder diesel common rail, 1199 cc, 75 ps@4200 rpm, 180 Nm torque@2000 rpm
Since the car is being built on the same plant and the same assembly line as the polo, making common engines to both the cars would result in tremendous cost savings to bot the brands and its this savings that have been passed onto the customer.
The suspension-McPherson strut with lower triangular links and torsion stabliser at front and compound link crank axle is also claimed to be re-tuned for a more comfortable ride with revised spring and damper rates.

Cutting costs=Cutting on creature comforts.

Sadly, in an effort to cut costs, the quality is maintained at the cost of deletion of standard equipment, some shockingly omitted and not befitting for a hatchback.

The car continues to be available in classic, ambiente and elegance models but the equipment mix has seen a huge re-jig. The top end elegance model is shokingly not even equipped with a rear wash/wipe and defogger (not even the 1.6), no projector headlamps, no heated and powered OSRVM (its now manually adjustable), no sunroof and both the ambiente and elegence now get common interior trims, no more that awful shade of white is offered. The base models also delete rear power windows, now only standard on top end elegance trim.
But skoda has made no stint on safety and thankfully all its models are equipped with diver airbag (something which the polo trend and comfort line are not), and the top two models also feature a driver and passenger airbag, which was always standard from the beginning on all fabia models. The classic does delete the front passenger airbag which came standard earlier.

Tilt an telescopic steering wheel is standard on all models and the top two models get a driver's seat height adjust as standard. Dead pedal, too is standard on all models.
The 1.2 petrol and 1.2 diesel (all models) are shod with 175/70 R14 tyres while the 1.6 gets wider rubber, that is 185/60 R14.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1234.jpg
new headlights, fog lights, grill and bumper adorn the front.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1233.jpg
The front 3/4 view. Looks grown up, 14" wheels look puny.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1232.jpg
side is unchanged and glasshouse uncanningly resembles a swift.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1231.jpg
nothing has changed at the rear...

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1229.jpg
except the updated taillights, again very hard to spot. Build and finish remain top of the class.

Last edited by sidindica : 15th October 2010 at 19:34.
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Old 15th October 2010, 20:02   #8
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Interiors and creature comforts

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1245.jpg

Climb into the interiors and you are greeted by the usual superb quality, fit ad finish expected from a skoda. Despite the massive price cut, he quality of interiors, despite the increased localization has not gone down and remains best in class. The soft touch dashboard reeks of quality, there are no uneven panel gaps and everything from the AC vents to the gear lever to the seat trim to the control stalks feel soild and built to last with immense attention to detail. Yes some cheap bits like the AC buttons and the seat belt height adjust levers remain but not what you call it a deal breaker. You cannot really get a better hatch with this level of interior part quality, fit and finish and attention to detail as the fabia. Thankfully unlike the polo, in the elegence, both the diver and passenger visors are equipped with vanity mirrors, not illuminated though.

The design is straightforward with no ergonomic quirks. All controls are logically laid out and easy to use. With respect to design changes, the only two visible changes in the interior layout is the new steering wheel lifted from the facelifted laura and the new audio system, again lifted straight from he polo. But unlike the polo, it gets an aux-in jack at least in addition to the usual MP3/CD/AM/FM modes. No steering mounted controls or bluetooth are provided. 4 speakers are standard and sound quality is just about average, though better than the polo but not a patch on the earlier fabia's "dance" audio system, leave alone the awesome system provided in the jazz. The ambiente model comes with 4 speakers but no audio, though a proper provision with full pre wiring is provided for easy after market fitment. The classic model also deletes speakers.

The front seats are superbly comfortable with superb thigh and lower back support and the seats are a bit modified as compared to the earlier fabia with additional cushioning and side bolstering to compensate for the lack of adjustable lumbar support, also now deleted (IIRC). Headroom is aequate or a 6 footer and even the seat travel has a good range for me to stretch my legs completely while driving. Dead pedal, a boon on long drives is standard across and foot well seemed well spaced. The seat is adjustable for height in both ambient and elegance models. the co driver seat now only slides and reclines and height adjustment, standard on earlier models, is deleted.

Coming to the rear, even with the front seat pushed fully back, I can sit comfortably with about half an inch space between the seat back and my knee. The legroom for most occasions is more than adequate, if not in the league of the jazz. Pushing the front seat forward releases huge amounts of legroom, perfect for chauffeur driven owners.
The contours of he rear seat is modified and is much more comfortable, bu the angle of inclination is still almost upright, a major drawback which plagued the pre face lift model also. Under thigh support is OK at best, will do for most of the regular jobs but those with weak backs, take note.
The width again is much better than the polo and two large size plus a medium sized adult can seat in decent comfort at rear for atleast a decent trip. Still, the rear is used by two at best.

Height adjust for seat belts for both driver and front passenger are standard on all variants and are a must. While I didn't get a chance to look at the classic model, visibility with driver seat down is inadequate as the dash is set high and while the seat is raised, it improves considerably.

