MONTE Carlo is a tiny principality with a big public image.
It's famous for its casino, beaches, royal family, minimal tax – and its round of the World Rally Championship series.
The latter is the reason Skoda brought out a Monte Carlo version of its button-cute Fabia: it celebrates 100 years of Rally Monte Carlo.
Apart from the neat little rally badge above the indicator on its front mudguards and a few token sporty items, it's mechanically identical to the base Fabia, which costs $3000 less.
The Fabia has the same 1.2litre engine and five-speed gearbox as VW's Polo Trendline.
It also has a higher price tag and the main difference between them is the styling.
There are many more Polos than Fabias in Oz, so I guess Fabia wins on the basis of exclusivity.
Compared to the base model, the Monte Carlo has a black head-and-foglight surround, grille, wing mirrors, roof and spoiler, plus black 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy side glass, unique front door sill plates, alloy sports pedals and sports seats in front.
The small motor has direct injection and turbocharging to whack out 77kW and torque of 175Nm. But since the car has a mass of just over 1100kg, performance is better than brisk.
It responds to a stab on the accelerator like a dieting fatso to a steak and clears 100km/h in 10 seconds flat.
It's also surprisingly smooth powerful and its five-speed synchronised manual transmission worked a treat.
Economy is another attraction, with an official rating of 5.5litres/100km. Best we could get on our usual run was 7.1. Still good.
The surprisingly spacious four-seater comes with standard Bluetooth, steering wheel phone and audio controls and a socket for MP3 devices.
We liked the daytime running lights too.
People who really care about safety will be interested in things like the car's electro-hydraulic power steering with reach and rake adjustable column, its excellent handling and balance, stopping power and visibility.
We loved it and think the extra loot for the Monte Carlo is (almost) worth it.