Live from the launch: Skoda Fabia VRS

Last time Skoda made a VRS version of its supermini, the Fabia, it decided to make it a little bit different and gave it a diesel engine. This time around the brand has gone for a more conventional approach and has slotted in the same petrol engine that will appear in fast supermini offerings from Seat, VW and Audi.

That particular quirk may have gone, but this doesn't mean the Fabia VRS is not worth considering against these rivals from within the VW group.The big unique selling points that the Fabia has, like many other cars in the Skoda range, are its practicality and usability. The hatchback is only available in a five-door version – the others only come with three – and the fact that there is even an estate version on the way.

While the ride is a little firmer, as you would hope for from a little hot hatch, it is not so firm that you feel your teeth are going to be shaken loose, and this suits the Fabia. It almost feels like a very quick hatch that that has not been compromised horrendously to improve the performance.

The gearbox enhances this feeling. The VRS only comes with the VW group's seven-speed DSG 'box, but it is smoother than on some other cars where it features. We did our best to catch it out on a few of occasions with swift downshifts from speed, and only a couple of times did it not respond in the usual immediate manner. The only times it was less than precise was on a fast change down from speed on the track drive we were able to take in the Fabia.

The only criticism we could level at the gearbox is how it is laid out for the Sport mode. It is so high revving in all the ratios that it never moves above fifth, even at motorway speeds. The screaming that it produces, and the competence of the gearbox in normal mode means you will rarely want to shift into Sport on the road. You probably will though, as annoyingly, Sport is selected by moving the lever in a straight line back from Drive, so it is easy to pick it by mistake.

The 1.4-litre TSI engine with both a turbo and supercharger has been praised wherever it has appeared in the VW group's cars, and it is particularly good in the Fabia. Its 7.3 second 0-62mph time and claimed 45.6mpg figure mean this should be a nicely understated, but nippy hatchback for those that are bored by the usual Polo and Seat offering.
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