Skoda Fabia Estate review
Skoda Fabia Estate is a spacious supermini with lots of standard kit and low running costs
The Skoda Fabia Estate doesn’t have many rivals. Aside from the cheap-as-chips Dacia Logan MCV, its only true competitor – the SEAT Ibiza ST – comes from the very same parts bin at VW Group HQ. However, an all-new model is now on sale, and it uses some clever new tech to make it better to drive, better equipped and even more spacious than before.
Now in its third generation, the current Fabia Estate is more grown up than the car it replaces. There’s no avoiding the fact it’s a bit more expensive, though a ramp up in standard equipment should work in buyers’ favour.
While there’s still a distinction between Skoda and Volkswagen models, the Fabia’s interior takes a welcome jump in quality, with more high-grade materials and big-car options such as the MirrorLink keyless go available on top-spec cars. That said, even basic S versions boast electric front windows, tyre pressure monitoring and DAB radio.
Engines range from a bog-standard and frankly lacklustre 1.0-litre petrol, through two turbocharged 1.2 TSI models and a pair of more economical 1.4-litre TDI diesels. The 59bhp 1.0-litre from the hatchback has been removed from the line-up and isn’t available on the Fabia Estate, but all other engines are carried over unchanged. All cars come with a five or six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the more powerful TSI and TDI cars offer a seven-speed DSG auto as an option.
A super-frugal Greenline model with sub-85g/km CO2 emissions is on the way, and a sportier Monte Carlo version is rumoured to replace the no-longer available vRS Estate later this year.
Our choice: Skoda Fabia Estate 1.2 TSI 90PS SE
While we’re not convinced by the scaled-down Octavia looks, there’s no denying Skoda’s designers have gone for a more grown-up approach with this new Fabia. It gets the familiar family front end, and from the B-pillar forwards you’d struggle to tell it apart from the conventional hatchback. However, the higher roofline and boxier rear end give away the car’s hidden practicalities, housing a 530-litre boot and increased cabin space.
Inside, while the dashboard doesn’t feel as premium as a Volkswagen Polo it’s better than Skodas of old, and can hold its own in the competitive supermini sector. It is robustly built and should be more be able to withstand everything daily life can throw at it. It’s much posher than the SEAT Ibiza ST, and light years ahead of the Dacia Logan MCV, though higher list prices mean you’ll pay for the privilege. The dials are easy to read, and thanks to its VW Group roots, the infotainment system is straightforward to operate.
All models get a decent haul of standard equipment, with even basic S models boasting electric front windows, tyre pressure monitoring and a DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity.
Upgrade to the SE and you’ll add a few welcome styling tweaks, including 15-inch alloy wheels a three-spoke leather steering wheel and the MirrorLink enabled centre touchscreen. In fact, it’s the SE that we think represents the best value.
Top-spec SE L cars get bigger wheels, LED daytime running lights, climate control and keyless ignition.
Despite the fact that VW and Skoda bosses say the new Fabia is around 44 per cent based on the MQB platform, the car is in fact a heavily reworked version of the old model. That’s not all bad - it has allowed designers to make the car lower and wider than before, as well as making the wheelbase slightly longer in an effort to increase cabin space inside the car.
As a result, it’s good to drive, feeling nippy, easy and agile to move around town. Despite the Estate’s 200-litre bigger boot, you can barely tell the difference in the way they drive. On the motorway the slightly boxier shape makes little difference to the car’s aerodynamics – posting similar fuel economy and emissions ratings, along with identical refinement and engine noise.
While the Fabia was never intended to be a sports car, there’s plenty of grip available if you do decide to push on. Body roll is well contained – and if you go for one of the turbocharged petrols, there’s a decent amount of punch, too. Like many VW Group cars, the steering is well weighted if a little lacking in fun, but it certainly doesn’t feel unwieldy.
The ride suffers from the extra weight over the hatch, though, and the Skoda fidgets over bumps that some rivals take in their stride. The suspension also transmits more noise into the cabin.
You only have to glance at the results of our Driver Power survey over the last few years to see Skoda’s dominance in owner satisfaction. In 2014, the brand’s cars took first, second and third, and while the previous-gen Fabia was nowhere to be seen, this model shares a large proportion of its parts with newer Skodas.
In terms of safety, all models get six airbags, front seatbelt reminders, stability control and low-speed collision avoidance systems. It may have only been on sale a short while, but crash testers Euro NCAP have already awarded the Fabia a top five-star score.
Higher spec cars come with the option of driver fatigue detection, but kit such as blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control is notable in its absence.
If the standard Skoda Fabia isn’t quite practical enough, then the Fabia Estate could be right up your street. While small estate cars aren’t that common in the UK, it’s easy to see the appeal when you take a look inside – with the new Fabia Estate boasting a more spacious cabin than the hatch, and even bigger boot than before.
Behind the rear seats you’ll find a whopping 530 litres of luggage space, which isn’t just huge for a supermini, but almost as large as a Ford Mondeo, which sits not one but two classes above the Fabia. Fold the seats flat and it should prove more than enough for the entire family’s clobber. That said, if you’re prepared to sacrifice a degree of comfort and quality, the Dacia Logan MCV wins the outright space race hands down.
The Fabia Estate is pretty good for passengers too, with enough space in the back for six-foot adults. There’s enough headroom and generous kneeroom thanks to the extended wheelbase – and if you’re prepared to squeeze, you’ll even fit three across the back.
There are some neat storage solutions throughout the cabin as well. The side door bins aren’t huge, but there’s space for a water bottle and enough room for a map and plenty of discarded parking tickets. You’ll find two cup holders ahead of the handbrake, as well as handy hidden drawers under the front seats.
Despite its extra size and bulk, the Fabia Estate manages almost identical fuel economy and emission ratings as the less practical hatchback. The entry-level 74bhp 1.0 can manage 58.9mpg and 109g/km of CO2, but it’s the mid-range TSI turbos that really stand out.
The 89bhp version actually trumps the 1.0, returning 60.1mpg and 107g/km. The higher-powered 109bhp car will do 58.9mpg and just 110g/km, with both cars offering a great blend of performance versus running costs.
Of course it’s the diesel models that are the star performers when it comes to fuel economy. The basic 1.4 TDI will return 83.1mpg, while even the higher-powered car will return more than 80mpg. Add the DSG automatic gearbox and this drops to 78.5mpg – but even then you won’t need to pay road tax thanks to sub-100g/km CO2 emissions.
There’s a super-frugal Greenline diesel on the way expected to offer an exceptional 91mpg and emit less than 85g/km of CO2 – and while we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve driven it, it sounds like this could be the business driver’s model of choice when it arrives later in 2015.
However, all things considered, the Fabia is no longer the budget option it once was. It still offers decent value when you consider the impressive standard kit and rock-bottom running costs, though. An expensive supermini, but a worthy choice nonetheless.