Question marks over Skoda pricing

Skoda is known as the VW Group’s value brand, yet this week the Fabia hatch launches in Australia with a price and equipment equation that is inferior to the equivalent Volkswagen Polo.

Priced at $18,990, the Fabia 77TSI 1.2-litre petrol-turbo variant undercuts the Polo 77TSI by just $760. However the cheaper price also reflects a thinner equipment list. A five-speed manual is the only transmission available, while the Polo scores six cogs. 15-inch steel wheels are standard, and to match the Polo’s standard alloys, buyers will need to fork out another $990 – immediately making the Fabia more expensive when equipped to the same level. In fact, the Fabia’s only equipment advantages are standard fog lights and a full-size spare wheel. Skoda offers climate control as a $390 option, however Volkswagen packages climate with rain-sensing wipers, auto-dim rear view mirror and a tyre pressure monitor for just $500.

The value message clearly doesn’t reflect that of the Octavia mid-sized hatch, which is larger and better equipped than a Golf, for the same or less outlay.

This doesn’t make the Fabia a bad car; in fact quite the opposite. Our first drive on local roads indicates that it is a softer car than Polo, but in some ways all the better for it. Ride quality is excellent on wrinkly Aussie roads, and the steering feels meaty and natural. Even with a tall-geared five-speed manual, the small turbo-four feels punchy and torquey. We’ll have a full road-test report in the November issue of Wheels, out Wednesday November 19.

Light cars are big business in Australia, commanding 13% of the passenger car market so far this year. While the Fabia is expected to boost small-player Skoda’s overall volume, there’s only a very small carrot to tempt buyers away from the resale-security of the Volkswagen badge…

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