2017 Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo Review
Isaac Bober’s 2017 Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Monte Carlo is a cosmetic tweak only of the regular Fabia wagon giving it a much tougher appearance without upsetting its practicality.
2017 Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo Wagon
Pricing $24,640+ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 15,000km or 12 months Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 81kW at 4600-5600rpm Torque 175Nm at 1400-4000rpm Transmission seven-speed DSG Dimensions 4291mm (L); 1732mm (W) Kerb Weight 1111kg Fuel Tank 45L Thirst 4.8L/100km
THE LATEST-GENERATION SKODA FABIA Monte Carlo was launched in September this year, and builds on the following the previous generation Fabia Monte Carlo established here in Australia. A staggering 40% of all local sales of Fabia were for the Monte Carlo variant. Not bad for a body kit…
When this new one was launched, Skoda’s local boss, Michael Irmer said: “The Fabia is already the most distinctive and versatile offering in the city car segment. In Monte Carlo form it is unique.” And he’s right. Plenty of people who saw the Fabia Monte Carlo while it was on-test couldn’t help but stop me and ask what it was; and that was a mix of young and old.
Most people buying a Skoda these days would have no idea that it’s one of the oldest car companies on the planet, with its origins only a few years after the establishment of Benz – it grew out of bike-making company in 1895 and began selling cars in 1905. And nor would they realise its rallying success, which is why this Fabia carries the Monte Carlo moniker. See, during the 1960s, Skoda dominated its class at the legendary Monte-Carlo Rallye.
So, what marks out the Fabia Monte Carlo, which sits at the top of the line-up? Well, it gets its own black gloss front grille, side skirts, door mirrors, front spoiler, rear diffuser, 17-inch black alloys and a panoramic glass roof. Paint colours include corrida red, candy white, race blue and steel grey, as well as the standard Fabia colour palette.
Pricing for the wagon we tested is $24,640+ORC and $23,490+ORC for the hatchback variant.
What’s it like inside?
Let’s start with the frustrating bit first, and that is the panoramic glass roof. It was a hot week when I had the Fabia on test and the piddling fabric screen did nothing to keep the car heating up like an oven when parked. Personally, I’d like to see the glass roof as something you can delete…
That said, the kids loved the glass roof once the car had cooled down, and the fact the screen is split in the middle, meaning you can close one half and open the other half is nice.
The dashboard is typical Skoda, meaning excellent quality materials in a simple and easy to understand layout. Many hold up Volkswagen as being the maker of the finest affordable interiors, but I think Skoda does a better job. To me, it feels as if the brand’s designers, no matter the model they’re working on, are singing from the same hymn sheet.
Our test car featured the cost-optional Tech Pack which, for $1800, includes radar-based cruise control, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, climate-controlled air-conditioning and more. Like the outside, the inside gets ‘Monte Carlo’ elements, including a “Monte Carlo” stamp on the B-pillar and front door sill plates, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, sports pedals and sports seats.
The dashboard is dominated by a 6.5-inch touchscreen and offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity which is displayed on the screen via Skoda’s SmartLink system which allows for pinching and swiping motions. Once you’ve connected your phone it’s all instantly familiar. The screen offers hard buttons for shortcuts around the outside, including Radio, Media, Phone, Setup, Sound and Car which allows you to deep-dive into things like tyre-pressure monitoring and more.
Sitting inside the Fabia Monte Carlo and the sports seats offer good grip and comfort for long haul driving, although those of longer limb, like moi, might find the seat base a little short and unsupportive on longer drives. There’s good adjustment in the seat and the steering wheel offers reach and height adjustment. From the driver’s seat, there’s good vision right around the car and the dash is easy to use on the fly or via the steering mounted controls… there’s also voice control via Siri on Apple CarPlay.
There’s storage for mobile phone in a specific cradle in the cup holder on the centre console, there’s a rubbish bin in the side door, storage nets on the back of the front seats, and the bottle holders in the front and back doors will hold 500ml bottles.
