Skoda Fabia Estate review
Skoda Fabia Estate is a spacious supermini that features lots of equipment as standard and promises low running costs
The latest Skoda Fabia Estate improves on its predecessor with more dynamic styling, even greater interior space and a more upmarket feel. So it’s no surprise that prices have risen to match. Nevertheless, the package is difficult to beat for drivers who need a small car with the maximum carrying capacity.
The four-cylinder petrol engines are best if you’re not seeking ultimate economy, as the three-cylinder diesels are too noisy and the three-cylinder petrol is short on punch.
With generous standard equipment, a great reputation for reliability and a strong safety package, the Fabia Estate makes a sound choice for drivers seeking no-frills practicality on a budget.
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The latest Skoda Fabia hatchback has already impressed with its blend of space, style and value for money, and the Estate version adds an extra dose of practicality.
The Skoda Fabia Estate doesn’t have many rivals. Aside from the budget-focused Dacia Logan MCV, its only true competitor – the SEAT Ibiza ST – comes from the very same VW Group parts bin. However, the all-new Skoda uses some clever new tech and is better to drive, better equipped and even more spacious than before.
This latest, third-generation Fabia Estate is more grown-up than the car it replaces. There’s no getting away from the fact it’s a bit more expensive, too, although an increase in standard equipment should work in buyers’ favour.
While there’s still definitely a distinction between Skoda and Volkswagen-branded models, the Fabia’s interior takes a welcome jump in quality, with more high-grade materials and big-car options such as MirrorLink connectivity and keyless go available on top-spec cars. Yet even basic S versions come with electric front windows, tyre pressure monitoring and DAB radio.
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Engines range from a basic (and rather lacklustre) 74bhp 1.0-litre petrol through two turbocharged 1.2 TSI petrols to a pair of more economical 1.4-litre TDI diesels. The 59bhp 1.0-litre offered in the hatchback isn’t available in the Fabia Estate, but every other engine has been carried over unchanged. All cars come with a five or six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the more powerful TSI and TDI versions offer a seven-speed twin-clutch DSG automatic as an option.
A super-frugal GreenLine model with CO2 emissions of less than 85g/km is on the way, and a sportier-looking Monte Carlo trim level has taken over as the flagship; while Skoda used to sell a hot vRS version of the previous-generation Estate, this isn’t offered in the latest range. Otherwise, trim levels are limited to S, SE and SE L, and most engines are available with any spec.
Engines, performance and drive
Despite the fact that Volkswagen and Skoda bosses say the new Fabia is around 44 per cent based on the advanced MQB platform that underpins a range of other VW Group models, such as the excellent Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, the car is in fact a heavily reworked version of the old model.
That’s not all bad news; it has allowed designers to make the latest Skoda lower and wider than before, as well as increasing the length of the wheelbase slightly in an effort to boost cabin space.
As a result, the Fabia Estate is good to drive; it’s nippy and agile around town. On the move, the car feels like its hatchback cousin. That means it responds eagerly to your inputs, turning into corners sharply and benefiting from plenty of grip. While there’s some body roll, the suspension does a good job of controlling any wayward movement.
Although the Fabia was never intended to be a sports car, there’s plenty of grip available if you do push on. Body roll remains well contained, and if you go for one of the turbocharged petrol engines, there’s a decent amount of punch, too. As with many VW Group cars, the steering is well weighted, if a little lacking in fun, but the Skoda certainly doesn’t feel unwieldy.
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Yet this good work is undone by the 1.4-litre diesel. The three-cylinder engine clatters noisily into life, and sounds rough at idle and strained when extended. It also sends vibrations through the gearlever and pedals, particularly when you apply the throttle at low revs in the higher gears. Still, it makes up for this lack of manners with decent performance.
The ride suffers from the extra weight over the hatch, too, and the Skoda fidgets over bumps that some rivals take in their stride. The suspension also transmits more noise into the cabin.
Kicking off the Fabia Estate engine line-up is a 74bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol, delivering 0-62mph in 14.9 seconds and a 109mph top speed. There are also 1.2-litre four-cylinder TSI petrol engines with 89bhp or 109bhp; the former takes the car from 0-62mph in 11.0 seconds, while the latter offers a 9.6-second sprint time.
Similarly, there’s a choice of 89bhp or 104bhp versions of the 1.4 litre three-cylinder TDI diesel engine. The 89bhp model covers 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds and hits a 114mph top speed, while the more powerful TDI claims 10.2 seconds and 122mph.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Despite its extra size and bulk, the Fabia Estate claims almost identical fuel economy and CO2 emissions to the less practical hatchback. The entry-level 74bhp 1.0-litre model returns 58.9mpg and emits 109g/km, according to Skoda’s official figures, but it’s the mid-range TSI turbos that really stand out.
The 89bhp version trumps the 1.0, promising 60.1mpg and 107g/km. The higher-powered 109bhp car claims 58.9mpg and just 110g/km, with both cars offering a great blend of performance and running costs.
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Of course, the star performers on fuel economy are the diesel models. The basic 1.4 TDI has an official figure of 83.1mpg on optional low-rolling-resistance tyres, while both versions claim 78.5mpg on standard tyres. Add the DSG automatic gearbox, and this drops to 74.3mpg – but even then you won’t need to pay road tax as the cars still emit less than 100g/km of CO2.
