Skoda Fabia the full

Monte

I JUST can't see the point of black painted alloy wheels. Why hide something that's supposed to enhance the look of your car?

For all you can see of them, you might as well stick to steel wheels and save a fortune.

And in the same vein - what the heck are matt black car paint schemes about? They look like an apprentice was given his first proper job and blew it.

I've seen BMWs, Mercedes and even Bentleys with this naff paint and it does absolutely nothing for any of them. I suppose owners pay a premium for it because they want to look different, but I think they just look rather sad.

It simply makes the cars look neglected and nondescript.

Even smaller cars are now getting black alloys but at least they're not matt black.

The latest I drove with them was the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo, but they didn't look as good as bright silver would have done.

This car was powered by the VW group 1.0-litre turbo, producing a very good 95bhp.

But that is still less than a car I drove 40 odd years ago - a 1.0-litre Hillman Imp Sport road car, modified to produce 100bhp - and not a turbo in sight.

Nonetheless, that car had to be revved to the red line all the time to get the performance, wheras the Fabia was happy pulling from 1,300 revs in fifth.

Picking up from such low revs, it is working hard by 2,000rpm and harder still by 2,500, and it's very smooth and quiet all the way.

It will happily trickle through town at 30 miles an hour in fifthgear - something very few small engined cars can do - and will gently pull away without having to change down.

Acceleration is also pretty good and well up with its contemporaries, although it's not worth pushing it too high up the rev range, because urge in the next gear is just as good.

Despite the small engine size, it is also happy at motorway speeds, and during my test, without trying too hard, it returned a real 48 miles to every gallon - very nearly up in diesel country.

As ever, the Fabia was beautifully nimble, with lovely power steering and a great feel on the road.

The road holding was brilliant, with excellent grip in every situation and the handling, with marvellous balance, was not far from perfect.

A very good ride, even with the big wheels and low profile tyres, was a great bonus and it rolled over the worst of country roads and took town speed humps in its stride.

The interior is a lovely place to be, with plenty of space for four or even five and a good sized boot.

There's a leather covered steering wheel, height and reach adjust steering column, height adjust black seats with red touches and white stitching and a moon roof with a blind.

It also has a six-inch touchscreen for stereo, sat nav and car functions, but the air con has a separate set of controls in the centre console.

Other equipment includes aux in and USB, keyless entry and starting, start/stop, reading lights in the rear, 60/40 split fold back seat and an alarm.

FAST FACTS

Price: £16,100

Mechanical: 95bhp, 999cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 115mph

0-62mph: 10.6 seconds

Combined MPG: 64

Insurance Group: 9

C02 emissions: 101g/km

Bik rating: 19%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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