METRO PLUS

Czech and balance

PAY CZECH The Fabia promises to be Skoda's volume seller in India, and embodies top-in-class build quality. Interiors are simple, but again built to last, while VW-derived engines are equally robust

PAY CZECH The Fabia promises to be Skoda's volume seller in India, and embodies top-in-class build quality. Interiors are simple, but again built to last, while VW-derived engines are equally robust  



Skoda's smart looking Fabia should be here before the end of the year, and it's worth the wait, says ASHISH MASIH

To seem successful, you need to make a lot of money. Being called high on class and quality is all right, but you need to be raking in the greenbacks by the shovel-load as well. The same philosophy applies to cars. Selling high-end cars is good for image but it's the high volume sellers that rake in the `moolah' for the manufacturer and define a marketing success. And the Fabia is the car that will finally do that for Czech carmaker, Skoda. The Fabia is critical to Skoda's growth in the Indian market. While the Octavia and Laura have established Skoda's credentials as a quality carmaker, it will be the Fabia that can take the company to new heights. That's purely because the Fabia will be the most affordable Skoda yet.But Skoda has its work cut out for itself - while its brand image is rock solid, so is its competition in the entry luxury level segment, notably the Hyundai Verna, Ford Fiesta and the Honda City. Unlike the Octavia, which started out with no history in India to draw from, the Fabia will surely piggyback on the awesome reputation for durability and quality its bigger brother has established. And it helps to have an owner like VW - you get the tried, tested and hugely successful Polo as a platform to build a car. The Fabia looks unmistakably like a Skoda. The family genes are quite clear, thanks to Belgian-born Dirk Van Braekel, who since has moved on to design Bentleys. The chunky shape, the straight-cut headlights and the bonnet ridges that run down into the edges of that unmistakably Skoda grille leave you in no doubt where this car comes from. Being built on the Volkswagen Polo's platform ensures it's built to the highest of safety standards and comes with the same build quality that Volkswagen is renowned for.

The inside story

First impressions are that the Fabia looks like a shrunken Octavia and the sedan version is dimensionally smaller than the Honda City, with similar proportions to the Fiesta and Aveo. Interiors are quite similar to the Octavia in terms of design and feel - no funky themes here, only grey and black. The interior of the Fabia might come as a shock, for a car in its class it is made of high quality stuff indeed. Not just in terms of the quality of components but also the attention to detail and ease of operation.But like the Octavia, one of the Fabia's greatest tricks is to convince you that you're piloting a car several classes up. The minute you step inside and slam the solid doors shut, no other car in this class isolates you from external influences so effectively.

Under the bonnet

There's a 1,390cc petrol 16 valve motor that develops a modest 80 bhp and should provide smooth with a nice linear power delivery. On Indian fuel, this engine would see a further power drop, which might make it underpowered in the face of competition. However, it is also likely that Skoda may introduce the Indian Fabia with a more potent 100 bhp version, which is essentially the same 1.4 motor in a higher state of tune. Also expected in the Fabia is a 1.4 TDI motor developing close to 80 bhp - knowing India, this could be the better seller of the two.Where the Fabia should trump its competition is in sheer build quality. The design maybe understated and lack panache, like other Skodas, but true to tradition it should make up with the top-class feel and texture of cabin materials. Like the Octavia, you can expect the Fabia to feel daisy fresh after 40,000 km, a feat not many others will manage. Skoda has been delaying the Fabia launch since some time now. However, being late to enter a crowded segment also gives it an advantage of knowing the opposition's strengths and weaknesses. Keep your fingers crossed, this one is definitely worth the wait.

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