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Skoda's Fabia Reaction is a limited run bargain that deserves serious attention. Andy Enright reports.
Okay, perhaps you're a bit cynical about special editions but here's the thing. The Skoda Fabia Reaction is priced at £9,690 - that's £3,715 less than the normal price of £13,405 for a 1.2 hatch. Air-conditioning, alloy wheels, and Meteor Grey paintwork are among a decent equipment list. Bargains don't come much more straightforward than this.
It's a rather depressing fact of life that £10,000 doesn't seem to buy you very much car these days. It doesn't seem all that long ago when you could start looking at some solid middleweights for just slightly less than five figures but as cars have become more expensive, it's hard to find value somewhere. I needed a sit down when a friend told me he'd contemplated spending over £30,000 on a diesel Honda Civic. Therefore, it's always refreshing to bring you a good news story when it comes to value for money in cars and the Skoda Fabia Reaction is all of that. You probably know this Fabia model quite well. It's the second generation model which was originally launched in 2007 but has had some nips and tucks since. The Reaction is spun off the entry-level 1.2-litre hatch and if you need a car that's inexpensive but doesn't look it, this Skoda has a lot going for it.
If you're familiar with Fabias, you'll know that its 1.2-litre petrol engines come in three guises. Quickish, slow and very slow. This Fabia Reaction gets the slow one. It's a 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit with 12 valves which makes 70bhp. It'll get to 60mph in 14.4 seconds and hit a top speed of 102mph and while those aren't standout figures, there's an enthusiasm and honesty to this powerplant that is extremely rewarding. And it's far more satisfying than the 16.5 second performance of the 60bhp six-valve engine that represents the only other Fabia under £10k. The basic underpinnings, a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear, haven't changed a great deal from the old Fabia but tuning to the damping means this car rides a good deal more smoothly. The steering wheel requires a bit of arm twirling lock-to-lock but it's a decently accurate helm and the gearchange is one of the best in its class.
The Fabia Reaction hides its bargain basement price tag quite convincingly. At this price point, buyers come to expect black plastic door handles and naff wheel trims masquerading as alloy wheels but this Skoda is better than that. The 16-inch black Comet alloys complement the black detailing on the roof, mirrors and grille and are a good match with the standard Meteor Grey paint finish. Privacy glass is also fitted. Drop inside and there's more space than you'd normally expect from a budget supermini. Skoda claim more rear knee and headroom than any rival, helped by the fact that the Fabia is 22mm longer and 47mm taller than the model it replaced. Boot capacity stands at an impressive 300-litres with the seats in place or a massive 1,163-litres when they're folded.
It's hard to argue with the Fabia Reaction's list price. It's pitched at less than you'd pay for a basic Hyundai i20 which will appeal to those looking for more car and beefier build quality. Equipment includes air-conditioning and a three-spoke leather-trimmed steering wheel on top of the standard Fabia kit list. This includes an outside temperature gauge, a 4 speaker MP3-compatible CD stereo, 60/40 split fold rear seats, a height and reach adjustable steering column and an auto-dimming interior mirror. Stability control is on the options list though, which scores a black mark for Skoda. Yes, you will get more toys to play with if you choose an i20 and you'll get more horsepower under your right foot as well, but there's something about the Fabia that makes it look a class of car above the otherwise admirable Hyundai.
You don't buy a 1.2-litre Skoda Fabia and then expect to be clouted by high running costs and initial impressions suggest that this will be one of the cheapest superminis to run on a long term basis. For a start, Fabias have always held very firm when it comes to residual values, used buyers valuing the Volkswagen Group input and resolute build quality. Secondly, as this is part of the entry-level petrol engine family, insurance is very cheap at just Group 4E. Finally, there's economy. This 1.2-litre 16v model manages to return a figure in the region of 51.4 mpg on the combined cycle which isn't at all bad. Naturally this figure will take a dive if you load the vehicle up and are a little enthusiastic with the throttle but it's a very good base point given how big the Fabia body is. Emissions are rated at 128g/km.
The Skoda Fabia made its name in offering good value for money but as the model has crept surreptitiously upmarket, new supermini entrants have staked their claims to territory Skoda previously called its own. The Reaction is an apt name for a car that has been built to combat exactly this threat. While it's an easy car to recommend, offering relatively upmarket looks at this price point, it remains a limited run model, not really addressing the bigger picture of what Skoda needs to put one over on its Korean rivals. Still, that's Skoda's issue. The Fabia Reaction might not have the greatest engine in the supermini sector, but if you're looking for a well-built, well-styled vehicle that looks and feels anything but bargain basement, it's well worth getting after. You'll probably need to be quick though.
|Vehicle Class - Supermini|
|Overall Review Score||84%|
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