Skoda Fabia review
The Skoda Fabia has grown up and now brings a serious challenge to the established Volkswagen Polo
While the Fabia falls behind the likes of the Ford Fiesta in terms of driving enjoyment, it's actually a very comfortable little car thanks to the soft suspension.
There's a good range of trim levels (Reaction, S, SE, Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo Tech, Greenline and Elegance), a strong line-up of petrol and diesel engines to choose from. There’s even the option of a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic DSG gearbox.
The Skoda Fabia GreenLine is a notable model, because it returns an incredible official fuel economy of 83mpg. The Fabia Monte Carlo, meanwhile, model is particularly packed with technology and accessories.
The Skoda Fabia is the best value of all the VW Group cars, but the interior doesn't have the same upmarket feel to it that its SEAT Ibiza and VW Polo sister models have. The Fabia is generally well equipped but it's worth noting that the cheapest versions do without air-conditioning.
Finally, there's also a Skoda Fabia vRS version for keen drivers, but for everyday motorists, the standard Fabia is a solid, reliable and cheap-to-run supermini.
The Skoda Fabia is getting on a bit now, and the design is looking a bit dated - but it's still much better than its boxy predecessor, and it does have a certain charm to it.
The front is reminiscent of the Skoda Roomster, doing without the more angular look of the Rapid and Octavia. The steep windscreen and high roofline mean it looks a bit more sensible and less sporty than the SEAT Ibiza, but we do like the black A-pillars, which make the glass area look a lot bigger. It's a similar effect to that acheived on the latest Range Rover - the roof almost looks like it's floating above the rest of the car.
The interior is clearly well built, but it doesn't have the classy feel of the Volkswagen Polo thanks to lots of boring dark plastics. The Skoda Fabia Estate is a more practical choice than the hatchback, but suffers from slightly awkward looks.
The Fabia might be a small car, but the driving experience is actually rather grown up - just like the VW Polo it’s based on. The soft suspension is great on UK roads, smoothing out the lumps and bumps you'll encounter every day - it's actually even more comfortable than the Polo.
The five-speed manual gearbox is snappy and easy to use, but we'd recommend the seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission, despite the extra cost. It makes driving in traffic really easy, but also improves motorway cruising - it really suits the character of the car.
However, the Fabia nowhere near as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta. The steering doesn't offer much feedback, and the soft suspension set-up means there's quite a bit of body roll in the corners.
Skoda was the second-best manufacturer in the Driver Power 2013 customer satisfaction survey, which says a lot about how good the Skoda Fabia will be to own.
The Fabia actually falls behind the newer Skoda Superb and Skoda Yeti at 64th in the rankings, but that's mainly down to it being an old model now. However, it did beat its VW Group cousins, the SEAT Ibiza and VW Polo.
Safety is a stumbling block for the Fabia as well, with only four out of a possible five stars from Euro NCAP. That's partly because stability control (ESP) isn't standard on entry-level models. With the industry standard being a full five-star rating, it's a bit of a blot on the Fabia's record.
The Skoda Fabia interior is impressively spacious - it's definitely one of the airiest cabins in its class and doesn't feel cramped at all. You can even get four adults into the car in relative comfort, although adding a fifth will make it a bit less enjoyable for those in the back. There's plenty of storage inside the car too, with large door bins and lots of cubbies.
The Fabia has a big boot with 315 litres of luggage space, which is much more than the VW Polo (280 litres) and SEAT Ibiza (292 litres). The Honda Jazz beats the Fabia, however, with a huge 379 litres available.
If you need more capacity the Fabia is, of course, available as an estate. That model offers 505 litres with the rear seats in place and a vast 1,485-litre capacity with them lowered.
There is a strong range of engines to choose from, and all of them - both petrol and diesel - are pretty economical. The entry-level 1.2 petrol is quite noisy and needs to be worked hard, but can return over 50mpg if driven gently. We recommend the 1.2 TSI petrol, which returns 53mpg and is much better to drive - it doesn't feel underpowered.
Go for a Skoda Fabia diesel if you're planning to travel on the motorway a lot. The 1.6-litre TDI is a solid choice for balancing power and economy, but if you need the lowest possible costs then there's the GreenLine model. Its 1.2 TDI engine emits only 89g/km of CO2 and can return an amazing 83mpg. Not only is it tax-free, but it's one of the cheapest non-electric cars to run.