Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI Estate

We're starting this estate special with the most diminutive of our five cars, but don’t be fooled by the Skoda’s humble dimensions

  • Excellent build quality, large boot capacity, low starting price for the rang
  • High load lip, lack of pockets and cubbies in the boot area, noisy diesel engine

We're starting this estate special with the most diminutive of our five cars, but don’t be fooled by the Skoda’s humble dimensions. After all, the best things supposedly come in small packages. The load-lugger is based on the Fabia supermini – a model we rate highly – so it’s got strong credentials.

At the front there’s little to distinguish it from the hatch, and the designers have done a good job of grafting on the larger body, which surprisingly is only 7mm longer than the standard car. The rear is neat, albeit not particularly distinctive – and overall that sums up the styling. It’s plain, but easy on the eye.

While it’s the smallest vehicle here, this new Skoda estate hasn’t compromised on practicality. Although the rather tall shape isn’t particularly sleek, it does mean that the car is impressively spacious.

With the rear seats in place, boot capacity is 480 litres – only five less than the Mercedes C-Class, which costs more than twice as much. The Skoda is way ahead of models in its own class, too. Neither the Peugeot 207 SW (325 litres) nor the forthcoming Renault Clio Sport Tourer (439 litres) can compete. Open the large tailgate and you will find the load space is as useful as it is cavernous. The roller blind-style luggage cover is standard fare on most estates these days, but the Skoda’s is also self-retracting – simply tap the handle and it slides back.

Two side pockets and a semi-circular shopping basket give plenty of room for odds and ends, while underneath the floor there’s a useful storage tray – although it’s made out of polystyrene rather than something tougher. Gripes include a few flimsy plastics, plus you have to remove the headrests to fold down the rear seats.

But the biggest criticism is the high boot lip. It prevents you sliding in large objects, while lifting out anything heavy can be back-breaking. All four of its rivals here feature flat load sills. Yet this is a rare weakness in the Fabia, and the simple layout is easy to get on with. Build quality and finish are superb, while the cabin has a real feeling of solidity and robustness. The three-cylinder 1.4-litre TDI engine adds to that impression. It’s not particularly smooth or quiet, but with 80bhp it provides decent poke and isn’t strained by a full load.

The Skoda is not quick from 0-60mph, and over long distances the diesel drone can be intrusive, but on the move it happily keeps pace with traffic. Economy of more than 60mpg softens the blow, and it’s certainly our pick of the range. Dynamically the car is pretty decent, too. The capable chassis offers good grip and there’s only a small amount of body roll, while the steering is light and direct.

Ultimately the Fabia will surprise many; not only is it bigger than you expect, but it feels more expensive than the tag suggests. There’s good news if you’re on a budget, as prices start at a mere £9,360, meaning you certainly get plenty of car for your money.

Details

Price: £13,095Model tested: Fabia 1.4 TDI EstateWHY: New Fabia has larger boot and better quality than before.

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