Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Little things make a very big impression

IT’S the little things that count when it comes to the equipment we discover in our

IT’S the little things that count when it comes to the equipment we discover in our new cars.

Whether it’s my favourite – a good old–fashioned clock face with hands instead of a digital one hidden from view somewhere on the dashboard – or dials that don’t give you a headache when you try to decipher them, I find simplicity of design counts every time.

So what would the majority of motorists think about a tiny sliver of plastic costing a few pence that can be found, if you are lucky, to one side of the windscreen that could save you having a really bad day and £50 into the bargain?

It’s a no–brainer of course. Most motorists, especially those having just entered the proverbial war–zone known as a car park would take that little piece of plastic equipment as an optional extra any day.

I refer of course to a parking ticket holder, that ingenious clip–like bit of plastic that holds your ticket in place during the duration of your stay in said war zone.

I apologise if I seem a touch fraught, but there can be nothing more gut wrenching for the average motorist than having to pay a parking fine. The money we pour into local authority coffers through parking fees is a national scandal.

But then what happened to your correspondent the other day probably happens often enough to many motorists: that slip of paper – depending on which local authority you are blessed (or burdened) with – which costs, say, the princely sum of £1 for an hour’s stay, mysteriously flips over to present a completely blank page to the hovering parking enforcement wallah.

Is this due to a draught when you shut the car door or a malevolent breeze blowing through the car while you are shopping? Who knows?

The upshot, as in my case just recently, was a £50 fine. If you were only half–human you would spit nails at such a travesty. I know I was spitting metallic rods liberally for hours afterwards (and immediately lodged an appeal).

However, had the car I was driving been equipped with the aforementioned little plastic clip, as was this week’s drive, the new Skoda Fabia, I would not have faced a £50 fine or the aggravation of having to challenge it.

What Car? magazine has voted the new Fabia Best Small Car of 2015 and the “most economical Fabia ever” has been deservedly praised for its “versatility, space and style”. Honestly, it would have got my vote just for that little plastic clip.

It turns out the clip is all part of Skoda’s cunning plan to be Simply Clever: that’s what the car maker calls a pack that provides some handy equipment (costing a well spent £65) installed in the Fabia (the estate version gives you even more room for luggage and hauling things around).

In addition to the ticket holder there are storage boxes under both front seats, a compartment for your sunglasses, the front armrest conceals a storage compartment for small items, an ice scraper mounted on the inside of the fuel cap, a natty waste basket in the storage compartment in the front door panelling and usefully placed bottle holders (not all car designers get that you want to carry a water bottle but you also need to change gear).

I could go on but I think you get the picture: it is the small things that count on a car, particularly on a “best small car” such as the Fabia. But this hatchback does not give the impression of being small on the inside. It is rather Tardis–like. Dr Who would have been proud to drive a Skoda Fabia time machine instead of that dodgy old police box.

The idea, says Skoda, inside the new Fabia was to put an “emphasis on horizontal lines and fine–tuned ergonomics”. Now that is obviously copywriter–speak but in reality it translates to a roomy, comfortable interior that would not be amiss in larger cars.

But what I really like about the range of Skoda models is their sheer driveability. They eat up the motorway miles and are equally as well–behaved around town. I found the cruise control/speed limiter buttons a bit fiddly but a tweak in the design studio should put that right.

I was driving a Skoda Fabia SE L with a 1.2 TSI 90 PS engine, which was a treat and returned credible miles–per–gallon figures (official for the combined cycle 60.1mpg) if you drove sensibly.

A last word on colour. The test car was a beautiful Corrida Red with white roof and wing mirrors. This livery and the little (plastic) things that make a motorist’s life easier on this particular drive cheered me up no end.

Test car total price (inclusive of VAT and options fitted): £15,065

Engine: 1.2 TSI 90 PS

Transmission: 5–speed manual

Combined cycle fuel economy: 60.1mpg

CO² emissions: 107g/km

Max speed: 113mph

0â??62 mph: 10.9 seconds

Options fitted:

Special colour – Corrida Red: £175

Colour Concept –  White (coloured roof and wing mirror housings): £250

Simply Clever package (Net program and storage compartment in boot, holder for multimedia devices and waste bin): £65

Temporary space saver steel wheel: £85

SmartGate: £100

Alloy wheels: £150

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