2013 Skoda Fabia vRS Hatch review – Supercharged & Turbo’d Pocket-Rocket Will Eat Many Tyres

Punchy & rev-tastic engine, positive handling & decent ride, DSG ‘box is superb, roomy interior

Overly high road-noise, interior looks too bland

Skoda Fabia?

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback

Launched in 1999, the Skoda Fabia was a base-price car with Volkswagen underpinnings, and to those who didn’t mind the badge snobs sniggering at them, this was a good little car with German engineering and the reliability that goes with it. Today, the snobbery has (almost) subsided, but for those still being idiotic about a small plastic badge – you can’t exactly argue with the Fabia’s global sales of over 1,500,000 to date (2013).

Right, so although it’s a big seller and decent little car, it’s not exactly an exciting proposition for those with petrol running through their veins. But wait, there’s something lurking in a dark corner of the showroom – the black sheep of the Fabia family, pushed away for its lust for speed and thrills over sense and sensibility. I coaxed a stray Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback out of the dark with a pint of super unleaded, to see what happens when you bolt both a supercharger and a turbo to a 1.4 litre petrol engine, in a car weighing the same as a box of cereal.

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013

Aside from cooler models like the Monte Carlo, the normal Fabia is not a bad-looking car really, but it’s just that – normal. It’s a good base to start from though; a neat Euro-design hatchback with good lines and proportions. The vRS hatchback shifts the looks away from regular to roguish, with a few dashes of black here and there.

The headlights are tinted black, while the front radiator grille is black gloss, and there’s a more sporty honeycomb grille in place of the normal one, plus there’s rear tinted windows too, and a rear diffuser in the same dark hue. Spec your paint option with the contrasting Black Magic roof (a must), and the vRS is looking positively mean. In my case, the Fabia vRS came in Rallye Green and Black Magic roof, which I think is an excellent colour choice, as it gives the vRS a purposeful appearance.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013

As mentioned, in the looks department the Fabia is okay to begin with anyway, and the vRS simply adds its own flair. By the time you’ve added in the 17″ Gigaro wheels (I’d personally opt for the black versions) with their rubber-band like tyres, plus red-painted brake callipers, it’s looking like a proper hot hatch. Somehow the simple-but-effective black touches around the vRS make it look more muscular and taut, and there’s a toughness about it too. It looks planted and sporty, and after just a couple of minutes viewing the Skoda Fabia vRS, you’re already wanting to drive the thing before you’ve even opened a door. Talking of that…

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Open the unexpectedly hefty drivers door of the Fabia vRS, and you’re greeted with… mostly grey and black plastics. Bit of a let-down when you consider the mean exterior design. Let’s view it from a comfort point of view though. There’s no option of leather with the vRS, and you’ve got two simple choices – grey or red pattern upholstery. I’d go for the red, otherwise the interior is overly dull.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013

The driver and front passenger seats have deep side and lower-section bolsters, and they’re not only comfortable, but keep you braced when you’re pushing the vRS hard through the corners. The rears are decent, and there’s good head and leg-room, but the backrest makes you sit too upright for complete comfort. There’s also no centre armrest.

Skoda Fabia vRS front seats

 

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-3

They do fold completely flat though, giving you a excellent total loading space of 1,163 litres. Seats up, the boot is larger than you’d guess, with 300 litres of room, and there’s also handy fold-out hooks for attaching bags to. Superb idea that, and effective, as it saves your shopping flying everywhere during the spirited run home.

Skoda Fabia vRS boot trunk space

The dash is simple and free of clutter, with just a few buttons and dials for the heating. An absolute must to spec is the Amundsen sat nav and Maxi-dot system, which is modern, slick, easy to use and with great graphics for the navigation. There’s something bugging me about the dash though, and that’s the heating controls. They look cheap and bland.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-

All Skoda have to do is perhaps add a rubberised coating to them, and maybe edge them in faux-chrome, and they’d look and feel so much better. It’s how they should be when you’re paying up to £7,000 more than the standard Fabia. If you’ve not optioned the Amundsen system, the heating controls actually look better than with, weirdly.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback 2013 review interior features

More on that side of things – there’s hard plastic trim everywhere in the Fabia vRS, with only a couple of places where soft-touch ones are used, and while it’s bolted together solidly overall, there was an annoying rattle coming from behind a vent. Other than that, there’s plenty of storage space around the vRS, with a cool twin glovebox in the upper and lower sections of the dash.

