Reading the current advertising for their new Fabia model, Skoda is asking motorists to make informed decisions when it comes to vehicle replacement time and to compare their new model with its competitors from 'every angle'.
A bold statement in our view and one which has created more questions than it does answers when we started doing the comparing. Who are the Fabia's biggest competitors then?
We think the Fabia should be compared along side the likes of the Suzuki Swift, Mazda2, Honda Jazz, Daihatsu Materia and, particularly if comparing diesel possibilities, the Hyundai Getz CRDi. It has similar exterior looks to Suzuki's popular Swift and apart from having a small advantage in length shares similar dimensions.
Comparitivly however, the Fabia is priced several thousand dollars higher than its competitors.
Skoda has certainly earned some bragging rights in recent times with the brand picking up two awards at the recent 2008 AA Motoring Excellence Awards (Roomster and Octavia Scout winning the Compact Car and Small Crossover classes respectively) but considering the growing competiveness of the market, the Fabia price point seems a bit steep for a vehicle of this size.
The model range consists of two variants. First up is the lower priced of the two, a 1.4 litre 3-cylinder diesel, which has a retail price tag of $27,990.
The engine produces power and torque outputs of 59kW and 195Nm respectively. Choose the diesel and only one transmission is available, a 5-speed manual which may narrow the sales opportunities down fairly quickly, especially for those driving in heavy traffic on a regular basis.
Fuel economy is the big attraction on this model with a combined (Urban and highway) claimed fuel consumption of just 4.6 litres per 100km's. There's a payoff for this frugal running though and the neighbours may not share your appreciation for the three-pot diesel under the bonnet; using older non-common rail technology the power unit is rather harsh.
One needs to 'learn' to drive a diesel of this size in our view, and to use the gears more than when driving a conventional petrol 1.4 litre car, to gain the best performance and economy. The engine runs out of puff at the top end, typical diesel behaviour, but even more noticeable on the 3-cylinder engine, there's an impressive amount of torque in the lower range, even so, a load of throttle is still required to make best use of it.
Safety wise the list is reasonably impressive with ABS, Traction Control, rear parking aids, front, side and curtain airbags fitted as standard. Once again harping on price, you don't get Electronic Stability Control (ESC) as standard (add $1,000). The rear brakes are drum operated unless you choose ESC where you get rear discs as part of the upgrade.
Also available is a 1.6 litre petrol retailing at $29,990. It offers a higher spec level including standard features such as ESP, tyre pressure monitoring system, anti theft alarm, full climate air conditioning, height adjustable passenger seat and multi-functional controls on the steering wheel.
An automatic transmission is the sole option and the engine produces 77kW of power, 153Nm of torque and has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per 100km's.
In our view the 1.6 petrol represents much better value for money and was the pick of the two models driven during the press launch.
A white roof is a $900 option on both models.
Interior space has been improved over the previous model and while the platform is not identical to the award winning Roomster, the Fabia does share the nose to front windscreen engineering attributes.
There's nothing wrong with Skoda as a brand or the Fabia as a specific model. But the bottom line plays a big part in small vehicle purchases, pricing could afford to be aligned more with its competitors in our view.