The Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo splits the difference between hot and cold hatch, and although its purchase price is high this new light car delivers in every aspect
- How does the Fabia Monte Carlo drive?
- Drivability scorecard
- How is the Fabia Monte Carlo’s interior?
- Interior scorecard
- What are the Fabia Monte Carlo’s running costs?
- Running costs scorecard
- The final verdict
- Overall rating
- Refined 110kW engine
- Excellent ride
- Clever packaging
- Affordable service packs
- We wish there was an RS
- High price of entry
- No lane-trace assist
- Not many coming to Aus
The Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo is the sole Australian variant of the Czech brand’s new generation light car. The Fabia was previously your price entry point into a Skoda, but with its $37,990 driveaway tag, you’re on the road in a larger Scala for less ($32,990 driveaway) or Kamiq SUV for the same price.
Skoda has become much less budget-orientated, and the updated Fabia city car exemplifies this. At $13,000 more than the previous ‘NJ’ Fabia Monte Carlo, it’s 52 percent dearer than before.
That’s a huge upcharge, but this Fabia is truly all new. It now sits on the MQB-A0 platform shared with the Volkswagen Polo Life ($25,250 before on-road costs) and Audi A1 30 TFSI ($33,800 before on-road costs). The Fabia is, naturally, larger than before: it’s 116mm longer and 48mm wider.
The Monte Carlo also comes equipped with Skoda’s 110kW/250Nm ‘TSI Evo’ engine. It effectively splits the difference between a regular ‘light’ car such as the Mazda 2 GT ($26,290) and Toyota Yaris ZR Hybrid ($32,200), and small hot hatches like the Hyundai i20 N ($34,990) and Volkswagen Polo GTI ($38,750).
Skoda only has 600 Fabia Monte Carlos to sell over the next 12 months due to European demand, so if you want one you might want to get in line quickly. The Skoda isn’t likely to set sales charts on fire of course, with Toyota shifting 296 Yaris last month there simply wouldn’t be enough Fabias to dominate. Skoda has said if demand is there, a more affordable 85kW/200Nm Fabia could arrive in the future to increase volume.
But we can only evaluate what’s in front of us. Yes, the Fabia is expensive right now, but prices are up on lettuces, iPhones and everything in between. Even the Hyundai i20 N has climbed 10 percent after just six months on sale and, in a sea of less space efficient and thirstier small SUVs, the Fabia Monte Carlo is a gem in the market for those who appreciate city-friendly cars.
How does the Fabia Monte Carlo drive?
Without sticky tyres, lowered suspension and aero addenda the Fabia Monte Carlo isn’t a representation of what the hot hatch means today. But its 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.0 seconds, 250Nm of torque and svelte 1250kg kerb weight give it similar pace to early 2000s examples such as Peugeot’s 306 GTi 6 (1997-2000) and Toyota’s Corolla Sportivo (2003-2005).
The Fabia Monte Carlo’s ‘110TSI Evo’ 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder is a smoother and more refined unit than the 1.4-litre engine found in the Volkswagen Golf 110TSI with peak torque spread from 1500-3500rpm. When combined with an expertly calibrated seven-speed DSG transmission, the Monte Carlo is a peppy – if not outright fast – hatch.
Being a little more soft-edged than the i20 N and Polo GTI makes the Fabia feel more mature on the road. This light car doesn’t get tossed around by trucks on the freeway, and isolates occupants from bumps. The Fabia Monte Carlo’s ride verges on supple, but its torsion beam rear end can’t quite match the level of compliance and control in the larger Volkswagen Golf with its independent rear suspension.
For a light car, the Fabia’s road noise insulation is excellent. The high-quality 215/40 R18 Continental Sport Contact 5 tyres certainly help here, staying quiet on coarse chip. The German Conti rubber also has great levels of grip in the wet and dry without excessively hard sidewalls that impact ride comfort.
Another Skoda hallmark is the Fabia’s light, responsive steering. Its front end may not be ultra sharp and Fabia does roll in corners, making it feel more true to the original hot hatch recipe. That is a deft, flowy and light-on-its-feet hatch, not a silly stiff track toy.
The Fabia continues to impress in urban areas. Its small size fits in shopping centre carparks, tight inner-city streets and narrow carports. Fabia’s glasshouse also offers excellent visibility, something that can’t be said of small SUVs such as the Mazda CX-30.