Over in the back seats and there’s an impressive amount of room thanks to this new car being wider and longer than its predecessor. The middle seat is still more of a perch than a seat, but both adults and young children will be comfortable in the two outboard seats with good, head and legroom. There are ISOFIX mounts in the outboard seats and top tether anchor points only on the back of the two outboard seats; these are positioned towards the top of the seat making them easy to reach even if the boot is being used.
Speaking of the boot, the Fabia, in wagon form, trumps anything else in the segment for size and even beats out the likes of Hyundai’s Tucson. It offers 505 litres in wagon trim and 305 in hatch form. Drop the back seats and boot space grows to 1370 litres for the wagon and 1125 litres for the hatchback.
The boot opening is 960mm wide, growing to 1098mm once you get past the sill. The tail-gate swings open to 1900mm for the wagon, which means six-footers will be able to stand under it.
What’s it like on the road?
There are two states of tune for the Fabia’s 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and our Monte Carlo gets the full-fat 81kW between 4600-5600rpm and 175Nm of torque from 1400-4000rpm. The lesser variant offers 66kW and 160Nm. Both states of tune are mated to a seven-speed DSG.
It might seem like the Fabia Monte Carlo has about as much grunt as an asthmatic ant but it’s quite the obvious, and the lightweight Fabia wagon (1111kg –kerb weight) feels nippier than the Subaru Impreza we’ve just tested which gets more grunt, but obviously weighs more because of its all-wheel drive system. The Fabia Monte Carlo can keep up with and overtake traffic without working too hard, and that’s with four on-board too. Similarly, hills aren’t a problem.
The seven-speed DSG does a good job of keeping the little engine stirring along nicely and right from the get-go the Fabia can collect speed quickly and efficiently. We had a short week with the Fabia Monte Carlo and managed to get very close to the claimed combined fuel consumption of 4.8L/100km, returning 4.5L/100km and I didn’t spare the whip.
While the Fabia Monte Carlo might look like it’ll happily turn tricks at a race track, the styling of the car is more for show than go. Underneath, the Monte Carlo variant runs a sports suspension set-up which involves a slightly firmer damper tune.
The Fabia Monte Carlo isn’t a road racer. Rather, Skoda’s focus has clearly been on making the thing predictable, comfortable, stable in corners and to just generally be fuss-free… and a little bit fun.
My test loop takes in dirt, smooth highway and average around-town roads and in all situations, the Fabia Monte Carlo managed to ride even the worst the road could throw at it, which is as much down to its relatively light weight as it is to the suspension tune, which is well damped. There’s little road or suspension noise in the cabin, and grip is good for a car that can be hustled along without going to pieces.
The steering is direct (this Fabia gets new electro-mechanical-assist steering instead of the old model’s electro-hydraulic assist), consistently weighted but lacking in feel while the brakes are strong and progressive with good feel right through the pedal’s travel.
What about the safety features?
The Skoda Fabia gets a five-star ANCAP rating with a score of 34.16 out of 37 (it was tested in July 2015). Interestingly, when Skoda decided to drop the Fabia RS it decided to fit the electronic differential lock and its next-level XDL functionality which helps to bleed torque away from the inside front wheel if it’s starting to spin and push torque to the outside wheel to try and keep the car pointing into the corner.
In addition, the Fabia features front assist with city emergency braking which works between 5-30km/h and offers four warning levels: First there’s a flashing light, then a flashing light and accompanying noise and the brakes are pre-conditioned, then there’s a braking impulse and partial braking. Then, if the driver still doesn’t respond emergency braking will be triggered. The Fabia also features multi-collision braking which applies the brakes if the car’s been involved in a collision to reduce the likelihood of it being punted from behind.
The Fabia also features fatigue detection and a speed limiter which prevents the car from exceeding a pre-set speed. It has a tyre pressure monitor, hill hold control, traction and stability control and six airbags. It also has a reversing camera. The Fabia features emergency braking which, if the driver nails the brakes from 60km/h and up, will flash the brake lights to warn drivers following
Why you’d buy one
Because you want a small funky looking car that’s loaded down with safety gear and offers the biggest boot in the segment. Simple.