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Skoda Fabia 3 Estate

Can a big boot give the Czech model an advantage over its rivals?

With a reputation for being chunky, tough and well engineered, the practical Fabia is perfect for life as an estate. The original model was available as a load-lugger, and the second generation version builds on that success.

The top-of-the-range Fabia 3 tested here features body-coloured mirrors and door handles, and comes with 16-inch alloys, but it still lacks the visual sharpness of the Clio. Its styling is solid rather than exciting.

Climb aboard, and the Skoda scores well for comfort. Both the front seats are height adjustable, while reach and rake steering is standard. As a result, the driving position is excellent.

The dash layout is simple and the materials are robust, but the interior design is rather basic. However, it compensates with practicality, because a double glovebox, twin cup-holders and deep door pockets give loads of stowage. Rear passengers won’t complain, either, as the Fabia has the most space for legs and impressive headroom. Skoda charges £50 for a third rear headrest, though, while electric windows in the back are an option, too.

It’s hard to fault the Fabia’s boot. With the seats in place, its 480-litre capacity is the biggest here by 41 litres. It has tumbling rear squabs and split-folding seatbacks, although you have to remove the head restraints to get a fully flat luggage area. Once folded, capacity rises to 1,460 litres and load length is nearly as long as the Clio’s. You also get a roller blind-style luggage cover and a storage tray under the boot floor, just like with the Renault.

Helpful touches include a semi-circular shopping basket attached to the rear wheelarch for storing small items, but some of the plastics in the boot feel flimsy. The biggest issue with the Fabia’s luggage space is its high load lip – it prevents you from sliding large objects straight in, and lifting heavy items out can be back-breaking. The Clio and 207 have totally flat sills, whichis a real plus point.

The Fabia’s driving experience can’t match rivals’. Compared to the Clio there’s more body roll in corners, and despite sharp steering, the Skoda feels unwieldy. The relatively soft suspension means the ride is good, but tackle bumpy roads at speed and it can lose composure.

There’s nothing wrong with straight-line performance, though. Aided by the lowest kerbweight and the largest engine on test, the Skoda was the quickest from 0-60mph at 10.3 seconds, and the punchiest in-gear, too. However, the 1.9 TDI is showing its age, as it lacks the refinement of the Renault’s unit and doesn’t deliver its power as smoothly.

The Fabia is a well built estate that’s perfect for family life. Can its practicality overcome its dynamic weaknesses?

Details

Price: £13,785
Model tested: Estate 3 1.9 TDI
Chart position: 3
WHY: The Skoda contender comes with the largest boot in the supermini estate class.

Economy

In Fabia 3 trim, the Skoda costs £10less than the Clio, and running costs are similar. The first three services work out to be only £1 more, and the Fabia is cheaper to insure. However, the VW-sourced 1.9 TDI emits 129g/km of CO2, so your tax disc will cost £120 a year. And if you run the Skoda as a company car, you pay more tax than if you choose the Clio. The Skoda has the best residual values, though, at 43.6 per cent.

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