Skoda Fabia vRS touch screen mode radio gps telephone photos

The DSG gearbox shifter is understated, but elegant, and positioned well. The steering wheel is chunky and grippy, with only the essential button controls on there for volume and track selection, while the paddle shifters for the DSG gearbox are small, but superbly positioned. The dials are clean, and classy, with an information screen between which gives details on your fuel consumption, data for your oil and coolant temperature and more. It’s a neat layout for the driver, and I like it.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8230

A final point; I think Skoda are being overly tight by not including rear electric windows as standard. Sure, you can have them – for £160. It smacks of just too much penny-pinching on Skoda’s part. Items I’d option apart from that is a front centre armrest (£90), and cruise control (£175).

Engine and gearbox

There’s only one engine available with the 2013 Fabia vRS, and it’s an absolute beauty. Powering the vRS is a 1.4 litre, 4-cylinder TSI petrol unit, with both a supercharger and a turbo bolted on. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s pushing out an incredible 180PS (177 hp), and 184 lb. ft (250 Nm) of torque, and yes, it really is as quick as you’d imagine.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8094

0 – 62 mph (0 – 100 kph) is reached in a decent 7.3 seconds, and it’ll hit 139 mph at the top end. However, it’s the rolling acceleration which brings the real smiles – I’ll mention that in the next section. The 7-speed automatic DSG gearbox is positively brilliant. In normal drive mode it is smooth and almost seamless, making driving in heavy city traffic a doddle. In D, you’ve got the choice of going through the gears three ways – leave it to do the job itself, use the gearstick’s +/- setting to change, or use the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. In Sport, you can use the paddle shifters or let it do the leg work for you. All ways are very satisfying, as the DSG ‘box is just excellent.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback 2013 review steering wheel controls

Fuel economy is fair, with quoted miles-per-gallon figures of 36.7 urban, 54.3 extra urban. 45.6 combined. The reality? A couple of motorway runs saw 33 -37 miles-per-gallon at around 70 mph. Fluid drives in light traffic in 40/50 mph limits will see you getting figures into the mid 40’s. CO2 emissions of 148 g/km equate to £140 per year vehicle tax (2013), which is good considering the performance pumped out of the Fabia vRS’ little engine.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8378

The Skoda Fabia vRS Hatch is predominantly a very enjoyable and fun car to drive. Start the engine, and there’s a bit of a throaty growl from the exhaust, while there’s also a low volume blend of supercharger and turbo in the background.

Set off driving in normal D mode, and there’s a smoothness from the DSG gearbox that reassures you of the Fabia’s German engineering. It’s ultra-smooth, and changes gear so slickly you barely notice the shifts. As the road opens up, the wise choice is to click the gear lever down a notch into Sport mode. Instantly, the Fabia vRS changes down a gear, and it shifts gears much later than in D.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8237

Floor the gas pedal from rolling at low speed, and the DSG hesitates for a split second before changing down. At this point the Fabia vRS hurls itself forward furiously, the front tyres clawing and scrabbling for grip on the road, the steering wheel pulling and jolting as all that 180 PS of power produces obvious torque steer. Not overly much though, and it actually adds to the driving experience as you can feel the road through the ‘wheel.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8501

In sport, the Skoda turns into a proper little monster, and hooligan tendencies are bought to the fore. The power band is seems to just go on and on, with no turbo lag to deal with. As the needle hits 5,000 rom, there’s another surge in power, and you’re once again propelled forward, the Fabia vRS entirely gleeful at the hard thrashing. Respect is due to Skoda for the sport mode, as under hard acceleration the vRS won’t change gear until it hits a heady 7,000 rpm!

