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Comfort zone

Skoda Fabia 1.2 HTP Sport

Quite a lot of attention was attracted by the red Skoda Fabia with a white roof I took out for a test drive last Friday week. This is a totally new Fabia and the model I had on test comes with the optional Sport package, including the eye-catching white roof, making the Fabia the only model in its segment with this option.

It was a pleasant afternoon drive that took in our capital, Valletta, the Valletta Waterfront, where I gave up on the parking, and the Vittoriosa Waterfront, where I shot these photos below Fort St Angelo with a packed port full of cruise liners in the background and a few superyachts beside me, before returning it to Frank Borda Ltd.

I was not alone for this drive - a prospective buyer who shall remain nameless was sitting beside me and was suitably impressed. It is hard not to be: the build quality and the finish of all Skoda models just continues to improve with each successive version.

With external measurements of 3,992 mm in length, 1,642 mm in width and 1,498 mm in height, it is among the largest in its segment - that of superminis or segment B in which cars tend to continue to grow.

The new Fabia has a sensible, appealing exterior design and a classy, good quality interior: a good combination. The white roof tends to accentuate its flatness, with a high shoulder line on the doors and angular windows. The large wrap-around windscreen is framed by a pair of black A pillars - a nice detail that makes the roof look as if it is suspended even on non-sporty versions.

The front grille is dominated by the circular Skoda logo with the flying green arrow motif, there are large headlamps that sweep to the side of the car and optional fog lamps (standard on the Sport version, along with 15-inch alloy wheels, sports bucket seats, three-spoke leather steering wheel, small leather package and sports interior - all for an extra Lm500 on the standard price).

Looking at the car from the rear, the proportions look quit similar to the outgoing model, although the boot space and rear window have been improved (see below).

The door mirrors are large, offering excellent rearward visibility and the standard features on the Ambiente model, which costs Lm6,199 for the 1.2 12-valve HTP petrol, includes; semi-automatic air-conditioning, hydro-electric power steering, front electric windows, heated, electric door mirrors, 'Dance' radio/CD/MP3 player with audio jack in the central console; remote central locking, ABS, immobiliser, front and side airbags for driver and passenger, tinted glass with UV filter, colour-coded bumpers and door mirrors, split 60:40 rear seats, height-adjustable driver's seat; on-board computer, pollen filter, reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, refrigerated storage compartment, front seatbelt pretensioners and rear windscreen wash wiper with intermittent mode.

The well proven, thrifty three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine has been further optimised and is now offered in a version with increased power of 70 bhp and torque.

The modern aluminium engines with chain drive for the camshafts are characterised by their low fuel consumption, a low degree of internal friction and improved reliability. In the new Fabia excellent acceleration and top speeds of 155 to 161 km/h are the result.

These engines already fulfil the requirements of the Euro 4 emission standard and, of course, the Fabia obtained five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test.

For those who prefer Diesel, there is a three-cylinder 1.4 TDI with 70 hp and 155 Nm of torque (pulling power) at between 1,600 and 2,800 rpm. Combined consumption is 4.8 litres/100 km and CO2 emissions at 127 g/km.

I immediately found my ideal driving position. There is good all round visibility and, having made the usual adjustments, I was off, diving straight into traffic for Valletta. Despite being a supermini, the Fabia feels reassuringly solid.

It was not for me to make any tyre-burning starts, but the Sport package does made this car that more special for not much more. Skoda sold 1.5 million units of the first-generation Fabia, so no less is expected of this new version, unveiled in the spring at the Geneva Motor Show.

I found the Fabia easy to manoeuvre and park, the instrumentation is sensibly distributed, good quality instrumentation, clear dashboard info. and nicely put together radio/CD system.

Skoda boast that the Fabia has the largest knee and headroom in the rear of any vehicle in its class and I am not surprised. Even room in the front is not compromised and my driving companion did note how much leg room there was.

The boot has a basic capacity of 300 litres, rising to 1,163 litres when the rear seats are folded down.

In terms of safety, there is the option of curtain airbags, and a child's seat can be fixed with a top-tether belt which limits the forward movement of the upper part of the child's seat in the event of a head-on collision.

Six-gear automatic Tiptronic transmission can be ordered with even the lowest powered engines instead of the standard five-speed gearbox.

In the field of communication technologies, the new Fabia provides a modern, innovative preparation for the GSM telephone with Bluetooth, or the audio system with the possibility of connecting external units such as MP3 players or iPod.

A total of seven engines are available for the new Fabia - four petrol and three diesel, so you are really spoilt for choice.

Overall, Skoda have come up with another good quality model that is of ideal size and proportions for the average Maltese family, with the Sports package targeting the younger generation. See or be seen, this is a Fabia that you should certainly consider if you are in the market for this type of car.

At a glance
Engine, in-line three cylinders, petrol; overhead camshaft, multi-point injection.
Displacement, 1,198 cc, four valves per cylinder.
Max. bhp, 70 at 5,400 rpm. Max. torque (pulling power), 108 Nm at 3,000 rpm. Unladen weight, 1,040 kg. Top speed, 155 km/h. 0-100 km/h, 16.5 seconds.
Combined fuel consumption, 5.9 litres/100 km. CO2, 140 g/km.
Dimensions, length 3,992 mm, width 1,642 mm, height 1,498 mm, wheelbase 2,462 mm.
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