Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo 2022 UK review

skoda fabia monte carlo 001 cornering

As competent and rounded a supermini as you’ll find, though none the more fun for its warm-hatch makeover

It’s an immutable law of motordom that buyers will always want sporty-looking styling, even if they don’t want a car that’s remotely exciting to drive. Volvo sells R-Design models by the bucket-load; Audi buyers love an S Line. And now the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo – traditionally the least sporty supermini on European roads, and departing very little from that pigeonhole even in latest-generation form – is available in much the same vein.

If you remember when Citroen once offered a Saxo VTR, which packaged the visual appeal of a VTS into a more affordable – and ultimately considerably less exciting – package, this idea will be familiar. The Fabia Monte Carlo gets 17in wheels as standard (although our test car wore optional 18s), as well as beefed-up bumper styling, and some racy black body trim. If you go for a range-topping 1.5-litre car (a 1.0-litre is also offered), you get special Monte Carlo front wing badging too, and you can add a black ‘contrast’ roof as an option. But, while this is the only 1.5-litre Fabia you can buy, there is no special suspension or powertrain tuning here. It’s a skin-deep exercise.

Inside the car, there are some moderately exciting red dashboard decorations; there’s a red-themed display mode for the digital instruments; and there are sports seats. The last of those are quite high-set, but they look the part and hold your backside pretty snugly, even if the integrated head restraint design is a bit over-the-top. 

Does it all make the Fabia any more meaningfully inviting? It’s questionable, since many of the car’s mouldings are hard- and plasticky-to-the-touch. Also because Skoda’s standard equipment tally isn’t particularly generous. A 1.0-litre Fabia ‘Monte’ is only about £500 pricier than an equivalent SE L; but that means items like cruise control, factory navigation, seat heaters and wireless device charging are all cost-options.

The interior doesn’t feel like a premium prospect, then – but it’s certainly roomy and functional. Second-row space is very good by supermini class standards, and storage space is cleverly provided between several cubbies throughout both front and back rows. The Fabia’s boot, too, can be arranged and divided up very cleverly if you option up Skoda’s various storage solutions, and has bag hooks, shopping-holders and under-floor space if you want them.

To drive, the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo is refined, comfortable and pleasant, and has an assertive turn of pace. But, while it’s very easy to get along with and secure in its handling, that extra dose of mechanical grip doesn’t make it much fun. 

There is more surprising big-car isolation and waft about a Fabia than there is energetic zip or athleticism. The ‘Monte’s 1.5-litre powertrain has its merits but doesn’t rev particularly freely, and the DSG gearbox doesn’t shift especially quickly. Body control is respectable, but you can find the depths of the slightly meek damping authority well below the national speed limit on a proper B-road. Appetite for cornering is moderately keen; but for a small car there is little natural agility here, and only fairly dialled down chassis and steering responses.

There are plenty of places you could spend this kind of money, then, and get a compact hatchback with a genuinely engaging driving experience to match the visual performance seasoning (start anywhere you like between a Ford Fiesta ST Line, Mini Cooper, or even with the surprisingly affordable Hyundai i20 N). If you really only want the latter, and you like the Fabia’s practicality, functionality, easy livability and value, this car is clearly worth considering. Be well-prepared, however, for it to seem, to others, like a waste of a good branding opportunity.

Source: Autocar

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