This Skoda Fabia vRS can absolutely wear the honoured hot hatch title with pride – it fully deserves it. It is a rev-happy loon of a car, and both driver and passengers in the car will grin from ear to ear when you push the throttle to the stopper. To go with the eager-to-please engine is a good sporty suspension set up. The ride isn’t too bad, although over some of the nastier potholes the car banged and jolted heavily, making it seem like you were about to lose a wheel.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8537

A negative point is the road noise, which comes into the cabin at a higher level than I expected. At motorway speeds on all but the smoothest tarmac, the noise was just too high, and I found myself having to turn the stereo up to combat it. This is most likely due to it transmitting through the vRS’ rubber-band-like 205/40 R17 tyres. Even at lower speeds it’s still obvious, as is the jarring over rougher surfaces. It’s not uncomfortable,  as the seats take out most of the judder, but it is noticeable.

On a positive note, the Fabia vRS handles itself in a manner befitting the performance, and it is self-assured should you want to chuck it around. There’s fun by the bucketload should you get into the twisty stuff, while the power is highly useable and instead of it overwhelming the chassis, it’s a great balance. I felt that the steering wheel is just too big though, for such a sporty hatch, and the size made it feel slightly cumbersome.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8391

The all-round disc brakes are also really positive, with good stopping power and a progressive – rather than aggressive – feel to them. As standard, the Fabia vRS comes with a whole host of modern safety tech, including stability control (ESP), XDS, which is similar to limited-slip differential, hill-hold control (HHC) and tyre-pressure monitoring (TPM).

When you want to drive the vRS in a normal manner – which probably isn’t often – it settles down nicely into a city runner or motorway cruiser. In fact, the Fabia vRS is a good all-rounder, and with the outstanding DSG gearbox, it’s a very easy car to live with. Aside from the road-noise that is.

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8455

Price

The Skoda Fabia vRS Hatch isn’t exactly a cheap car, but then it is competitively priced within its category. The Fabia vRS starts at a snip over £17,000, and with a few useful options, you’re looking at a little over £19,000. Aside from the sporty seats on the inside, plus a few pieces of black trim on the exterior and the 17″ wheels, you are effectively paying the extra money over the standard Fabia range for the vRS’ engine, transmission and sports suspension.

It is priced similarly to rivals and standard costs (Oct. 2013) are; Ford Fiesta ST 1.6 EcoBoost 182PS manual: £16,995, Vauxhall Corsa VXR 1.6 Turbo 192PS manual: £18,995, Volkswagen Polo GTi 1.4 TSI 180PS DSG (same engine/’box as Fabia vRS): £20,190.

Skoda Fabia vRS Hatch 1.4 TSI DSG 180PS verdict & score

Skoda Fabia vRS hatchback review 2013-8438-2

Not so good stuff: The interior, although well made and of decent design, is too plain and dull, and paying all that extra cash you’d think they’d upgrade the buttons and controls and make them look nicer. The steering wheel also felt overly-large for the car, and would definitely benefit from a smaller, more sporty version. Finally, the high road noise coming through those low-profile tyres spoils things, and if you do a fair amount of motorway driving, I’d take that point into account.

Good stuff: The Fabia vRS has absolutely earned its stripes as a true hot hatch. That VW-derived supercharged and turbo’d 1.4 litre engine is a gem, kicking out good power right the way across the rev range. The DSG gearbox is excellent too, and while I do love a good manual, this auto just makes the Fabia an even better car, with all the excitement you need. Handling-wise, there’s plenty going for the vRS, and it’s a good set-up, although it can give a slightly harsh ride over bad roads.

Do you own a 2013> Skoda Fabia vRS? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8
Interior  6
Engine  8
Gearbox (DSG)  8.5
Price  6.5
Drive  8
Overall Score  7.5 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Skoda Fabia vRS Hatch 1.4 TSI DSG 180PS
Spec includes  Multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters, LED running lights, red brake callipers, sports suspension, tinted rear glass, vRS bodykit with sports seats, curtain airbags  See website for more info
Options you should spec  Aundsen sat nav system (£625)
The Competition  Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento
Price  (Oct. 2013) Standard OTR: £17,150
Engine  1.4 litre, 4-cylinder petrol with a supercharger & turbo
Power, Torque, CO2  180PS (177 hp), and 184 lb. ft (250 Nm) of torque | CO2: 148 g/km (auto)
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front-wheel-drive | 7-speed DSG automatic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (ltd): 139 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 7.3 seconds | 4-star Euro NCAP rating
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Urban: 36.7, Extra urban: 54.3, Combined: 45.6
Weight (kerb)  1,243 kg’s (2,740 lbs)
Websites  Skoda UK, Skoda Worldwide

