Skoda Fabia

Skoda follows up the success of the first Fabia with this stylish second offering

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Skoda attracted a loyal following with the first Fabia, a car which offered everything VW's Polo did for a lower price. The new model does the same, but with a stylish look, more interior space and better build quality. The engine line-up has something for every pocket - if the driving experience was sharper, we would be giving the Fabia full marks.

It's official - 2007 is set to be a great year for Skoda! That's because the Czech brand has scored two big successes in Auto Express's Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with the Octavia taking first place and the firm claiming second in the overall manufacturer rankings.

So can the new Fabia continue the party? Top brass are certainly hoping so. Bigger, more stylish and offering a wider range of engines than before, the car is better placed than ever to challenge supermini giants such as Ford's Fiesta and the Vauxhall Corsa.

Buyers only have to wait until next month for the newcomer to hit showrooms, but to see what they've got to look forward to, we took a drive in what's expected to be one of the best-selling models - the 1.4-litre diesel.

And before you even get behind the wheel, there's a great deal to be impressed about. That's because Skoda has created a bold new look for its latest model. The Fabia takes its front end styling from the recently launched Roomster supermini-MPV, and it features the same upright, wraparound windscreen and chunky lines.

At the rear, the thick pillars and angular tail look great. You can make your Fabia more distinctive by opting for a wide range of bright body colours, and even a MINI-style contrasting finish for the roof.

Inside, the Fabia builds on the quality of the previous model by offering better fit and finish, but it adds some much-needed flair, too. Chrome highlights on the dash, door handles and gearlever brighten things up, and you can also specify optional two-tone trim.

Up front, there's plenty of space, and although the seats could do with more side support, the driving position is good, thanks to a reach and rake-adjustable wheel. In the back, the 300-litre boot is generous, and headroom for rear seat passengers is ample. Leg space is a bit tight, especially for six-foot-plus passengers - although the Fabia's rivals are no better in this area.

Under the bonnet, there are four petrol engines and three diesels to choose from, with power outputs ranging from 60bhp up to 105bhp. A six-speed Tiptronic auto is available as an option, but most variants come with a five-speed manual gearbox.

Twist the key of this 80bhp 1.4-litre TDI model and you're left in no doubt that it's a diesel. But on the move, the rumble of the three-cylinder quietens down - particularly on the motorway. And with lots of low-rev punch, it's a gutsy performer. The unit is frugal as well, returning combined fuel economy of 61.4mpg, while CO2 emissions are a low 120g/km.

As for the rest of the driving experience, 'comfortable' is the first word that springs to mind. Our car had a soft suspension set-up, which offered a cushioned ride that ironed out bumps on rough surfaces with ease.

However, the pay-off is that there's a lot of body roll in corners, and the numb steering doesn't encourage you to push on. But for most buyers comfort, rather than driver enjoyment, will come as the priority. Standard equipment is generous, and the Fabia is available in three trims, named simply 1, 2 and 3. Prices range from £7,990 to £12,995, and this top-spec 3 model features climate control, sat-nav, plus driver, passenger and side airbags.

Add in the great looks, impressive practicality and solid build quality, and the Fabia adds up to an excellent supermini that deserves to succeed.

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