What is it?
Monte Carlo. The home of the mega rich, yachts bigger than detached houses and more supercars per square mile than almost anywhere on the planet. So, without sounding snobby, it seems a slightly strange nameplate to use on a Skoda supermini.
But there’s more to Monte Carlo than just the chintz, as it’s steeped in motorsport history, with the Monaco Grand Prix and also the legendary Monte Carlo Rally. It’s the latter where Skoda has had much success over the years, with the Monte Carlo nameplate being used across the brand’s models for more than a decade in celebration. Skoda is now back with a new Fabia Monte Carlo, but what’s it like?
The Monte Carlo sits at the top of the Skoda Fabia line-up, and with no vRS version planned for this latest fourth generation supermini, serves as the sportiest model.
It’s largely cosmetic changes where the Fabia Monte Carlo benefits, with the fitment of 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats and a racier bodykit around the full exterior of the Fabia, but more on that later. Skoda has also introduced a more potent engine to the Monte Carlo that’s not available on other trim levels.
What’s under the bonnet?
The majority of buyers will opt for the standard turbocharged 108bhp 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine that’s widely found in the regular Fabia. Available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic, it’s able to accelerate this supermini to 60mph in under 10 seconds, while averaging up to a claimed 55mpg.
But if you want a bit more poke, Skoda offers a turbocharged 1.5-litre TSI petrol, which is exclusive to the Monte Carlo, and what we’re trying here. It’s also only offered with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Producing 148bhp and 250Nm of torque, it’s able to accelerate the Fabia from 0-60mph in 7.9 seconds and carry on to a top speed of 139mph.
Despite more performance, it’s still efficient – Skoda claims 49.7mpg (a figure we regularly saw on the trip computer) and CO2 emissions between 129 and 137g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
Make no mistake, this Fabia Monte Carlo is no hot hatch, but it’s still good to drive and offers a great ‘small car feel’ down the right road. It handles neatly, grips to the road well and can be enjoyed, though a Ford Fiesta offers a more engaging to drive.
The 1.5-litre TSI engine goes well too, offering plenty of pace when you want it, but settling down when you just want to make steady progress. The lack of cruise control at all is an annoyance, and feels particularly stingy on a top-spec supermini – an entry-level Polo, for example, gets it as standard.
Our test car also rode on optional, larger 18-inch alloy wheels. While they certainly looked the part, the ride was very firm and crashy over bumps. We suspect the standard 17-inch wheels are a better option.
How does it look?
Though Skoda has unquestionably smartened up the design of the latest-generation Fabia, in cheaper, lower-spec trims, the design is quite bland. It’s one of those cars that would drive by and you wouldn’t pay any attention to whatsoever.
But – like its predecessor – the Monte Carlo successfully addresses that. The standard black and diamond-cut 17-inch alloy wheels are attractive, while sportier bumpers immediately give the model more presence. The gloss black styling kit also works wonders, applying the finish to the roof, mirrors and grille, and immediately gives the Fabia a more muscular presence. Our test car in Race Blue suited the look particularly well.
What’s it like inside?
Skoda has also smartened up the interior of the Fabia Monte Carlo, as it gets appealing sports seats with integrated headrests that lift the cabin on their own. It also benefits from a raft of red accents that are welcome and add plenty of extra flair, including ambient lighting in this colour, along the door card trim and on the dashboard.
Though there are some harder plastics used throughout the cabin, it generally feels well-built and befitting of a top-spec supermini. Though rear legroom is average by class standards, the Fabia has one of the largest boots in its segment, measuring 380 litres – the same as the Volkswagen Golf from the class above.
What’s the spec like?
The Fabia Monte Carlo is largely well-equipped, with highlights including 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights. An excellent 10.25-inch digital cockpit is also included, which offers sharp graphics and can be easily configured. The eight-inch touchscreen is quite basic, but includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unless in-built sat nav is a must, we wouldn’t make the £1,100 upgrade to get the larger screen.
Prices for the Fabia Monte Carlo kick off from £21,125 for the 1.0-litre version, and another £1,000 if you’d prefer the automatic gearbox. This 1.5 TSI model comes in at £23,925, and with a few choice options, the price can quite easily rack up to £27,000, as was the case with our test car. At that price, you can get behind the wheel of a genuine hot hatch in the form of a Ford Fiesta ST and Hyundai i20 N.
The Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo builds on the success of its predecessor by injecting lots of extra style and flair into this otherwise quite plain hatchback, and transforms it into a very eye-catching supermini. Yet, still largely retaining the Fabia’s reputation for quality and practicality.
The addition of the extra poke from the 1.5-litre engine is welcome, though we reckon the regular 1.0-litre models make the most sense considering the driving experience isn’t ‘sporty’. Be reserved with your options and this is a fun-looking hatch that represents great value, and could save you the need to upgrade to models in the class above.