A super-frugal Skoda Fabia Estate GreenLine diesel is imminent, and when it hits showrooms, it’s expected to deliver an exceptional 91mpg and emit less than 85g/km of CO2. We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve driven it, but it sounds like this could be the best choice for business drivers when it arrives.
All things considered, the Fabia is no longer the budget option it once was, but it still offers decent value when you take into account the impressive level of standard kit and rock-bottom running costs.
Insurance group ratings for the Fabia Estate start at a lowly group four for the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol car, thanks to its weedy performance. The most expensive premiums in the line-up are not surprisingly likely to be reserved for the range-topping petrol and diesel models, both of which sit in insurance group 12. Yet that’s still not bad, and across the board, the Fabia attracts ratings which are lower than its VW Group sister car and chief rival, the SEAT Ibiza ST Estate.
In spite of Skoda’s consistently improving reputation, the Fabia Estate’s depreciation curve is only average. Buyers can expect the car to retain only around 44 per cent of its purchase price after three years and 30,000 miles. Pushing the boat out on luxury versions won’t improve the residuals later as used buyers will be looking primarily for economy.
Interior, design and technology
The previous-generation Fabia Estate was sensible rather than stylish; it didn’t pretend to be anything other than a practical small car. However, Skoda has attempted to give its replacement a more distinctive look. So while the car uses the same sheet metal as the five-door model from the nose through to the C-pillars, beyond this point the Estate is all-new.
Happily, Skoda’s designers have done a good job of integrating the longer rear overhang and roofline of the Estate bodystyle, as well as the extra side windows. SE models and above benefit from roof rails as standard, while buyers can boost their car’s kerb appeal by adding a vivid Sprint Yellow paint finish, for example. A set of 16-inch gloss black alloy wheels can also be specified for around £200 extra. Overall, the Estate has a far more dynamic shape than before, and it looks pretty upmarket.
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The smart styling continues inside. Piano black trim inserts help give the neatly designed dashboard a lift, while the instrument dials, climate control and standard touchscreen have a simple, easy-to-use layout with robust switchgear.
The cabin feels solidly constructed and should be more than up to the rough and tumble of family life. There are hardly any soft-touch plastics – which is a shame as it would help to add more of a premium air – although the soft leather covering the steering wheel and gearlever looks and feels good.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
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The Fabia Estate comes with plenty of kit as standard. For example, the SE L model benefits from climate control, a Bluetooth phone connection, reversing sensors and a DAB radio. However, there’s no option to fit a sat-nav. Instead, you have to rely on the standard MirrorLink system, which mimics the display of your Android phone on the central infotainment screen, and use a sat-nav app.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
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 – the new load-lugging Fabia has a more spacious cabin than the hatch, and an even bigger boot than before.
There are some neat storage solutions throughout the interior. 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.
If you need a small car with space, the Fabia Estate is pretty much unbeatable thanks to its boxy outline – and it doesn’t take up too much more tarmac than a regular supermini. At 4,257mm long and 1,732mm wide, it’s 29cm longer and barely any wider than a five-door Ford Fiesta. The cheap and cheerful Dacia Logan is a little longer again, at 4,492mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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The Fabia Estate is pretty good for passengers, too, with enough space in the back for six-foot adults. There’s plenty of headroom and generous knee room thanks to the extended wheelbase, and if you’re prepared to squeeze, you’ll even fit three across the back.
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Behind the rear seats you’ll find a whopping 530 litres of luggage space. That’s not just huge for a supermini, but almost as large as the boot in a Ford Mondeo, which sits not one but two classes above the Fabia. Fold the seats flat and the Skoda’s maximum capacity of 1,370 litres 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.
Reliability and Safety
In recent years, Skoda has done extremely well in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys, and in 2015 the brand finished third in the manufacturers’ chart behind Lexus and Jaguar. Its newer cars in particular performed well, with the Yeti ranked second overall, the Mk3 Octavia coming 11th and the Superb 12th.
This latest Fabia is too new to have featured in the poll, but it shares many of its components with newer, more successful Skodas – and plenty of other models across the entire VW Group – meaning the brand can expect a strong result for the car in future surveys.
Euro NCAP has awarded the hatchback a full five-star crash safety rating, and there’s no reason to suggest the Estate should fare any differently. The independent testers gave the five-door a score of 81 per cent for adult and child occupant protection, plus pedestrian protection was rated at 69 per cent.
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All versions come with six airbags, stability control and seatbelt reminders, while SE models have low-speed collision avoidance kit.
Higher-spec SE and SE L cars come with the option of driver fatigue detection, but kit such as blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control is notable for its absence.
The Skoda Fabia Estate comes with a three-year warranty, and although there’s a 60,000-mile limit, it only applies in the third year. So effectively you get the first two years with unlimited mileage, but if you rack up the miles at a vast rate you could be left with no cover at all on a two-year-old car.
Pre-paid dealer servicing plans are available for the Skoda Fabia Estate that allow you to spread the cost into monthly payments, although the rates are variable depending on your mileage and the period you want cover for. Overall, maintenance costs should be pretty competitive with other mainstream superminis.