As for safety, the Fabia scored five stars in Euro NCAP testing, but the results have not been converted to ANCAP standard. The Fabia misses out on adaptive cruise control, but has lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, reverse AEB and forward AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection.
Power & performance 7.5
Ride & refinement 8.5
How is the Fabia Monte Carlo’s interior?
If the experience on the road is improved, the new Fabia’s cabin is completely transformed. The Monte Carlo’s red accents tie into a really classy feeling cabin, with lovely materials galore, a perfectly-sized steering wheel, stellar packaging and plenty of technology, too.
This starts with a generous 9.2-inch touchscreen that has in-built navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. There’s Skoda’s signature 10.25-inch digital driver’s display that can show a full map, and although the six-speaker sound system isn’t amazingly crisp or powerful, it does the job.
The Monte Carlo’s manually-adjustable bucket seats are gorgeous too, appointed in ‘thermoflex’ fabric that feels high quality. The bolsters are supportive and they look incredible, tying nicely into the broad red strip across the dashboard. The Fabia also gets three-stage heating as standard for both front seats – a feature not available on any VW Polo or the i20 N.
Typically, the Fabia scores a host of Skoda’s surprise-and-delight features including hidden door umbrellas, a dust bin in the door pocket, torch in the boot, a host of cargo nets and reversible rubber boot mat.
For a car just over 4.1-metres long the Fabia’s back seat is very generous. At 188cm I could comfortably sit behind myself for over an hour. There are rear air vents and a pair of USB-C fast-chargers to keep those in the back seat comfortable and their devices charged.
Another boon for the Fabia is cargo space. The Monte Carlo has 380 litres of the stuff, just one-litre shy of the current Volkswagen Golf. It is also significantly bigger than physically larger cars such as the Toyota Corolla hatch (217L) and a Mazda 3 hatch (297L).
Under the Fabia’s floor there’s even a spare tyre. It may not be a matching 18-inch ‘Libra’ alloy but at 185/60R15 it’s also not a temporary space saver. To us, that shows Skoda’s thoughtful attention to detail.
Layout & materials 8.0
Cabin technology 8.5
Driver comfort 8.5
Passenger space 8.5
What are the Fabia Monte Carlo’s running costs?
The Skoda Fabia is a fuel efficient vehicle with an official ADR 81/02 rating of 4.9L/100km. In our 213km of driving, the Fabia averaged 5.7L/100km. However, on the 115km run back from the Blue Mountains to the Chasing Cars HQ it went as low as 3.9L/100km.
The potential for incredibly low fuel consumption is there, but when testing a car in limited time you tend to lean a little harder on the engine – during the drive loop we averaged 8.0L/100km. The Monte Carlo requires at least 95RON premium unleaded as it is fitted with a petrol particulate filter.
Skoda offers affordable service packs across its range. Being the smallest offerings, Fabia and Kamiq cost the same to maintain. Five years/75,000km is $1500, while a seven-year/105,000km plan costs $2100.
Compared to rivals – even non-European ones – these charges are cheap. A three-cylinder Polo 85TSI costs $2200 for five years/75,000km; a Kia Rio GT-Line is $2128 and a Toyota Yaris $1025.
Choosing to pay $2100 for the seven-year service plan also extends the warranty period to seven years/unlimited kilometres (normally five years) until the 31st of December this year.
Running costs scorecard
The final verdict
With a 50 percent upcharge, the new Skoda Fabia is undeniably expensive. Fabia has more technology, panache and space inside than the Mazda 2, Kia Rio or Toyota Yaris, and that all comes at a cost.
Were there a full-fat Fabia RS performance version it might push even further into enthusiast-hungry small hot hatch territory, but for now this is a niche small car.
But Skoda is aware of this, and only has around 600 Monte Carlos to sell initially. For those who appreciate a compact vehicle that feels grown up and special, the Fabia Monte Carlo will strike a chord.
For those looking to cross shop this new Skoda against regular light hatch rivals, you’ll have to wait a little longer for the Czech brand to evaluate a mid-spec model that competes more squarely on price. Right now, the Fabia Monte Carlo is a pricey but still excellent choice.
Overall rating 8.0
Running costs Great