Skoda are bucking the trend when it comes to the runt of the litter by making one version as grand as its flagship models.
Top-of-the-range Monte Carlo — named after the famous rally — is as exotic as the name suggests and is a heady mix of sporty design and state-of-the-art technology.
Built on the same AO4 platform as its posher cousin, the VW Polo, the Czech brand have added snazzy paint, side skirts and spoilers front and rear.
Throw in 16-inch Proxima black alloys, specially designed bucket seats bedecked in faux leather and snazzy striped fabric, colour-coded trim running the entire length of the dash and you know you’ve got something a bit special.
The driver-focused cockpit is unrivalled in its class with chunky sports steering wheel nestled in front of a fully digital instrument cluster.
The binnacle is encased in piano black with the Fabia name emblazoned on both sides adding a premium sporty feel.
The clocks are completely interchangeable and you can choose the backround from a menu including Google maps. The 10.25-inch virtual cockpit is an optional extra costing €526 and is a must-have as it brings the Fabia into a whole new dimension.
I was quite shocked to find this level of tech in a small city car and it made my own 2016 BMW 5-series look positively dated.
To further compliment the aforementioned is the standard 8-inch Bolero infotainment system with crystal clear graphics and rapid response software. It’s home to phone, music, maps, Apps and unfortunately the climate control, which some may find a bit finicky.
Although the three-pot is ideal for pottering around town and a higher revs sounds throaty, it dampens the sporty experience
There’s plenty of room onboard for a growing family and will easily accommodate two adults and three children.
The boot is almost on par with the VW Golf — boasting 380 litres, expanding to a decent 1,190 litres with the seats folded flat.
One thing worthy of mention is the level of safety kit as standard and includes emergency braking, lane change assist and front, side and head airbags.
The options list includes adaptive cruise and lane keep; Traffic Sign Recognition, which adapts your speed to keep you within the limit; Side Assist for pulling out of junctions and Manoeuvre Assist – keeps an eye on moving vehicles while you’re manoeuvring.
Engine wise the Monte Carlo is available with the choice of two engines ranging in power from 95-150bhp.
We tested the smaller of the two in the guise of a three cylinder 1.0-litre turbo-charged petrol. It is mated to a five-speed manual transmission and has emissions of 118g/km which means annual road tax of €190.
Although the three-pot is ideal for pottering around town and a higher revs sounds throaty, it dampens the sporty experience.
The sprint from 0-100kph is a snail-like 10.6 seconds which makes overtaking, especially on motorways, a bit tricky.
Economy suffers too if you are doing a lot of motorway driving and the claimed 5.2 L/100kms is probably closer to 7.0 litres as she sits close to 3,000rpm at a constant 120kph.
The bigger 1.5-litre TFSi petrol unit would be preferable for those making the monthly visit to see granny in Galway.
Pound for pound, the Fabia Monte Carlo is more style over substance and if you are looking for hot hatch handling, then you’d better save another €10,000 and buy a Ford Fiesta ST3 before they stop making them.
The Fabia Monte Carlo starts at €25,690 plus postage and packing.