The Skoda Fabia was beginning to show its age in the manufacturer’s rapidly evolving model range. With an average customer age of 55, it was attracting a more mature buyer too. Skoda is hoping this new car will not only bring the Fabia up to date but also help broaden its appeal to younger buyers.
This search for a more youthful appeal starts with the looks. The new Fabia has lost the dumpy styling of its predecessor and swapped it for a sleeker, even more aggressive look. It’s helped in this by the wide-set headlights and front grille.
The roof has only been lowered by 3cm, but it makes a big difference too. Where the MkII Fabia looked a little too high, and somewhat awkward, this third generation car now has a much sporty appearance.
That lowering has helped improve things on the road, too, along with the wider stance and bigger wheels. Where the previous car tended to roll in corners and felt a little too soft, Skoda’s supermini is now much more surefooted and stiffer in feel.
There’s still a little movement in the tightest of bends, and the ride does jitter a little, but it’s a much more rewarding car to drive – even if the steering set-up remains assured rather than enthralling. All models, including base-spec entry-level cars, get the company’s torque vectoring system to help keep things tidy through faster corners.
This 1.2-litre TSI engine with 89bhp that we tried is expected to be the most popular engine when the Skoda Fabia arrives in the UK at the beginning of 2015. It rarely feels lacking in power, covering 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds, while the five-speed gearbox is slick and rewarding.
It’s a refined package, too, with very little wind or road noise, and just a hint of engine rumble. Stop-start as standard, as well as the weight saving that’s been achieved, means this Fabia is capable of 60mpg and emissions are just 107g/km.
Skoda is also dipping its toe in the personalisation market with the latest Fabia. It’s offering 15 exterior colours to choose from, four roof colours, various wing mirror colours and even four alloy wheel colours. Its attempting its own, more conservative, take on the trend started by MINI.
The Fabia’s major trump card over its rivals remains its practicality. It may be shorter than the previous car, but the manufacturer has somehow managed to find more space in the cabin as well as the boot. In fact, at 330 litres, the boot is biggest at this end of the market, dwarfing the Ford Fiesta’s 276 litres and even the VW Polo’s 280 litres.
However, it’s the small clever touches that give the Fabia its real edge in practicality. We’d already seen the clever ice scraper storage in the fuel filler cap on the Skoda Rapid, but the Fabia has a few other clever little touches in its arsenal. These include small storage nets on the side of the front seats for keys or your phone and a small rubbish bin that can be placed in the door to keep the car free of things like sweet wrappers.
The kit and finish have also seen a big step up from the previous Fabia and now falls in line with the maker’s larger models. This latest car comes with a new system called MirrorLink. Connected to your smartphone, it replicates the apps on to the main centre screen giving a duplicate of your phone’s features in the car.
Currently, this can only be used with some Android devices but Skoda claims that by the middle of next year it will support Apple CarPlay too. This is the only way to have sat nav in the car as navigation isn’t part of the main entertainment unit and can’t be ticked on the option list. For the time being, anyone with an iPhone will have to use a separate sat nav unit or invest in a phone holder.
Unfortunately, the result is that the MirrorLink system ends up dragging the Fabia down. What is now a good looking, smart and enjoyable car it ends up feeling as if it’s alienating people with its lack of device compatibility.