New Skoda Fabia Estate 2018 review
We find out if the updated Skoda Fabia wagon is loads better than before
The revised Fabia Estate is a (slightly) better car than the old one, with some pleasing spec upgrades. And it’s still a decent drive, if an anodyne one. But does it make a better case for small estates overall? We’re not sure – especially when the deals on equally capable regular family cars make them look every bit as affordable for rational, practicality-focused customers.
The Skoda Fabia’s recent updates have kept the Czech supermini respectable, without turning it into a world-beater. But the prospects could be better for the estate, which is pretty much in a class of one, now that SEAT and Renault no longer sell wagon versions of their Ibiza and Clio models.
Here is the facelifted Fabia Estate, driven in SE trim and with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine in its most powerful state of tune (109bhp) and with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The car gets many of the updates applied to the regular supermini, of course: a wider grille, therefore, along with slimmer lights and a few tweaks to the rear bumper.
The trademark Skoda fuel-filler-flap ice scraper now includes a magnifying glass and a tyre tread depth gauge, and the Estate’s boot light can be removed to be used as an LED torch. The floor mat is now reversible, too, with a wipe-clean side as well as regular carpet.
Inside, the updates are even more modest than before, and they don’t extend to soft-touch materials anywhere but on the seats and door armrests. The overall impression is one of neat design, durability and tight build quality – so if you want flair, look elsewhere.
This safe conservatism also extends to the driving dynamics. The 1.0-litre unit is accomplished, with just about enough low-down shove for most situations (we’d worry about the lower-powered variants with heavy loads, mind you). Its thrum melts away at speed, when it’s easily drowned out by wind noise from the Fabia’s sharply angled side mirrors.
The dual-clutch box is keen, desperate, in fact, to keep the revs low (in the name, we presume, of efficiency and refinement), so it’s not uncommon to see seventh gear when you’ve barely broken through the 40mph mark. The box is at its best when you’re cruising along in relaxed mode; there’s still a little bit of dual-clutch jerkiness during low-speed manoeuvres.
The facelift can’t change the fact that the Fabia is based on one of the VW Group’s older platforms, and the chassis reflects this. There’s a little bit of patter from around the rear and sharp road imperfections do thunk through.
Although in general, the overall set-up is pretty comfortable, and the steering is direct enough for you to be able to make your moves with confidence. Understeer will interfere long before you run out of ambition.
SE trim gets the basics you’ll need: air-conditioning, electric front windows, height-adjustable front seats and rear parking sensors. Our car also had an upgraded navigation system, but the standard SE spec doesn’t feature maps.
Still, the ‘basic’ 6.5-inch display on SE versions supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so in a typically rational fashion for a Skoda, you can hook up your phone’s route instructions and save the £570 upgrade. That’s certainly what we would do.
We’d do everything possible to keep the Fabia Estate’s list price down, in fact, because the higher the numbers get, the more the car looks a tricky sell compared with larger, conventional models such as a Vauxhall Astra.
Keep the figures down, though, and the new Skoda is a wagon with more premium appeal than a Dacia Logan MCV (the only other small estate on sale) and a better drive than the Honda Jazz CVT; a vehicle that comes close to the Fabia on practicality.