I drove the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo – it’s great value but ‘driver assistance’ tech treats you like an idiot


IF I listened to the advice this Skoda gave me on Tuesday, I’d currently be collapsed with heat exhaustion.

While we were all getting bombarded with guidance to carry a litre of water with us in the car, travel early, or take shelter in a church, this Skoda was telling me to keep my windows UP.

To save a bit of fuel.

I only cracked them open to get some breeze on the hottest day on record but this little Fabia was having none of it.

Another gem from the car’s onboard computer is, “Remember your mobile phone”, when exiting the car.

I will.

I’m not an idiot.

Please stop telling me what to do.

And don’t get me started on the aggressive lane assist which constantly tugs at the steering wheel to keep the car inside the white lines.

I was giving a cyclist a wide berth, actually. And now I’m about to hit them.

But apart from all the pointless “driver-assistance” tech and nanny-style messages, I like this Fabia Monte Carlo.

A lot.

It looks cool in red with black detailing. You can have a 110hp 1-litre petrol or a rapid 150hp 1.5. Your age/insurance bill will decide that for you.

And it’s sensibly-priced from £21k.

Now let’s take a closer look at the cabin. As I said, tidy. Digital cockpit first seen in the Audi TT. Martini-inspired seat stripes. Carbon-effect trim. Sporty three-spoke steering wheel. Aluminium pedals. Manual handbrake. Black headlining. Squishy armrests. Apple CarPlay. All things that please.

Plus, being a Skoda, it is super practical with the biggest boot in class (380 litres).

But I do have another grumble. Air con. There are knobs to change the temperature. Which we like. But you can only adjust fan speed via the touchscreen. Which is stupid.

At least there’s a steering wheel button to switch off the dastardly lane assist.

You just have to keep doing it every time you restart the car.
As for engines, we tried the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol used widely across the VW Group.

It’s bulletproof. And clever. It shuts down two cylinders under light load to lower emissions and improve economy.

We averaged 54mpg on a 110-mile motorway run. Proving once again that big engines do work in small cars.

They are less stressed than a 1-litre three-pot and do decent numbers.

I should also point out the 1.5 is only available with a seven-speed DSG auto. No flappy paddles, which seems a bit odd, as they would have added to the notion of sportiness.

The 1-litre has the option of manual or auto.

No complaints with the ride and handling. It’s basically a Polo under the skin. It could easily handle more oomph.

Let’s finish by discussing the name of this top-spec Fabia.

Monte Carlo, after the world-famous Rallye Monte Carlo, where Skoda has enjoyed many champagne moments over the years with its properly awesome Fabia WRC2 car.

The hills above Monte Carlo would have been the natural backdrop for this test.

But I haven’t got a few grand spare for fuel.

And it’s too hot.

So the next best thing is the Monte Carlo of Derbyshire.

It was 7am. Big bottle of water. Windows down all the way.

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