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Wednesday 15th May 2002


SKODA FABIA

Ted gives it some welly in the Scottish Highlands

We've been keen to get our hands on the beautiful Fabia for some time. It's adesign classic in the mould of the Beetle, the Mini and the 911. The elegantlyproportioned Skoda takes design cues from a hacked about lump of cheddar withneatly proportioned lines, a chunky and purposeful looking body and a bonnetthat begs to be bitten off and enjoyed with a cream cracker.

Skoda enjoys an enviable reputation in world rallying now and we couldn'twait to see if the development experiences of Welsh forests would benefit us aswe headed for Scotland to give it some stick, some welly, a thrashing andperhaps even to set fire to it.

Admiring Glances

As we exited Edinburgh conscious of the admiring glances from othermotorists, I wound up the power and the chirpy little four pot screamed formercy. Entering the power band at 4,000 rpm (the engine barely works belowthat), I was slammed back in my seat as the torque thrust the car forward alittle bit. Rearing up like a horse about to bolt, I nailed my foot to the floorand we hurled across the Forth Bridge at 40mph leaving pedestrians in our wake.

As we hit the motorway I turned on the headlights in preparation for bearingdown on other motorists at high speed. Luckily the road was fairly empty andwith no sign of the police I slammed up the gearbox winding the car up to an eyewatering 105mph. The little projectile rocketed up the smooth motorway withbarely a grimace bar the constant argument with the rev limiter.

Head for the hills...!

Turning off the motorway we headed for the hills. Mile after mile of gorgeousB road to test the chassis and our nerve in one of our all time favourite sportscompacts. Ripping the gear lever out in my eagerness to wring more power fromthe screaming lump I left it in third as we thundered across the dramaticlandscape pausing only briefly for a Werthers Original and a scone.

The rallying pedigree of the car was very evident and a tribute to Skoda thatthey can bolt such a wonderful chassis underneath such a stunningly chunkybodyshell. 90mph (still in third) across the B roads we soaked up the bumps,crossed the ruts and approached the first tricky bend. As my codriver belted out"Sharp right, ninety! ", I kicked the Fabia into Radio 4 and wetook the bend with The Archers drowning out the sound of the rev limiter aboutto lose its rag completely.

Confidence

Our confidence to capability ratio was low early in the day, but by the timethe World at One bellowed over the tinny speakers we were well into our rhythm."Medium left, one hundred over crest, " I could just about hearthrough my earplugs, balaclava and Benny hat. I lifted off slightly as weapproached the rise in the road, reached down for another Werthers and pulledthe car round making full use of the over assisted steering, tearing off thecolumns stalks in the process. A hint of tyre screech indicated we wereapproaching the limit of adhesion and our heart rates quickened. It was time - Ireached down and flicked the switch. The air-con whirred into action, the carslowed and we breathed a cool sigh of relief just before we hit the sheep.

It was without doubt one of the test drives I've done.

Radio

The Fabia scores in all departments and is a car that not only drives butcomes with a full compliment of wheels and doors in all the right places. Forbroad based driver appeal, comfort and a radio, you'd be hard pressed to find aradio that could compete.

Skoda have come a long way in recent years under VW's guidance and it'sreassuring to find a car that's so delightfully under styled. There's beauty insimplicity. And the Fabia is a simpleton.