Skoda Fabia 1.2 TDI CR 75 Greenline II 09 | 10 | 2011Scotcars rating

    Skoda's Fabia S2000 dominated RallyScotland, but is the base-level TDI a winner too?

    OK, HERE'S THE SITUATION. RallyScotland, the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Championship — and second only in importance to the British round of the World Championship next month — took place this weekend around Perth and Stirling. Skoda, the current champs, offered me a car for the 1000-mile round trip. What did I get? A Superb? An Octavia? No: a Fabia 1.2 TDI Greenline II.

    I'll be honest; when I was told what I was driving, my heart sank just a little. Faced with a 500-mile drive up the M40 and M6, then cross-country to Edinburgh, before a couple of Edinburgh-Stirling return trips, followed by two Perth-Dundee trips, the wee 74bhp Fabia wasn't what I'd hoped for.

    For the first time, on the steep climb out of Moffat, the little engine began to show its limitations. Yes the five-speed manual gearbox needed to be worked, but once you established the tall-gearing's parameters, the Fabia continued its relentless journey.

    So it was with more than a little trepidation that I set off for Perth, via my circuitous two-day drive. Believe it or not, within a few miles, I was pleasantly surprised.

    Faced with such long haul of motorway and dual-carriageway driving, I did, rather naively, expect I might be that slow-moving, wheezy driver toiling in the inside lane; spending the whole journey being constantly overtaken by a fleet of juggernauts.

    Skoda's Andreas Mikkelsen wins RallyScotland

    My expectations had been rather coloured by information I'd received from colleagues.

    "It's pretty gutless," was one assessment. "You need to work the gearbox very, very hard," was another. How wrong they were.

    Within minutes of turning on to the M40 south of Oxford, the car was happy in its surroundings. With a very clever, and simple to use cruise control on the left-hand stalk, the little Fabia was soon happily tootling along at 78mph (ssshhhh, don't tell anyone!).

    More than capable of holding its own in the flowing traffic, it was time to "get a feel" for the car.

    Since it was launched in 2007, the Fabia's tall, functional design has aged well. There's comfortable interior space for four adults, plenty of headroom, and more than acceptable kneeroom.

    The bootspace swallows 300 litres of goodies — ideal for my six-day trip around various Scottish destinations — and the cabin is a pleasantly-designed space.

    Sure, you could complain about the relatively cheap plastics — including the steering wheel rim and gearshift knob — but here it's worth remembering this car costs only £13,685.

    Big spoiler isn't designed to increase downforce

    For that, in addition to VW Group's technology — it's essentially the same engine as found in the Polo 1.2 BlueMotion — you get small 15-inch alloys fitted with low rolling-resistance tyres, a 20mm lowered ride height, and a big rear spoiler designed to reduce aerodynamic drag. Anyone thinking it's there to increase downforce will be disappointed.

    My test car was fitted with the optional DVD sat-nav and multimedia control system. I have to say, it's one of the easiest, most logical and accurate systems I've ever encountered.

    So, having coped more than admirably with the motorway driving, it was off at the Moffat junction on the M74 to join the cross-country A701 to Edinburgh.

    For the first time, on the steep climb out of Moffat, the little engine began to show its limitations. Yes the five-speed manual gearbox needed to be worked, but once you established the tall-gearing's parameters, the Fabia continued its relentless journey.

    I'd also expected something of an irritating noise from the Fabia's three-pot turbo-diesel engine; but all the way up, Radio 4 played happily in the background and the cabin noise was certainly no worse than any comparable car.

    The stop-start system worked as advertised test, and the energy recovery system (it controls the alternator to reduce load on the engine by using the battery, and harvests energy from braking to recharge) was unobtrusive.

    Watch our video of the Skoda Fabia S2000 in action

    Skoda's official combined fuel figure of 83mpg, is a nice headlining-grabbing figure. The reality? While no one will contest its CO2 emissions figure of 89g/km, so far, having covered 525 miles and refilled the tank with 42.8 litres, my calculations show I've achieved a tad under 56mpg.

    Not bad, but certainly not 83mpg. There's no doubt the Skoda Fabia Greenline II definitely has the potential to be a very frugal supermini; well it does if you're willing to drive with a featherlight rig foot and wring the maximum economy from each gallon of fuel.

    That though doesn't equate to living in the real world. The reality is the little Czech car is cheap and fun to operate.

    Yes it has an irritating remote lock facility which forever seems to keep the rear doors and boot locked, but it is surprisingly nippy when it has to be; plus it's one of the cheapest cars to run.

    The Fabia remains a practical and well-priced hatch. But if you're not too bothered by ducking under the 100g/km CO2 level, or setting recordbreaking fuel figures, it might just be worth having a look at the almost identically-priced 104bhp 1.6TDI .

    Caption: We lined the entry-level Skoda Fabia 1.2 TDI CR 75 Greenline II up alongside Skoda UK Motorsport's Fabia S2000 rally car at RallyScotland's Perth-based service HQ. It's the very car Andreas Mikkelsen powered to his maiden IRC victory through the sodden Scottish forest stages.

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    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £13,685 / £13,685
    Engine / Power: 1199cc 3-cylinder / 74bhp
    How fast?: 12.6secs / Max 107mph
    How big/heavy?: L4000mm W1642mm H1484mm / Weight 1203kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 83.1mpg / CO2 89g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / n/a
    Alternatives: Skoda Fabia 1.6TDI, Fiat 500 TwinAir, Ford Fiesta

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