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Ah, Skoda. You know the jokes that usually go around: how do you double the value of a Skoda? Fill the tank!

When Volkswagen AG took control of Czech automaker Skoda in 1991, it was positioned as the new budget marque of the group, with Volkswagen itself being pushed up a segment higher. Despite being a budget marque, the cheapest Skoda we can get here in Malaysia is the Skoda Fabia 1.4, with a price of RM100,948.00, putting it into direct competition with other fully imported superminis like the Jazz and the Yaris.

Check out my report on the Skoda Fabia 1.4 after the jump.

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Fully imported superminis have been gaining popularity ever since the introduction of the Jazz – they’re fuel efficient, easy to park, and with the premium price you pay, you usually get a stylo car, even though in reality most of the money is going to the government’s coffers – but you do feel pretty stylo driving it.

So how does the Skoda Fabia fare as a supermini? Forget the old jokes about Skodas, this is something entirely new. Based on the underpinings of the Volkswagen Polo, the Skoda Fabia is not a mini-MPV style of supermini that we’ve all come used to, it’s more of a proper 5-door hatchback ala the Proton Satria. But even though it’s not a tall mini-MPV, you won’t be finding yourself short of headroom in the interior, and rear legroom is good as well, with the rear bench put on a higher level than usual to allow for a better angle for you to rest your legs, that way your knees won’t be shoved against the front seats.

Skoda’s design cues have generally been likened to a slab of metal with wheels and body panels are usually just plain sheets of metal without much elements to make them more interesting, like the creases engraved into the side of the Mercedes Benz B170 to make it look less wedge-like. The Fabia is not a great looker like the Jazz, but you’ll be glad it at least comes with properly sized aesthetically pleasing alloy wheels that fill up the wheel arches, none of those 13 inches steel stuff. The rear lamps design have little inward pointing C designs to it, to help make the car look wider than it really is. On the overall, the Skoda Fabia gives you a really stable, grounded, and ready to go look.

And it goes like it looks. The car is very stable even at 170km/h, and NVH is excellent. Lane change composure is very steady, and there is no excessive bodyroll when you take corners. This car feels great around corners due to it’s squat stance, you won’t be able to experience this kind of drive if you’re in a taller mini-MPV style of supermini.

You also have to remember that this chassis also takes in a 150 horsepower 1.8 litre turbocharged engine in one of the higher end models, so the 75 horsepower 1.4 litre causes no drama at all, though acceleration can really be quite sluggy. Okay, REALLY sluggy. Once you discover there is really no point putting the pedal to the metal, it kind of encourages you to drive economically.

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Get into the cabin and you’ll find the design very familiar and typical of a Volkswagen. There is a CD player with large buttons that are easy to reach and press. The meter panel is the typical Volkswagen design of two round dials flanking an LCD display in the middle, but on the Skoda, this LCD display is a very basic model, showing only important details like gear position, mileage and fuel level.

Something not found in other superminis in this price range are two cooled compartments for you to chill your drinks – one in the glove compartment for the passenger and one for the driver.

There is one issue though, the tacky chrome trim around the gear shift lever can reflect sunlight right into your eyes sometimes. The gear shift itself was also pretty quirky, the safety button to shift into certain positions can sometimes get stuck in a permanently activated position – this can be dangerous, you could accidentally shift into R or P while you’re on the go.

Skoda has successfully undergone a transformation from the brunt of jokes to a very formidable contender worth “Czeching” out! If you have a hundred thousand buckaroos and are looking for a small car that’s easy to park and easy on the fuel consumption, you might want to consider the Skoda Fabia. Everyone should taste solid European build once in their life. Why not start with a Skoda?