From £19,7306
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.

Skoda fabia monte carlo 005 panning

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.

Skoda fabia monte carlo 012 dash

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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.

Skoda fabia monte carlo 003 rear cornering

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Peter Cavellini 18 August 2022

 For a Car with a low base price of £15,300 to over £27,000 , you'd expect a lot more bangs for your Buck than a weedy little four pot, I hope they do a Vrs version with even a tasty turbo two litre under it bonnet!

artill 19 August 2022
Peter Cavellini wrote:

 For a Car with a low base price of £15,300 to over £27,000 , you'd expect a lot more bangs for your Buck than a weedy little four pot, I hope they do a Vrs version with even a tasty turbo two litre under it bonnet!

Apart from the daft extras pushing the price up £3,500 the 2 issues this car has are the compulsory auto, adding cost, and robbing involvement, and the standard suspension. I bet with VRS style suspension and a manual box, even with just 148 BHP Skoda would have a hit on their hands. And given how much they usually add for the cost of the auto, that car could be £22k