I know some people who are unstoppable fans of races and rallies. Many of them are good drivers themselves, but not rally drivers. Decked up in colour-coded caps, T-shirts and even goggles, they lean on fences or hang off trees, wearing their racing spirit on their sleeves, literally! They are the reason Sébastien Loeb or Petter Solberg never needed cheerleaders. But that doesn’t make them rally drivers, mind you. But I think flaunting that spirit so unabashedly should alone make them part of the rally chronicles! Quite like the way the Fabia Monte Carlo 2012 Limited Edition draws on the soul of the world’s oldest and most challenging rally in its centenary year.
The reason why we put ‘Design’ first on the list, unlike the usual practice of talking about the Drive, is that design is at the heart of this Fabia. Red and ravishing, it looks like a V-day bundle all right. And in a way it is – a bundle created by Skoda for the love of rallying.
Right from the aggressive black vertical grille to the black beading that runs around the car to the blackened clear glass headlamps… the Fabia Monte Carlo wears its sporty soul on its sleeves. I particularly loved the way the Monte Carlo 2012 badge is worn below the A-pillars – a classic touch to the essentially sporty outfit. The doorsill badges and the race-inspired pedals in aluminium as well as a smug and sporty steering wheel recount the legend further.
The 1.6L engine of the Skoda Fabia produces a guttural rumble good for its size but lacks the torque to match the bearing of the name Montecarlo. In fact, it beats me why the phenomenally more powerful Fabia RS was not chosen as the tribute vehicle to the world’s oldest race? With its spiked 184 hp 1.6 L engine it would have been a more obvious candidate than the 105 hp 1.6L every day car this Fabia is.
But then, Monte Carlo is not about sheer speed. Long before drivers negotiated those suicidal curves and snowy, rainy, murky stretches at a mind-boggling 87km/hr, they used to “race” to the finish at just 25 km/h average, feeling good about it all the way. With its steadfast maneuvering, this Fabia too has the poise to smooth over your daily ride while looking good all the time!
The six-speed gearbox is a rarity in its class and helps one to ease into comfortable speeds without much ado. Overtaking comes easy on highways with a more willing lease of power than when you started. But if you are aiming at a ‘dip and disappear’ sort of ride to catch the flight, you could be disappointed. Even the S-mode is more of a mandatory sport thing – coz it slips back to the gear it thinks is right, sooner than you want!
Complimented with a responsive steering with quickly rectified under-steer, the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo 2012 doesn’t have to try too hard to grab attention. Nor is it meant to be driven hard in an overriding effort to live up to its name!
Cabin and Controls
The front seats are pretty comfortable and sumptuously sporty in its dual colour fabric. The boot space was just good enough to accommodate our pram – but remember it is the mother of all prams – and that says a lot about the space. For still more, simply knock down those folding rear seats! The console panel is minimalist with just the necessary buttons to adjust your AC, call in the Bluetooth pairing and fiddle with the media. AUX inputs and iPad connections are available making it a functional cockpit with a screen that puts up trip info. The parking sensor visual display is quite useful too.
The Fabia Monte Carlo 2012 doesn’t allow your sporty leanings to come in the way of your daily commitments just in case this is your only car. Under the rally wraps, it is just an everyday car with just the right stuff to get you from Point A to point B; again, looking good all the way.
While the driver’s seat even provided support for the knees, the rear seat gave a feeling of a bit of ‘leftover legs’ though the headroom is probably best in class. The baby seat, too, was inclined a bit unusually, thanks to its joining angle at the bottom – the baby didn’t complain – so I guess it does fine after all!
The playschool brunch-box design with a squarish glass house above a squarish chassis is still kept alive by the Fabia and the Mini. Fabia would love to be in the celebrity circle if the Mini and the Monte Carlo edition just might help it to hang there for a while, with its black wheel arches, black seamless surround line, black everything and of course the price tag of AED 66,000. In a compact category, only the Fiesta Titanium would beat that price but for a limited edition, it is still a good deal.
The Essential Fabia Monte Carlo
If you are looking for a practical compact that blends catchy looks with a responsive drive, you have a few options for more or less the same price – like the Ford Fiesta or the Kia Rio. Those who buy the Fabia 2012 Monte Carlo Edition would buy it to wear it like a badge – for the love of the sport the name commemorates.
UPSIDE: Rousing design in black and red, Six-speed gearbox, Ample power for its category and size, responsive drive, plenty of headroom
FLIPSIDE: Power falls short of the image the name creates, Price competitive for a collector’s edition, rear seat leg-support might be lacking
Drive courtesy: Ali and Sons
Pictures: Skoda archives and Sudeep Koshy