Cars like the Enyaq have shown that the future of the Skoda vRS is battery-powered; cars like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N and Abarth 500e have shown that the future of the hot hatch is battery-powered, too. There will be some combustion options for a while, perhaps a cool hybrid or two, but the future is set. For some types of car, the switch to EV feels like a great move; for others - hot hatches in particular - the removal of so much sound and sensation is a concern. But it isn’t the first time the segment has dabbled with an alternative to petrol…
Back in the early 2000s, the notion of a diesel hot hatch seemed as far-fetched as an EV one would have until very recently, but that didn’t stop Skoda. Buoyed by an enthusiastic response to the Octavia vRS, it followed that up with its first Fabia vRS, offered only with a 1.9 TDI and a six-speed manual. To some, the notion of a five-door Skoda diesel as a pocket rocket just didn’t compute, but that didn’t stop the vRS establishing quite the reputation for itself.
Sure, it wasn’t as nimble or as delicate as something like a Mini Cooper or Fiesta Zetec S, but in its favour, the Fabia had huge real-world performance for not much money, smart good looks and incredibly low running costs. Diesel didn’t take over hot hatches, but it did prove a (sort of) viable alternative. Helped that the venerable old 1.9 PD could be so easily tuned, too.
When the diesel was replaced by a supercharged and turbocharged 1.4 petrol with a seven-speed DSG, identical to the Polo GTI and Ibiza Cupra, some of the distinct identity was lost. When those cars were beset by reliability concerns, affection only increased for the old diesel workhorses. Now, with a vRS Fabia never likely to happen again, the originals are bordering on cult classic status.
No, really. Of course, there are some old sheds out there with huge miles because these things are so useful, but also some cherished Fabias as well. The blue Limited Edition cars from the very end of the production run are really prized now. This car isn’t one of those, though it is incredibly low mileage (just 22,000), and a previous owner has even gone to the effort and expense of a Milltek exhaust. No stranger than artificial EV noises, you might say…
Seven services doesn’t seem like loads for 17 years, though the Fabia does benefit from a very recent cambelt, water pump and MOT. As might be expected given the mileage, it looks like a lovely little example, red paint having lost none of its lustre and and that vulnerable cloth upholstery free from any suspicious stains. Credit where it’s due to Skoda - these first vRS models, if conservative, still look smart for 20-plus years old.
The asking price is £8,995, a solid chunk of the original RRP. But they’re getting rarer, these Fabias, as long lives of hard work (and maybe a dubious modification or two) take their toll. It’s hard to imagine many more being around in this sort of condition, either - likeable or not, the vRS were cheap Skodas at the end of the day, and precious few will have been mollycoddled. For fans, it’s quite the opportunity. And for those who reckon it’s too much for a Fabia, just look at the prices attached to the hot hatch curios of the 20th century. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea - but you wouldn’t bet against it being someone else’s...
SPECIFICATION | SKODA FABIA VRS (2003-2007)
Engine: 1,896cc, four-cyl diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 130@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 229@1,900rpm
0-62mph: 9.5 secs
Top speed: 128mph
Year registered: 2006
Recorded mileage: 22,000
Price new: £12,380 (2005)
Yours for: £8,995
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