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In my the long line of hire cars I have had to endure for work the latest was a diesel Skoda Fabia hatchback. It has the 1.4 TDi engine that has become almost ubiquitous in small diesels so it pulls away fairly well and the road holding is pretty good.
The biggest failings are the disturbing levels of engine noise inside the car and the incredibly basic level of equipment. You won't believe it but he one I had did not have air con or remote central locking. For the first time in many years I actually had to put the key in the door!
I am quite demanding with cars, in the course of my work I regularly drive 1000-1200 miles each week so any flaws and discomforts soon become apparent.
The first journey I undertook in it was from the hire base in Southampton to a customer in Taunton. When I arrived my head was ringing with the blare of the engine. Skoda need to greatly improve the level of sound insulation in the cabin. Considering the price range of these cars I was surprised that there is no Air Conditioning and no electric windows. Remote central locking is an important feature for me as I usually approach the car with armfuls of equipment and tools and it can be tedious to put everything down to put the key in.
The dashboard and fascia were made from that dull grey plastic that was used in Citroen cars in the 1970s and managed to look cheap and basic. The Radio CD player was of average quality with four speakers, you would probably want to change this. There is no Auxiliary input for MP3 players, no USB or Bluetooth. The wipers have three setting, intermittent, slow and not so slow, The rear wiper offers the option of on or off.
The seat belt anchorage is adjustable but not adjustable enough to be comfortable for me. At one point the belt was across my throat, I slipped it off on the M5 for 30 miles but don't tell the Old Bill! I couldn't stand it any longer. Unusually, I did not get stiff legs, so the seating position is actually quite good. Well done Skoda!
The boot is average size for this kind of car but fell short of my requirements. Another point of failure was the hand grip for pulling the lid down. This has been placed for right handed use only. Every other car I have driven this year has had a hand grip on both sides of the tailgate. This one has a rubber strap hanging from the right hand side. I can foresee it perishing and breaking off in time.
The quality of the body build is average but a vast step up on Skoda's standards from thirty years ago. The seating is comfortable but not very supporting. It would be OK for short journeys, such as driving a couple of miles to the office and once a week to Tescos.
Performance is good for a 1.4 engine, I enjoyed the fast country lanes as it is sure-footed on bends but a stint of motorway travel highlights the lack of guts. It doesn't actually struggle at 70 but feels and sounds as though it is working very hard indeed.
Mrs JFP commented that it felt like the kind of car you should buy when you are 80 and it did feel as though people were failing to see it. I was carved up more in the few days I drove this car than in any other.
After a week I begged the hire company to take it back and give me something more practical, which they did. I only had it for 976 miles but that was a good enough test drive to show me that I don't want one.
Do we really want to be encouraging 80 year olds to buy cars?
RICHADA 06.09.2010 18:42
Spot on your observationabout people failing to see you in the Fabia. I drove an early Superb for several days and found it a frightening experience due to everyone wanting to pull out in front of it, or take huge risks to overtake it - being a 2.5 6 Cylinder diesel it more than held its own, much to the all too obvious dismay of the Clio racer brigade. R.
jesi 04.09.2010 20:21
I would have had the belt around my middle but just slipped my arm and shoulder out, so technically it was on and fastened . . . I had to get a special clip to lower my seatbelt when it caught me around the neck, being short, and even now I have a soft band around the belt against my neck/shoulder
. . . ♥ jesi ♥