The Fabia has been a huge hit since its UK launch in 2000, with nearly 100,000 cars finding buyers. But even the best success stories need updating - so for 2005, the Skoda has been given a facelift.
From the outside, only a keen Fabia fan would notice the changes. At the front, the firm's familiar grille has been rounded off to echo the look of the new Octavia. There are also revised foglights and bumpers to give a smoother appearance. At the back, the tail-lights now match those on the bigger Skoda, too, with a larger illuminated area and horseshoe-shaped lenses.
The modifications enhance what is already a pleasing shape - one which is arguably more attractive than the VW Polo on which the Fabia is based. Inside, the solid feel continues. New fabrics help lift the interior, although a black and dark grey finish made our test car seem rather claustrophobic.
The switches and trim are substantial, and leather on the steering wheel and handbrake makes the controls good to use. The driving position is first-rate, too; seat-height levers and a rake/reach-adjustable column will allow most drivers to get comfortable, although the chairs need more side support.
Standard spec is impressive as well, with heated mirrors and seats plus electric windows all included. What's more, until the end of the year, the Elegance driven here gets parking sensors, cruise control and leather at no extra cost.
In this car, VW's proven 1.9-litre TDI engine develops 100bhp and a useful 240Nm of torque. The Fabia may be heavy for its size, but the four-cylinder diesel makes short work of moving that bulk about, with strong torque from low revs. Even in a high gear, the car pulls well from 2,000rpm, and has no trouble maintaining speed on the motorway.
The only downside is the noise, as this engine shows its age with a surprising amount of clatter at idle. Good insulation disguises much of the racket, but at high revs vibrations can be felt through the seat and wheel.
In town, the baby Skoda is comfortable and copes easily with uneven road surfaces. At higher speeds, the soft suspension makes it a less able companion than some class rivals, although in most conditions it rides well for a car of this size. The facelifted Fabia might lack visual drama, as the revisions are few and far between, but that's no criticism, as there is little to be gained from changing a winning formula.