Check out our other car reviews here

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

13 responses to “2013 Skoda Fabia vRS Hatch review – Supercharged & Turbo’d Pocket-Rocket Will Eat Many Tyres”

  1. Confide

    I own a 2011 Fabia vRS mk2.
    Here in Sweden, the competition is ridiculosly overpriced so the Fabia was a right bargain in comparison!
    Very happy with it, but I had some own “not-so-good”-points about it :

    The suspension
    Yes, it is mentioned.
    The stock suspension manages to be both soft and hard at the wrong time.
    It’s hard when you go over speed-bumps and pothole, yet it’s soft when you press it through bends.
    Weitec GT-dampers and springs, bushings and a rear antirollbar fixed that up and now it’s a properly cornereater!
    Another + is that the GT-dampers are progressive so they actually are a tiny tiny bit comfier than stock.

    The brakes.
    Appaling. Bad. Horrible. Not worthy of beeing called “sport-brakes”.
    The front-brakes are horrible, had some 80-160 km/h pulls in the car. When I had done my 3:rd acceleration, the brakes where shot and it barely happened anything when I pressed on the pedal.
    An upgrade to the Octavia vRS mk1-brakes solved that, but it left me wanting more so I got some D2-brakes with 330mm discs and 8-pot calipers.
    Now it’s nose-diving abit too much for my touch, so will have to do something about the rearbrakes!

    The stereo.
    It’s okay for a standard-stereo, but not befitting a car like this.
    Focal in all doors makes the music come alive and the bass is delivered from a pair of 12″ basses.
    Built the box myself, I didn’t sacrifice much of the space since I used much of the floor for it.
    It still fits a full-size stroller after all…

    Other than that, I’ve been pretty happy with it…
    But as you might have noticed, the more you got, the more you want :D!

  2. Thomas Dick

    What a wonderful wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is one of the most charismatic cars I have ever owned (including MGB, CX25Turbo, Mazda MX5 to Merc E-class, Smart fortwo, Renault 4 and Citroen 2CV). It looks innocuous in Rallye Blue but floor the accelerator in sport mode and it really packs a punch. Yes the interior is plain but well built but we don’t all want to drive in a computer game machine. The power train and the DSG gearbox are amazing and I average about 1mpg less than the official figure. Well done Skoda.

  3. Russell James

    Purchased a 7 week ‘old’ Fabia VRS July 2013, with only 700 miles on the clock from main Skoda dealer. The car was fitted with optional 17″ alloys and digital radio and immaculate. My last car before breaking my back in 2004 was a brand new lotus elise. The Fabia is really an underrated car. Would recommend to anyone wanting an ordinary looking car (mine is magic black so looks pretty good with the wheels). Fabulous performance, good roadholding, fairly comfortable, bland but very useable interior, fuel consumption averages about 33mpg (although 45 can be achieved on a long motorway run at steady speed).
    All in all a great car.

  4. John Rathgen

    Have owned a Fabia VRS for just over a year now in Oz (bought March 2013). Love the engine but looking to get a power upgrade (recommendations accepted, I know Promotech do an 18kw upgrade assuming a Polo GTi one just plugs in) Pros: (1) Engine (2) Good handling in the dry. Cons: (1) Wet weather handling – seems like the engineers rely on the electronics rather than setting the car up properly (my old 2010 Mazda 3 would dick this in the wet), very easy to initially “let go” only to have the electronics take over, one moment of “yeehaa” then whoa as the computer kicks in (2) DSG, this negative is not about the car but about DSG as I have always driven a manual before this (done a lot of motorsport so drive by feel) dont like the hesitation when accelerating through corners (even when manually changing down prior, compared to a manual which gives instant feedback when power through – if they made a manual I would have bought it.

