Skoda Fabia review
All-new Skoda Fabia cuts a dashing new look with sharper styling. It's more practical than ever, with more space and clever features
The Skoda Fabia - now in its third generation - is well known for being spacious, comfortable and good value for money, and this latest Fabia doesn’t dissapoint. It gets more interior space and handy practical storage solutions. However, prices have taken a hike, although they’re offset slightly by the better standard equipment.
The new Fabia is powered by a good range of engines, including two three-cylinder 1.0-litre MPI units with 60ps and 75ps – as seen in the Skoda Citigo. But if you want more power, opt for the 1.2 four-cylinder TSI engine with its 90ps and 110ps outputs.
There’s also a 1.4TDI CR diesel option with 90ps and 105ps available, but the diesel engines are noisy, unrefined and certainly need a lot of input to keep momentum going. The Fabia gets a standard five-speed manual gearbox, with the higher-output 1.2TSI getting a six-speed version. Plus, there’s a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox option available on the 1.2TSI 110ps and the lower output 1.4TDI.
If you need even more space then an updated Fabia Estate is just around the corner - and there’s a super-frugal Fabia Greenline on the way too. And with the addition of a Fabia Monte Carlo, which adds a dash of sporting style (but not the pace to match) the line up is complete. Skoda says it has to maintain the distinction between it and VW and that’s apparent in the hard plastics inside – it looks smart enough, but there isn’t a soft-touch finish to be found anywhere.
Our choice: Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 90PS SE
In an attempt to shake off the Fabia’s staid and sensible image, Skoda has given the latest car a more distinctive look. At the front, the newcomer shares its large grille and headlamp design with the Octavia and Rapid, while sharp creases cut into the flanks give it a more squat and sporty stance than its upright predecessor.
SE models and above feature alloys, plus can be specified with the £250 Colour Concept option,which adds a contrasting black, silver or white finish for the roof, windscreen pillars and wheels. But while the new look is more dynamic than before, it’s still a little conservative, plus it lacks the classy, upmarket appeal of the Polo.
It’s a similar story inside, where the Fabia has a modern and straightforward design. The fitting of a metallic grey or white trim insert that runs across the dash adds interest, but the rest of the cabin is rather workmanlike. The dials, climate control and standard touchscreen have a simple, easy to use layout, while the rest of the switchgear is shared with the latest VW Polo, so it features a solid and precise action.
The interior feels robustly built and should be more than up to the rough and tumble of family life. Yet while it’s solidly put together, it’s full of hard plastics.
Under the skin, the new Fabia uses a heavily reworked version of the old car’s underpinnings, plus one or two features from the new MQB architecture that has already appeared on the larger Octavia. As a result, it’s slightly wider and lower than before, while its wheelbase is fractionally longer.
More importantly, the third-generation model is around 65kg lighter than its predecessor – and this weight saving can be felt immediately, as the Fabia responds eagerly, turning into corners sharply and benefiting from plenty of grip.
The steering is also positive and well weighted, while body roll is reasonably well controlled. For maximum mpg and sub-100g/km emissions, you should go for one of the 1.4-litre diesels, however the ride suffers from the extra weight and the Skoda fidgets over bumps that some rivals take in their stride. The suspension also transmits more noise into the cabin.
Petrol is likely to be a more popular choice, and we’d go for the 1.2 89bhp version – it’s smoother and rides really nicely.
The more powerful of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engines from the Citigo is happy to cruise at motorway speeds, and even on twisy roads the car has plenty of grip and is fun to drive. It has the familiar thrumy note of the three-cylinder engine, but it's only apparent when pulling away. The Fabia is easy to get about in with nicely weighted controls and good visibility.
Over the past few years, Skoda has dominated our Driver Power satisfaction survey, and in 2014 the brand’s cars took the first three places. And while the outgoing Fabia was less successful – finishing in a lowly 94th – this latest model shares many of its components with newer, more successful Skodas, which bodes well for its fortunes in future surveys.
At least there won’t be many complaints about the Fabia’s safety credentials, as the new car has already been awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. All versions get six airbags, stability control, seatbelt reminders and low-speed collision avoidance kit, while the flagship SE L adds automatic lights and wipers.
You can also order a driver fatigue sensor as an option on SE and SE L models. However, it’s disappointing that the Skoda isn’t available with big car kit such as adaptive cruise control or blind spot monitoring.
The old Fabia always had the edge in the supermini space race, and the new car continues the tradition, with a roomy 330-litre boot growing to 1,150 litres with the 60:40 split rear bench folded flat. However, the £100 space saver spare wheel cuts these figures to 305 and 1,125 litres.
Rear legroom is good enough for a six-foot tall passenger to just about sit behind a six foot driver, there’s more than enough headroom and plenty of shoulder room, too – you might even squeeze three people in the back.
Elsewhere, the cabin is full of useful storage. While the old car’s double-decker glovebox isn’t carried over, there are hidden drawers under the front seats, large door bins and two cup-holders ahead of the gearlever. Plus, a £65 optional Simply Clever storage pack adds a boot net, smartphone holder and waste bin for the front door pocket.
Every Fabia claims economy of over 50mpg, with the most popular 1.0 and 1.2 models claiming 51 and 54mpg respectively. If fuel economy is the most important thing for you, the Fabia Greenline claims an exceptional 91mpg and CO2 emissions of just 82g/km – that’s as low as it gets for a car without any form of hybrid system.
But while economy and emissions are impressive, the Fabia’s price has risen to sit alongside mainstream rivals. That is balanced with excellent spec levels, though. And Skoda’s reliability reputation and available service packs, should keep ongoing costs down, too.