All four power windows have an auto down function while only the driver's window has an auto up. Didn't test the pinch guard so cannot comment on its availability. If you are still thinking merrily that the knob atop the door pad in ruond shape is for electrical adjustment for OSRVM, be prepared in for a rude shock. In a cost cutting move, none of the models have power adjustable or heated OSRVM and that "rounded knob" is just a lever used to adjust the glass manually from inside! A 12V power socket is provided in front of the aux-in console.

Boot space at 314 litres is more than adequate and the loading area is well shaped to make the maximum out of it. Spare wheel is steel even on elegance and 5th alloy is not provided. The remote locking and unlocking is standard on elegence and you can also open and close the windows with the remote key fob.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1253.jpg
clean and simple high quality dashboard

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1252.jpg
legroom is amazing for a compact hatch. Picture of minimum and maximum legroom.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1251.jpg
decent boot space. Loading sill a bit high though.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1246.jpg
pedal arrangement is decently spaced, can divide opinion though.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1247.jpg
aux-in and 12V power outlet.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1248.jpg
chrome gear knob replaced with plastic, cost cutting.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1249.jpg
maximum rear legroom

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1241.jpg
Manual AC, no ACC in any of the variants. Audio system a direct lift from the polo with a "skoda" badging.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1237.jpg
door pads now simple, no chrome or metallic finish anywhere.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1238.jpg
That knob is a manual adjustable remote for OSRVM cleverly disguised to look like a powered OSRVM button.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1239.jpg
another shot of the beige door pads and trim, standard on ambiente and elegance models. Classic models get grey trims.

Last edited by sidindica : 15th October 2010 at 20:11.
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Old 15th October 2010, 20:39   #9
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Engine, gearbox and performance

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1222.jpg

Since the day I drove the linea T-jet, it has left me grinning and jiving instead of driving. Imagine 7.6 kmpl in my santro. So taking this powertrain as well as the Ford's duratec 1.6 and Fiat's torque 1.6 as benchmarks, I set out to drive the "otto" 1.6 in the fabia.(Otto is the name of this engine given by VW in its press release when it launched the polo sedan-vento-in Russia.)

This is the same engine that powers the VW polo 1.6 and the vento 1.6 petrols. essentially the 4 pot version of the 1.2, this is made in South Africa and sports a DOHC configuration with 2 intake and 2 exhaust valves driving each cylinder. Peak power of 105 ps@5250 rpm, 153 Nm torque@3800 rpm, this looks like a winner, atleast on paper. Kerb weight of 1100 kg gives it a power to weight ratio of 93.54 BHP per tonne, so it should be a scorcher, right?

Make no mistake, on the road, its mediocre to say at best. I havent drien the VW polo/vento 1.6 so cannot comment on its tuning but on the fabia, the engine is not quite a patch on any of the 1.4 T-jet FIRE/ 1.6 torque or the 1.6 duratec when it comes to throttle response. The engine has to be whipped to get it to perform and only after 2000 rpm, the real progress starts. The motor sounds like a so called rally car in a very crude sort of way but in real, at high rpms, it uncanningly sounds like a suzuki F10D with a free flow exhaust. Cannot believe it? try for yourself by revving it to its 6000 rpm redline. The initial response is pretty disappointing and not razor sharp as you would fine in any of the aforementioned cars powered by that motors. The motor sound drones as speeds progress and gets more coarse and unrefined as it nears the redline. A palio 1.6 it aint. Surprsingly, the engine whines and screams "enough" and labours to the redline. But once the mid range action starts, between 30-100 kmph, the acceleration is rapid. Climbing the apollo flyover will require a downshift, something which my santro even does not require. Downshift and the progress is linear. Power delivery is not seamless and the gearbox has to be used correctly to extract the maximum of the engine. See the pics and the engine has to be constantly kept above 3000 at a speed of 60 to make progress. this does have an adverse affect on fuel efficiency as the DTE was depleting rapidly.

The shift quality is again, class best with short and precise throws and a slick shiftng 5 speed manual tranny. The first an second gears are short, third is a bit longer and 4th is where the highway performance can be maximised. 5th is just like an overdrive and best used at cruising speeds. We touched 130 but the car felt like doing 90. So strong is the car's speed masking abilities.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1255.jpg
1.6 engine mediocre at best, not quite a scorcher as expected.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1224.jpg
Engine needs to be kept on the boil to get it to perform.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1225.jpg
At 80, it performs best at 3200 rpm, when most of its peak torque is released. Low fuel warning lamp kept on flashing repeatedly as a result of heavy driving.

Last edited by sidindica : 15th October 2010 at 20:42.
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Old 15th October 2010, 21:02   #10
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Good that built quality is maintained. Absence of rear wiper may not be felt much in Delhi, unlike in Mumbai. Are the dealers going to be better behaved now or still ripp off customers?

