Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo review: price, specs, drive impressions

Drive-away prices for small automatic hatchbacks have climbed in recent years.

You’ll need $25,490 to take home a new Suzuki Swift, $27,000 for a bargain-basic Mazda2 or Toyota Yaris and $33,000 for a Volkswagen Polo.

Hyundai, Ford and Honda no longer offer the i20, Jazz or Fiesta locally, finding that a sustainable business case could not be made for their compact machines.

That’s not the case for Skoda.

Volkswagen’s value-focused cousin launched an updated Fabia this week, pitching the car as a single automatic hatchback priced from $37,990 drive-away.

No, that’s not a typo. And no, this is not a high-performance hot hatch but it does have a decent engine and plenty of standard features.

This feels like a bold strategy for a model that previously opened the batting order with a manual Fabia priced from $15,990 drive-away, complete with auto emergency braking and a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Skoda defends its eye-watering price by saying the majority of customers “overlooked standard cars for higher-spec ones”, and that the average price paid for one of its cars has climbed by $13,000 since 2007.

Skoda estimates there is an extra $15,200 in equipment within the new Fabia Monte Carlo that replaces an older model sold from $29,490 drive-away.

But it also replaces cheaper models sold for far less than that, as there is no entry-level model in the Fabia range.

In any case, the Skoda makes a strong first impression.

Handsome 18-inch wheels and crisp exterior details meet a cabin that borrows from Volkswagen’s GTI handbook. It looks and feels premium in a way few city cars can match.

A black headliner sets the mood for a sporty theme offset by bright red highlights across the dashboard and well-bolstered sports seats.

People want more from their cars in 2022, which is why the Fabia is loaded with a 10.25-inch digital dash, 9.2-inch central touchscreen and modern luxuries such as wireless phone charging, wireless smartphone mirroring and dual-zone climate control.

There are air vents in the front and rear, along with USB-C charging points.

Safety is accounted for by an impressive array of tech including auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts.

There’s more under the bonnet than you’ll find in most city car alternatives.

Powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, the Fabia serves up impressive 110kW and 250Nm outputs.

Drive goes to the front wheels through a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission (there is no manual option) that contributes to impressive 4.9L/100km official fuel economy.

It reaches 100km/h in a decent 8.0 seconds, but you have to fill it with premium unleaded.

British buyers can pay half the money asked for a Monte Carlo and get one that takes twice as long to reach 100km/h.

But you forget about the basic models when taking hold of a flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel that would feel at home in a high-end Audi.

Crisp steering delivers more accurate changes in direction than you’ll find in most baby cars, while there’s a reassuring response from the brake pedal.

The Monte Carlo’s sport suspension is tauter than most rivals and the big alloys with low-profile tyres prioritise precision over plushness.

An occasionally busy ride is a worthy trade-off for quick reflexes and a more engaging drive.

But the bigger question is whether it’s worth spending almost $40,000 on a tiny hatchback.

VERDICT

Three and a half stars

Sweet to steer and loaded with gear, the Fabia does a lot to justify its substantial asking price.

SKODA FABIA MONTE CARLO

PRICE From $37,990 drive-away

ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW and 250Nm

WARRANTY/SERVICE 5-yr/u’ltd km, $1550 for 5 years

SAFETY Six airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert

THIRST 4.9L/100km

CARGO 380 litres

SPARE Space saver

Originally published as Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo review: classy hatch worth the premium

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