New Skoda Fabia 2018 facelift review
The Skoda Fabia has been refreshed for 2018, but have the updates transformed it into a legitimate supermini contender?
Updates to the Skoda Fabia haven’t transformed it into a world beater, but it remains a refined, sensible supermini. The Polo is marginally more comfortable and gets more advanced infotainment tech, but the Skoda counters with a lower purchase price. Unless you want the very latest infotainment tech that the VW Provides, the Fabia is still well worth considering.
Even by usual facelift standards, Skoda’s designers have breathed upon the Fabia oh-so gently. The new car’s front grille is wider, the lights are slimmer, and there’s some new reflectors in the rear bumper. Top spec Monte Carlo models are now available with optional 18-inch alloy wheels, LED brake lights are standard (optional on the rest of the range) and full LED headlights are a £980 option.
The fuel filler flap isn’t somewhere that most of us will inspect too closely, but the Fabia has a couple of neat features stuffed up its funnel. As before, there’s an ice scraper that doubles as a magnifying glass, only now it trebles as a tyre tread depth gauge too. Go for the estate-bodied Combi - a car which makes up around a quarter of UK Fabia sales - and it gets a boot light that doubles as a removable LED torch. There’s even a reversible mat with a wipe clean side.
Inside, the dashboard design is much the same as before. There are a couple of new interior trims and colours, mildly tweaked graphics for the dials and a couple of extra USB ports for the back seat passengers. It’s not the most exciting cabin to look at, but the layout is clear and functional. There aren’t any soft touch plastics like you get in a Polo, but it feels more than sturdy enough. The hatchback’s 330 litre boot is still one of the biggest in the class, too.
Skoda has ditched the outgoing model’s 1.4-litre diesel from the updated engine lineup. The new petrol-only range is made up of three 1.0-litre three-cylinder units: two have turbos and make 94bhp and 108hp, and one doesn't and has 74bhp, while a less powerful non-turbo with 59bhp will be offered at a later date. They’ve all gained an exhaust particulate filter to reduce emissions.
Our first taste of the updated Fabia was behind the wheel of the 108bhp petrol model paired with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The dual-clutch auto is set up with economy in mind, shifting up to high gears at the earliest opportunity making the little turbo triple feel more sluggish than it really is.
Nudging the lever into sport mode helps, but it remains very lethargic when moving off - not ideal when pulling out of junctions. Unless you really need an auto, save £1,000 and get the light, easy-to-use six-speed manual instead.
The engine itself is refined and relaxing, which makes it a fine match for a chassis that prioritises comfort over fun. Even the with the Monte Carlo’s firmer springs and 15mm lower ride height, it won’t put a smile on your face along a twisty B-road like a Ford Fiesta will. But it’s easy to drive, visibility is good, and the suspension irons out bumps while isolating noise admirably. In lesser trim levels with softer suspension, it’s among the most comfortable cars in the supermini segment.
Throughout the rest of the Fabia range, every trim level has been reduced in price with the exception of the entry level S, which like-for-like costs around £600 more than before. It gets plenty more standard kit to compensate though, with LED daytime running lights, autonomous emergency braking, a multifunction trip computer and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto all included.
As before, beyond the S there’s SE, Colour Edition, SE L, and Monte Carlo trims, with the overall price drops relative to the outgoing car ranging from £55 to £355. Spec a Polo with an equivalent engine and trim level, and the Fabia is at least £1,000 cheaper than the VW - a huge amount in this class. One thing that the Polo offers is a sporty variant in the shape of the GTI. Sadly for you hot hatch fans, there aren’t any plans for a Skoda equivalent: a vRS version of this generation of Fabia won’t happen.