Everything Volkswagen Polo Issue 007 // April 2012
Mean, green machine , b h p7. 3 s , 8 7 1 ph ft 2m 6 0 - 18 4 l b
A BI F DA O K Ĺ vRS
COMPETITOR ROAD TEST //
WORDS // RICH GOODING PICTURES // RICH GOODING AND ŠKODA UK PRESS OFFICE
Hot hatch and Skoda, are not two phrases which are commonly thought of together. At least until a few years ago. The first-generation Škoda Fabia begat a hot vRS version in 2003, powered by a 128bhp 1.9-litre TDI diesel engine, which soon became a favourite of the understated performance car crowd. With 230lb ft of torque, a six-speed ‘box, and a 0-62mph time of around 8 seconds, it was a valiant move by the Czech manufacturer to ensnare a younger audience. Produced until 2007, and sharing mechanicals with the 2004 Polo GT, Škoda made the vRS cognoscenti wait three years for the follow-up to its surprise hit. Launched in 2010, the latest Fabia vRS is based on the ‘5J’ Series 2 car, which was first unveiled in 2008. Again, sharing its mechanicals with its Polo cousin (the GTI this time around), the vRS is distantly German, but that’s where the similarities with its trailblazing predecessor end. Under the bonnet is a 1390cc, ‘twincharged’ petrol engine, putting out 178bhp. Why twincharged? Using the APRIL 2012 | POLODRIVER.COM | PAGE 02
Volkswagen Group’s latest engine technology, a supercharger powers the engine until 2400rpm, from where the supercharger joins it until 3500rpm, seamlessly taking over. The TSI engine isn’t short on performance: 0-62mph comes up in a quoted 7.3 seconds, and the hot Fabia tops out at 139mph. Controversially fitted with a seven‑speed DSG semi-automatic gearbox as standard, the Fabia is as technologically advanced as a hot supermini gets. Unless you drive a Polo GTI (or SEAT Ibiza Cupra/Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport), that is. The cheapest of the VW Group foursome, we had a Škoda Fabia vRS for a week to see if it really does feel any different to its (more expensive) Polo GTI cousin. Go-faster makeover First impressions are good. The Fabia lends itself well to a go‑faster makeover, even if the body looks a little tall and narrow to be considered a hot hatch classic. The metallic ‘Rallye Green’ paint of our test car really suit the five-door only shape, though, made better by the ‘floating’ contrasting white roof (a not-inconsiderable £815 for the combined two finishes). The silver 17-inch ‘Gigaro’ alloy wheels with 205/40 R17 rubber fill
2012 Ĺ KODA FABIA vRS Striking looks, value for money, performance DSG-only
the arches properly, too, adding the finishing touch. Choose a black roof with black wheels, dark headlamps and black front grille trim with the green paint and the vRS is a proper mean green machine. High-quality impressions Open the door, and the high-quality impressions continue. The sports seats are deep, nicely‑trimmed, and hold you snugly, while the multifunction steering wheel manages to be both sporty and convenient. Yes, it’s true to day that the interior plastic is a notch or two down on a Polo GTI, but when there’s around £2000 difference in price, that’s forgivable. And while the door pulls feel particularly cheap, there was not a squeak or rattle from our 13,000-mile test car. One minor thing we did find refreshing was the old-school green instrument and interior lighting – something the vRS shares with our just-departed 1994 Polo GT coupé. We also could have been amused for hours by the way the needles illuminate and spin around the clear dials on start-up. Space utilisation is a Fabia strong point, too, and one which has been carried over to the vRS. Coming with only five doors, the little Škoda is already ahead in the practicality stakes (although the Polo GTI
comes with a five-door option), and the rear doors are thoughtfully broad and wide-opening, which one tester found useful. With good space in the back, and a large boot (interestingly, there’s an Audi stamp on the boot latch), the Fabia vRS would certainly satisfy any go-faster mums or dads who want performance motoring with a practical edge in a small package. Our test car came with £1900 of optional equipment, including the excellent ‘Amundsen’ satellite navigation/radio/CD/SD system, which is a rebranded Volkswagen RNS 310 unit it shares with the Polo GTI we tested last year. Easy to use, and with CD and SD card operation, it makes filling up with your favourite music a cinch. The £275 climate control system was
