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Fabia RS will draw Polo comparisons
Skoda Fabia RS. Supplied picture

Skoda is always reluctant to list itself as a Volkswagen competitor - after all, it was designed as a cheaper option to the German car maker.

But when you launch a new hot hatch, especially in Australia where the Golf GTi is king and the smaller Polo matches it for bang-for-your-buck, it is hard not to draw comparisons.

And with the new Fabia RS hatch and wagon sharing the same engine, transmission and underpinnings as the Polo, it becomes even harder not to draw comparisons between the Czech-built Skoda and its German cousin.

Both the hatch and wagon are powered by a 132kW/250Nm twin-charged (supercharger and turbo) engine matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

And like the Polo, the RS also features an electronic differential lock system that brakes the inside front wheel to negate understeer.

So it should hardly be surprising to find that the drive experience in the RS, both the hatch and wagon, is very similar to the GTi.

The award-winning 1.4-litre engine delivers strong acceleration, and with maximum torque available from 2000 all the way through to 4500rpm - thanks to the combination of the supercharger and turbo - there always seems to be plenty of grunt available.

The twin-clutch automatic DSG transmission is a terrific match and adjusts quickly to any style of driving.

But I found using the steering wheel-mounted paddles more fun on some of the twisty roads we sampled during the test drive in Brisbane.

The RS sits on a MacPherson strut suspension at the front, which has been stiffened and lowered compared with the standard model. When you combine this with the wider 205/40 low-profile tyres, it makes for a stable base that is very predictable and remains composed even when pushed hard through corners.

The downside is that the tyres are really noisy, especially on coarser roads, and with the wind noise around the exterior mirrors, you will need to turn the audio system up a few extra notches to drown it out.

In the wagon we tested, there was also a rattle in the back - probably caused by the cargo cover - that would have been a deal breaker if I had been taking the car on a test drive to buy it.

Where the Fabia misses out compared with the Polo is in the cabin. The quality and presentation just do not match up, with an overuse of hard plastics and a layout that lacks the premium feel of the Volkswagen.

But I think the seats are superior. The RS seats are comfortable and supportive without being constricting, and the side bolster ensures you and your front passenger stay put at all times.

And Skoda offers the five-door RS hatch for the same price ($27,990) as the three-door Polo. It also offers the option of a performance wagon, which nobody else has in this market segment, for an additional $2000.