  5. Stuart Rogers

    Hi Chris,
    I’m still looking for my Automatic motor, the Kia Quantum I was interested in has gone so I’m still looking although have seen a Kia Soul Crdi 2 2013 fo £10,500 Dsg as another prospect for me.
    I Have also found a 2012 Skoda Fabia vRS with 13,000 miles, I like options on the auto Dsg box keeps tnings interesting having the different modes, and the paddle shift too.
    Couldn’t believe you had tested this one too, so thanks for that and this is another option for me. They want £11,000, but don’t want to pay that. Same dealer as the Kia Soul, here’s hoping I can get a deal that is right for me.
    Any more recommendations let me know.
    The Fabia vRS above does not have the sat nav tho, shame.
    Tks as always
    Regards
    Stuart Rogers

  6. Stuart Rogers

    Hi Chris, wasn’t sure how to contact you, but just wanted to say I have found my car at long last.
    I got a 2013 SEAT Toledo 1.4 Tsi SE Dsg with Lots of goodies added winter pack, front parking sensors and more in Ocean Blue, beautiful, 4000 miles only. Luv it, firm ride especially on the 17 inch alloys.
    I’ve indulged myself I find her comfortable, practical and fun, for me at least.
    Nearly new, good price. What more can I ask for.
    Not everyone’s cup of tea, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. No plain Jayne for me and much better than the Skoda Rapid (even if it is made alongside it in the Chech Republic). Better interior too. Tks for your help and comments. Keep up the good work.
    Best regards
    StuartRogers

  7. Stuart Rogers

    A quick update on my 2013 SEAT Toledo SE 1.4 TSI DSG 7 speed auto in Ocean blue.
    Still love my motor, still gets people staring at it, some think its a Subaru!!! Others a Skoda Octavia VRs!!!, must be the colour, surprised when told it’s a SEAT, but positive comments so that is good.
    I had the second service done last year at Garaj Raymond Pontyberem my local family dealer, I thought a bit expensive at first, but it included 12 months SEAT Breakdown cover, Europe home start etc top notch, so for me a good offer. (As long as you want Breakdown cover). Economy is good 50 to 55 more on a long steady run, great Auto Box, best I’ve ever driven, with my back neck and left knee problems a godsend. Regular trips up to the Midlands keeps the Toledo in fine fettle. Arriving at our destination totally chilled and ready for a cuppa.
    A joy to drive, comfortable, handles well, loads of room, the boot is amazing unbelievable what you can get in it. 1st MOT due end of March 2016, should fly through it hopefully. Thinking of extending the Warranty but can’t do it until this one ends! Bit weird. Also one of the service plans may be a good
    option so will check that out too, anything to save some down.
    Now my first problem, Friday 15th January 1100, shopping day, she wouldn’t start, tried again no joy, rang SEAT Breakdown once through arranged for AA to come out, just over the hour, Roy, nice guy tried the usual same a me no joy, now no lights on display dead nothing took dash out to reset numerous times no joy. Attached car to tow, front raised and taken to Garaj Raymond, to be assessed etc. I was kept informed by SEAT and Roger at Garaj Raymond. Seemed the display was gone and the alarm and immobiliser had activated which was no doubt the reason for not start and running. At least I know the immobiliser works. Arranged a car for yesterday Saturday 16th as I was in no rush. Collected by driver and taken to collect my replacement a 64 Toledo diesel manual which is fine short term, any probe and will change for an auto. Ordering parts Monday so could take a while 4 days or 2 weeks plus, will have to see. Is this a common fault? Not sure but will find out, also checking battery as stated low battery on radio screen, so this 64 model in Gun metal grey or whatever it’s called is nice, don’t like interior, no place for my clutch foot on rest, so I wouldn’t buy a manual version. Sat Nav DAB radio, not liking it yet, 1.6 diesel seems sluggish, so will have to drive more before passing comment. Bye for now. Stuart Rogers

  8. Stevo Johnson

    I have a Fabia VRS TSI on a 60 Plate.

    So i guess most people will know about the oil consumption issues the early CAVE engine codes, but there are still some good ones out there, mine included.

    All i will say is don’t let the bad reports put you off looking, great little cars, with a few modifications, they can be awesome little cars!

    (PS were the original photos for the review taken off Bankside in hull!?)

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