‘The Fabia vRS would satisfy go‑faster mums and dads who want performance motoring with a practical edge in a small package.’ PAGE 05 | POLODRIVER.COM | APRIL 2012
also a welcome benefit. The stalks are also recognisable Polo items, and we can imagine the double glovebox being very useful. Another downside is that the DSG gear lever isn’t as stylish as the Polo GTI’s, but it works just as well. The technological wonder that is the Volkswagen Group’s DSG gearbox is just one of the clever highlights of this car. The 1.4 TSI engine is another, and is just as talented in the Fabia vRS as it is in the Polo GTI. Quoted performance figures are a little down, though, VW reckoning that the Polo GTI scampers to 62mph from rest in 6.9 seconds, whereas Škoda expects the slingshot Fabia to need 0.4 seconds more to cover the same distance. Torque figures are the same at 184lb ft @ 2000‑4500rpm, and the Skoda is lighter than the Polo (1243kg v 1269kg respectively). The vRS is also dirtier, with 148g/km of CO2 against the Polo’s 139. They are small differences, though, and don’t necessarily translate to the road. Make no mistake, the Fabia vRS delivers searing performance, feeling very fizzy all through the rev range. And although not the most beautiful-sounding engine, the four-cylinder TSI does growl nicely, and if anything, the vRS feels APRIL 2012 | POLODRIVER.COM | PAGE 06
more ‘hardcore’ and raucous than the hot shot Polo. The marginally lighter weight makes itself known, too: the occasional clang from the panels allied to the screaming engine and zingy gearbox in ‘Sport’ mode, fool you into believing – for a millisecond at least – you could be in the stripped-out Intercontinental Rally Challenge S2000 car with which Škoda is currently reigning champion. Has anything this conservative looking and boxy have any right to go this fast? Effectively entertaining Properly and funnily fast, the Fabia vRS is also effectively entertaining. The little Škoda grips gamely and corners flatly, inspiring confidence despite feeling more top-heavy than the Polo GTI. Like the hot Polo, a little more feeling through the leather-wrapped steering wheel would be nice, but overall, on the road, the vRS punches above its predicted weight. The laugh‑out‑loud fun doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, either. Despite a 20mm reduction in ride height over lesser Fabias, the vRS soaks up road imperfections relatively well for one so sporting. The ride feels very hard over the worst pitted surfaces, though, and on more than one occasion we noticed a shrill whine from those thin-sidewalled 17-inch tyres, too,
THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT When you analyse the brochure data, there’s not much in the way of difference between the specifications of the Polo GTI and Fabia vRS. Mechanically, the GTI gets an extra half-inch in tyre width over the vRS, but the latter gets the lower profile sidewalls. The small Škoda gets two additional speakers with its standard radio set-up (eight to the Polo’s six), and is available in a wider and brighter range of colours. The Fabia also comes with a multi-function steering wheel and LED running lights as standard, where as Volkswagen charges £205 and £750 respectively when optioned on the Polo. The vRS also features dark-tinted rear windows as standard. On the GTI, they cost an extra £265. And, when it comes to extras, we find it hard to believe that the colour touch-screen satellite‑navigation that can be specified on both cars costs £535 on the Škoda, and a whopping £840 on the VW. A traditional Škoda strength, value is most definitely the Fabia vRS’ trump card.
though this was more down to the road surface than the car itself.
mode, high 30s and low 40s were often the norm.
The sports suspension with stiffer dampers and firmer rear axle springs no doubt contribute to that sportiness and hard ride, while the Volkswagen Group’s XDS electronic differential no doubt contributes to the vRS’s strong braking performance, which add yet more assurance. Increasing cornering traction by braking the inside front wheel when accelerating through corners, transferring torque to the outside wheel, XDS prevents the unloaded inside wheel from spinning, and again, is shared with the Polo GTI.
