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Skoda Fabia vRS: Buying guide and review (2010-2014)

Skoda Fabia vRS: Buying guide and review (2010-2014) Classic and Performance Car
Skoda Fabia vRS Skoda Fabia vRS Skoda Fabia vRS Skoda Fabia vRS Skoda Fabia vRS Skoda Fabia vRS
The original Skoda Fabia vRS came right out of left field. Introduced in 2003, it provided a genuinely alternative take on the hot hatch thanks to a torque-laden 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine that endowed the previously eminently ignorable Fabia with surprising pace combined with pleasing frugality. We loved it, as did its owners. 
 
When Skoda introduced its replacement in the summer of 2010, there was a slight sense of disappointment that it had gone for petrol power (no, really, there was). Not that the power unit was entirely conventional, being the VW Group’s 1.4 TSI ‘Twincharger’ engine – featuring both a turbo and a supercharger. Very effective it was, too, producing 178bhp in a pleasingly linear manner, and with a nifty seven-speed DSG gearbox as standard it was enough for a 0-62mph time of 7.3sec and 139mph. It was the fastest Fabia yet, and if it lacked the final sprinkling of magic that, say, a Renault Sport hatch might possess, it was a very decent all-round package.
 
Well-equipped, too. As well as DSG, you got plenty of toys including air con, excellent vRS-branded sports seats, eye-catching 17in Gigaro alloys (painted black as an option) and the option to have a black or white painted roof. At £15,500 it was good value, and for a further £795 you could have it as an estate.
 
Pretty soon after the Mk2 vRS’s launch, stories began to emerge of excessive oil consumption and, in some cases, engines requiring rebuilds or even replacements. Browse the internet and you’ll find plenty of tales of woe. In truth, the picture is nowhere near as bleak as it might appear, but there have been real issues with the twincharger engine, and it pays to approach Fabia vRS ownership with your eyes wide open.
 
A warranty could be worthwhile for peace of mind. The standard Skoda manufacturer’s warranty was three years long, with the option to add an extra two years. If you can find a car with the balance of the manufacturer warranty, that’s obviously well worth having. Dealer and third-party warranties are also available. As you’ll see, they could prove a wise investment.
 

Performance and specs

 
Engine  In-line four-cylinder, 1390cc, twincharger
Power 178bhp @ 6200rpm
Torque 184lb ft @ 2000-4500rpm
Transmission Seven-speed DSG, front-wheel drive
0-62mph 7.3sec (claimed)
Top speed 139mph (claimed)
Insurance group   27
Price when new £15,500 (2010)
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase            2454mm
Length 4029mm
Width 1642mm
Height 1494mm
Weight 1218kg
 

Common problems

 
• Spend time researching twincharger engines online and you might get the impression that every vRS is a ticking bomb. As ever, that’s not the whole story, although Ed Jackson at VW Group specialist APS confirms that a significant number – mostly early engines, coded CAVE – suffer excessive oil consumption caused primarily by defective pistons. 
 
• Another common issue is misfiring, often linked to problems with PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) pushing oil into the intake. The worst cases have seen engine failures, necessitating a replacement engine. 
 
• A substantially revised 1.4 TSI (engine code CTHE) was introduced late in 2012 and addressed many of the problems. A sticker at the bottom of the driver’s door pillar will tell you which engine you’ve got. According to the guys at briskoda.net, of the 2900 or so Mk2 vRSs sold in the UK, around 1800 had the CAVE engine and around 1100 the CTHE. They estimate that up to a third of the pre-2012 engines have suffered issues. With the later unit, the numbers are nowhere near as high.
 
• ‘Obviously you’re better going for the later engine,’ says Ed. ‘That said, if an early engine has now done 50,000 miles without problems, then it’s probably going to be OK. Look for a film of oil in the exhaust, or oil spray on the back of the car after a run. And if there’s an oil container in the boot, that’s probably a sign it needs regular topping up!’
 
• There’s quite a bit you can do to guard against future problems. Doing lots of short journeys is best avoided. Changing the spark plugs every two years or 20,000 miles, using good-quality oil and checking it regularly, and also using good-quality fuel – all these things can help.
 
