Road test: Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo
What is it?
It's a special edition of the normally rather upright and proper Skoda Fabia, so in comes an array of special sporty equipment to hot-up the standard Fabia. Launched in 2011, the Monte Carlo was created to celebrate 100 years of the famous rally and 110 years of Skoda in motorsport, and has proved so popular in the UK, you can still buy one.
What's under the bonnet?
There's a rather good choice, in fact. Monte Carlo buyers looking for petrol power can opt for the entry-level 67bhp 1.2-litre 69, a zingy 84bhp 1.2-litre TSI 86 or the spirited 103bhp 1.2 105. There are also a couple of eco diesels – namely a 1.6-litre unit with either 73bhp or 103bhp. We'd probably avoid the basic 1.2 as that gets to 60mph in 14 seconds, and we'd choose the 103bhp 1.2 TSI.
What's the kit like?
Well, this special Fabia is based on the decently equipped SE model so there's iPod connectivity, front fog lamps and manual air con. But the Monte adds a plethora of black-painted extras such as 17-inch alloys; black side mouldings; a bespoke front splitter; roof; rear spoiler and rear diffuser. Inside there are a pair of sports seats coloured to match the exterior paintwork, perforated leather steering wheel; leather gearknob and handbrake all with red stitching. Monte Carlos also have sports suspension and are only available in the colours: Corrida Red, Candy White, Black Magic Pearl Effect, Sprint Yellow and Brilliant Silver Metallic. Prices range from £12,945 to £15,190.
You can't talk about sporty superminis without mentioning the Ford Fiesta which has just received a major overhaul. The closest rival to the Monte 1.2 TSI is the Zetec S 1.0 EcoBoost. The Ford is more powerful and judging by the outgoing version, is more fun to drive, but it costs around £1,100 more to buy. The Fabia's brother, the Seat Ibiza, uses the same engine and in FR spec gives the Monte a run for its money. The Spaniard is £200 cheaper, but doesn't have such mean-looking styling, we feel.
Is it any good?
You couldn't call the Skoda Fabia to be youthful. It's been around for a while now, but the Monte Carlo is a real breath of fresh air. When fitted with the raspy 103bhp 1.2, it's a real hoot to drive – you just have to work the five-speed 'box to make the engine both sing and perform. It gets to 60mph in just under 10 seconds and it'll reach 119mph. The stiffer suspension and larger alloys give a rather bumpy ride, but the Monte clings on impressively in the bends. Yet, despite all of this frivolity, the Monte Carlo 1.2 TSI 105 returns 53.3mpg and emits 124g/km of CO2.
The AOL Cars verdict
We think the Monte Carlo is a really cracking looking car and can't help but conclude it seems a bit of a bargain. It's popularity in the UK is justified and the Monte would be on our list if we wanted to buy a cheapish supermini with some attitude.
Model: Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo 1.2 TSI 105
Engine: 1.2-litre, petrol
Power: 103bhp, 175Nm
Max speed: 119mph
MPG (comb'd): 53.3