SKODA’S head of business sales, Martin Burke, was a recent guest contributor on the Fleet News Careers page.
In the ‘How are you settling in?’ section, he revealed that one of his biggest challenges is to convince fleet managers to step outside their comfort zones and be more open-minded to car manufacturers from outside the mainstream fleet pool.
His task of increasing Skoda’s market share should be becoming less of an uphill struggle on the strength of cars like our long-term Fabia vRS.
Like Vauxhall with its VXR range and Ford with its ST models, Skoda is hoping to attact more user-choosers with sporty models which won’t break the bank to run.
Which is where the Fabia vRS comes in.
This attractive and racy hot-hatch has been doing its bit to put paid to the Skoda image of the past, when low price was its sole merit.
Price is still a big factor – at just under £12,400, it undercuts its Volkswagen Group rivals like the SEAT Ibiza FR TDI by £1,400 and the Volkswagen Polo 1.9 TDI Sport by around £2,000, despite sharing the same engine – but there’s much more besides.
That 1.9-litre TDI unit produces 130bhp and 229lb-ft of torque and makes the Fabia vRS one of the most powerful diesel small cars yet. Put your foot down in third, fourth or fifth gear and as long as the turbo is spooled up, the Fabia will surge forward dramatically.
It’s also very economical to run. We haven’t achieved the claimed 52.4mpg combined, but still managed an average of 43.7mpg, giving a range of more than 400 miles on a tank of diesel.
It looks the part too, sporting 16-inch alloy wheels with green brake callipers visible through the spokes, a roof spoiler at the rear and a deeper front spoiler than its lesser-powered siblings.
The Fabia vRS has already been a success for Skoda in the fleet arena. The combination of low front-end price, low running costs and benefit-in-kind tax at £43 a month for a 22% taxpayer persuaded company car drivers to mop up a third of the 3,000 models sold last year.
If our experience is anything to go by, that figure could well increase.
Price: £12,375 (£14,250 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 146
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £43 per month
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 52.4
Test mpg: 43.7
CAP Monitor RV: £4,825/39%
Contract hire rate: £271
Total expenditure: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles