Skoda Fabia review
The Skoda Fabia has grown up and now brings a serious challenge to the established Volkswagen Polo
Aside from the potent vRS hot hatch, the Skoda Fabia has never been the driver’s pick. The soft suspension set-up means it is comfortable, but handling suffers compared to rivals like the SEAT Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo. Engine choices are good, and the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox is a gem, smoothing progress and transforming motorway refinement. Inside, the dash doesn’t have the upmarket feel of its rivals, which does tend to let down what is otherwise an impressive all-round package. GreenLine II badged cars offer astounding fuel economy.
Our choice: 1.2 TSI (105) DSG SE Plus
The current Skoda Fabia is a big visual improvement on its predecessor. Gone is the boxy front end of the old model, replaced with a more familiar Skoda face, first seen on the Roomster mini-MPV. The Fabia looks much taller than the Volkswagen Polo it is based on, with a steep windscreen and blacked out A-pillars. The latter gives the illusion of a floating roofline – a similar feature to that seen on a £60,000 Range Rover. Inside, the dash design is basic and awash with cheap, dark plastics, making the VW Polo and SEAT Ibiza feel significantly more premium.
The Skoda Fabia is based on the VW Polo, so is unlikely to disappoint when it comes to driving. It's comfortable and competent, but a softer suspension set-up means the Czech hatchback suffers in the bends, with noticeable bodyroll compared to its more composed German sibling. However, on British roads, the supple ride soaks up bumps beautifully, and for many owners, it’ll offer the more pleasant drive. The steering is accurate and the standard five-speed manual offers a snappy gearchange. But we suggest buyers opt for the impressive seven-speed DSG semi automatic, which transforms the car when it comes to refinement and driver enjoyment.
Skoda has built a solid reputation for dependable cars. It came top of our Driver Power survey, with owners expressing satisfaction in all areas. Although the Fabia is the worst performing model in the Skoda family, it still finds itself considerably higher up the list than the Volkswagen Polo and SEAT Ibiza. When it comes to safety, the Fabia only manages four stars in the Euro NCAP safety tests, putting it behind the five-star SEAT and VW. It's still a tough car though, with a host of airbags and a decent set of brakes. However, ESP costs extra: it's standard fit on the Polo.
The tall roof that looks slightly awkward from the outside reaps its benefits inside the cabin. The Skoda Fabia seats four adults in comfort, and five at a push. Up front there are a number of useful storage areas and the door bins are a good size – with the specially designed bottle holder coming in handy on longer journeys. The hatchback Fabia offers a 315-litre boot, which is bigger than the platform sharing VW Polo (280 litres) and SEAT Ibiza 5dr (292 litres), but is down on the 379-litre Honda Jazz. If a big boot is a priority, there's the Fabia Estate, which gets a 505-litre boot that expands to 1,485 litres with the rear seats folded. It's worth bearing in mind that base-spec cars miss out on air-conditioning.
The Skoda Fabia offers a variety of engine options, including a three-cylinder petrol and a range of punchy diesels. The small petrol motors are noisy and largely unrefined, and make little sense if you cover any sort of distance at speed. But even the thirstiest 1.4 MPI still returns over 47mpg, while the 1.2 TSI is powerful, yet manages more than 53mpg. The pokey diesels represent a great compromise, with the 1.4 TDI-powered GreenLine II model capable of returning over 80mpg, which is a match for the similarly powered VW Polo BlueMotion and SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive. Surprisingly, though, this super-eco model produces a comparatively unimpressive 109g/km of CO2, so unlike the SEAT and VW, it doesn’t qualify for free road tax.