• The engine is receptive to tuning – remaps are widely available, as are cold-air intakes and freer-breathing exhausts – but this can exacerbate any problems, so modified engines need meticulous upkeep.
 
• The seven-speed DSG gearbox is generally rugged. A small number of cars did experience an issue with the mechatronic unit, leading to a loss of drive. 
 
• There was a service campaign, 34F7, starting in spring 2014, to change the gear oil from synthetic to mineral oil, with a software update at the same time. Skoda dealers should be able to confirm if the car you’re looking at should have had the service action. Look for a note in the service book, and/or a sticker in the wheel-well in the boot, for evidence that it’s been done. 
 
• On the test drive, try the ’box in both modes (Sport locks out seventh gear) and check for smooth, precise changes with no low-speed judders.
 
• No particular issues with suspension, steering, brakes, so any clonks or creaks are signs that the car hasn’t been that well cared for.
 
• As you may have surmised, any warning lights should be thoroughly investigated, and it’s worth having the ECU read for fault codes. 
 

The rivals

 
 
The Clio 197’s nat-asp engine has more power but less torque than the twincharged Fabia. £4k-8k gives you plenty to choose from, including Cup models. It also buys you a 182 Trophy…
 
 
Between 2010 and 2014 the Polo used the same 178bhp 1.4 TSI engines as the Fabia, though performance stats were marginally better. You pay a premium for the badge, with prices starting at £8k.
 
 
The R56 Cooper S (2006-14) has similar power (173-181bhp) and performance to the Fabia in a cuter bodyshell, but also has its own engine issues, so buy carefully. They start from around £5k.
 

Summary and prices

 
Cars from 2010/11 with average-to-high miles and a full service history start at around £5500. Similar cars at dealers (so usually carrying a warranty) generally cost about a grand more. At the upper end, £8000 gets you a late car (with the revised engine) with low miles and just one or two owners. Estates are rare and command a small premium.
 
All Fabia vRSs were well equipped as standard, but black roofs (an optional extra at around £450 when new) and black wheels are sought after, as are heated seats.
 
Words: Peter Tomalin
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Last updated: 10th May 2017
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Skoda Fabia
1995 14895 GBP
  • Skoda Fabia

    £8,499 £8,499

    Variant name:VRS DSG ,Derivative:VRS DSG ,Variant: 1.4 TSI vRS 5dr DSG

    • Year: 2011
    • Mileage: 19369 mi
    • Engine size: 1.4
    For sale
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    Lookers Group -Stockport ŠKODA
    0844 947 7232 View contact number
  • SKODA FABIA VRS DSG 2013 25000 Auto Petrol White

    £8,000 £8,000

    WOW, The Iconic And Ever Popular Skoda Fabia VRS Auto Finished In The Most Desirable Of Colour Combinations....Couple This With A Full Service History And An Immaculately Presented Interior And Exterior And You Start To Build The Picture As To Just How Nice This Skoda Really Is., Manual Air - Conditioning, Tyre Pressure Monitor (TPM), Radio Swing 2DIN with Single CD (Can Play MP3 Recordings) and 3.5 mm AUX Socket, Hill Hold Control (HHC), Alarm with Tilt Sensor, Electric Front Windows, Sunset Glass (From the B - Pillar Back), 17in Gigaro Alloys Wheels 7J x 17 (205/40 R17 84W). 5 seats, White, We Have Driven This Vehicle And Can Report Everything Works Exactly As It Should. The Car Pulls Smoothly And Very Powerfully Throughout All The Gears, There Are No Knocks, Rattles Or Squeaks From Anywhere On The Car. All 4 Tyres Are Matching Premium Brands, We Have Both Original Keys And The Full Original Book Pack. The Car Really Is A True Credit To Its Previous Owners. All Our Cars Are HPI Clear. Part Exchange Is Always Welcome. Please Read Our Customer Reviews, We Are Very Proud Of Our 5 Star Rating. Call Daryl Or Sarah, 7 Days A Week. Do Not Miss This Car!, GBP 8,000

    • Mileage: 25000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.39
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    £8,000 £8,000