GTI or vRS? So Polo GTI or Fabia vRS? It’s a tough call. The Polo undoubtedly feels more mature and expensive, and though it and the Fabia both share the same engine, there are subtle mechanical and driving differences.
Gnarly layer The DSG gearbox is easy to use, the steering wheel-mounted paddles well-placed for seamless gearchanges, though we’d still prefer a manual option. Most of the time, it’s best to leave it in automatic ‘Drive’ mode, as it chooses ratios sensibly, but flick it over to ‘Sport’ and the changes are more aggressive and much later, adding a gnarly layer to the Fabia’s character. If you use the performance to the full, fuel consumption drops considerably. We recorded high 20s and low 30s mpg readings on full-bore runs. When in the less spirited ‘Drive’ APRIL 2012 | POLODRIVER.COM | PAGE 08
Though it’s been a few months since we last drove a Polo GTI, the Fabia instantly felt more aggressive, something we weren’t expecting. Arguably, with the lairy green paint job and white roof, the Škoda looks the more extrovert choice – it turned heads on our first outing – and we’d go for white wheels, too, to further stand out from the crowd. The Polo is much more understated and discreet, handsome even, very much in the Volkswagen GTI mould. It’s the one we’d pick for long-term ownership, but, at £19,555, with a £2645 price disparity between it (in five-door form) and the £16,990 Fabia (which even comes an as estate for £17,840), the vRS wins on value. If you’re in the market for a small, powerful hot hatchback with a dash of added practicality, the Škoda Fabia vRS undoubtedly deserves a place on your shopping list.
Specs: Polo GTI Model 2011 Volkswagen Polo GTI Displacement (cc)/cylinders/ fuel type 1390/4/petrol Power output 178bhp @ 6200pm Maximum torque 184lb ft @ 2000-4500rpm Transmission Front-wheel drive, seven-speed auto DSG Top speed (mph) 142 0-62mph (seconds) 6.9 Braking system Diagonal twin‑circuit with discs (ventilated, front); ABS, Electronic Brake‑pressure Distribution and Hydraulic Brake Assist Running gear Independent with coil springs, telscopic shock absorbers (front axle); semi‑independent with gas shock absorbers and coil springs (rear axle), XDS differential lock Steering Electro-mechnical steering rack; collapsible adjustable steering column Wheels 7.5J x 17 ‘Monza’ alloy Tyres 215/40 R17 Unladen weight (kg) 1269 Track (front/rear, mm) 1463/1456 Wheelbase (mm) 2468 Dimensions (l, w, h, mm) 3976/1901/1452 Price £19,555 (five-door) Emissions (g/km CO2 ) 139
Specs: Fabia vRS Model 2012 Škoda Fabia vRS Displacement (cc)/cylinders/ fuel type 1390/4/petrol Power output 178bhp @ 6200pm Maximum torque 184lb ft @ 2000-4500rpm Transmission Front-wheel drive, seven-speed auto DSG Top speed (mph) 139 0-62mph (seconds) 7.3 Braking system Diagonal twin‑circuit with discs (ventilated, front); ABS, Electronic Brake‑pressure Distribution and Hydraulic Brake Assist Running gear Independent with coil springs, telscopic shock absorbers (front axle); semi‑independent with gas shock absorbers and coil springs (rear axle), XDS differential lock Steering Electro-mechnical steering rack; collapsible adjustable steering column Wheels 7J x 17 ‘Gigaro’ alloy Tyres 205/40 R17 Unladen weight (kg) 1269 Track (front/rear, mm) 1423/1415 Wheelbase (mm) 2464 Dimensions (l, w, h, mm) 4029/1642/1492 Price/as tested £16,990/£18,315 Emissions (g/km CO2 ) 148 PAGE 09 | POLODRIVER.COM | APRIL 2012
Many thanks to Amy and the Ĺ koda UK Press Office For more information on the Ĺ koda Fabia visit www.skoda.co.uk
Everything Volkswagen Polo