The Skoda Fabia has been in danger of becoming the Cinderella of the supermini sector. With newer and more exciting rivals hogging the limelight, it has been bumped down buyers’ wish lists.
Don’t discount the Fabia just yet, though, as it still has lots to offer. A mid-life refresh last year improved the looks and added excellent new powerplants, while its mix of practicality, reliability and value is still unrivalled.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Skoda Fabia
Despite the addition of a sleeker nose as part of the facelift, the slab-sided and upright Skoda lacks the kerb appeal of newer rivals – but it looks more grown- up than the bulbous Micra.
Our top-of-the-range Elegance model also featured stylish standard-fit multi-spoke alloy wheels, and an eye-catching white roof finish that will set you back £375. Yet it’s inside where the Fabia really scores. While the design of the dash is rather sober and sensible, it’s intuitively laid out and solidly built.
Soft-touch materials are used throughout and the switchgear is crisp in its operation. It can’t match the Micra for desirable gadgets and gizmos, but climate control, a multifunction trip computer and powerful eight- speaker stereo are all standard.
A wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment means that finding the perfect driving position is easy, while occupants in the rear get more headroom than in the Nissan. The provision of deep door pockets, a useful centre console bin and a huge double-decker glovebox means that there’s more than enough storage in the cabin.
Lift the tailgate, and you’ll be confronted by a generous 315-litre load bay – 50 litres larger than the Micra’s. Fold the 60/40 split-fold rear bench flat, and the available capacity jumps to a cavernous 1,180 litres.
The Fabia easily takes the prize for practicality, but it’s at the test track that it really puts the boot into its rival. Its 1.2-litre turbocharged engine felt far more responsive, helping the car demolish the 0-60mph test in only 9.6 seconds. Its mid-range punch and overtaking pace are even more impressive, and away from the track, the Skoda shows the supercharged Nissan a clean pair of heels.
Head down a flowing back road, and the Fabia demonstrates its greater composure. While it’s no hot hatch, the Elegance boasts direct and well weighted steering, strong grip and decent body control – all qualities the Micra lacks. Long journeys also highlight the Skoda’s superior refinement and comfort. But the heavier controls mean it doesn’t feel quite as nimble around town. It also suffers from an uncomfortably firm low-speed ride.
Further black marks are reserved for the car’s relatively high 124g/km CO2 emissions, which result in bigger tax bills. Still, these are minor concerns in the face of the Fabia’s many talents, which also include superior economy. Overall, the plus points make it a strong contender for victory here.
Chart position: 1WHY: Recently facelifted Fabia mixes practicality, quality and dependability. Smooth 1.2-litre turbo engine serves up strong pace and decent economy.