Eagerly waiting for review on engine performance.
Edit: engine review came on while I was typing this post. Thanks sidindica.

Last edited by Guite : 15th October 2010 at 21:03.
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Old 15th October 2010, 21:32   #11
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Nice writeup as usual sid!
But rear wash/wipe is a must for hatches in monsoon.
Is it better to have ORVM adjust knobs in the doorpad? Doesn't it leave the chance of someone accidentally pulling/pushing it and disturbing the mirror alignments? IMO manual mirror alignment sticks/knobs are best left on the front mirror interior panels.
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Old 15th October 2010, 21:50   #12
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Nice writeup Sid,
It will truly be one desirable toy, only if VW decides to plonk the Vento Spec 1.6 Diesel engine.

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Old 15th October 2010, 21:53   #13
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Ride, handling and braking

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1257.jpg

The fabia has always been praised for is amazing ride and handling combination and high speed road manners, which is now bettered comprehensively by the punto.The face lifted model carries forward the all round qualities but sadly some character seems lost in suspension retuning, as demanded by the mass market. But still the overall combination remains balanced.
Low speed ride is well composed despite riding on low pro 60 series apollo acelere tyres and minimal jerks are transferred onto the cabin. The roads around sarita vihar are full of deep potholes and craters and what better way to judge the medium speed rid quality-the car remains composed and it improves, though only marginally. Ground clearance is adequate but deep craters are scraped easily, something even on my santro. As speeds rise, ride improves and passengers are not jostled at the rear. the suspension behaves maturely and very less road noise is transferred to the cabin. Expect the 1.2 versions with 70 profile tyres to ride even better. Skoda's India specific rough road package consists of stiffer (yet comfy) springs and heavy duty dampers absorbing the undulated imperfections with ease. Low speed jerks aside, the overall ride is very matured, though the fiat is still eons better in this department. The fabia can be termed a second best in this regard.

The handling is again benign and predictable. Steering is light at parking speeds and remains neutral till speeds upto 100-120. The high speed stability remains top class and this car, like the fiat masks speed like no other. 120 fees like 85 and 100 feels like 70, you never realize when you hit the 3 digit speeds and the car feels as stable and secure as a typical Euro hatch. The steering feel is still inconsistent though at high speeds and not a patch on the punto's helm, though its much better than the polo.

Braking is more than adequate for daily usage and the front disc-rear drum combination provide adequate stopping power. Brake fade is barely noticeable and ABS system is perfectly calibrated for harsh usage and emergency stops on the treacherous roads of Delhi.

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1228.jpg

Last edited by Rudra Sen : 16th October 2010 at 07:50. Reason: spelling
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Old 15th October 2010, 22:12   #14
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Fuel Efficiency

The fabia has a trip computer which indicates the instant fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, distance to empty and many other tellale signs (only standard on elegance). Keeping the engine on the boil dropped the shown figure to 8.6 kmpl, worse was 6.9 kmpl and driving on 3rd gear with AC off on a light foot showed the MID display as 12.7 kmpl. So while ARAI figures were not available to me, the figure can vary heavily depending upon the percentage of city to highway driving, tire pressure, load and usage of AC. So expect a combined fuel consumption of 9-11 kmpl (ESTIMATED). It can be questionable though in the lucrative small car segment and given the calibration of engine, the figures can vary and even can drop to mid single digits if driven with a heavy foot.

Buying and owning

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1243.jpg

VW-Skoda cars are not exactly known to be reliable with many problems relating to engine stalling to heavy oil consumption to electricals being reported by the owners. Moreover, the less said about skoda service, the better. Poor dealer standards, malpractices, below par attitude and overcharging for unnecessary items are a common practice which can burn a hole in your pocket. Skoda has recently introduced a maintenance package called skoda field which does promise to give relief to its owners after being stung from heavy criticism and increasing competition in this sector. More details about the skoda shield can be found elsewhere in this forum. S before deciding on the car, do make sure that there is (atleast) a good, competent and an honest dealer to take care of all your service needs.
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Old 15th October 2010, 22:23   #15
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The final call

First Drive: Skoda Fabia F/L 1.6 petrol-photo1230.jpg

Today the premium hatch segment is becoming very competitive and more demanding than ever before. Now at the cost of deletion of high levels of standard equipment, the fabia's price has been cut down drastically and suddenly, for a European hatch, talks value.
But will the Indian market really accept a cut price European hatch with essential features deleted? Only time will tell.
While I cannot comment on the 1.2 engines since I didn't get to drive them, the 1.6 is a bit of a disappointment. Good as a concept but let down by execution. Moreover, the less than stellar combination of performance and mileage will leave many potential buyers disappointed, but yes, everyone does have his/ her share of opinions. But as a product, it has improved but only for the price quoted. On the price, it succeeds. On delivering value, it does deliver but will leave owners wanting for more.
Will it succeed?
Only time will tell but only question to be asked is..

Is it a case of too little too late?
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