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In-depth reviews

Skoda Fabia review - Engines, performance and drive

Non-turbo entry-level engines can struggle, but the 1.0 TSI petrol is surprisingly strong

The latest Skoda Fabia is a very accomplished car to drive. It benefits from a chassis that’s well developed, although it's worth noting that the Fabia only gets an evolution of the last car's platform with some additional MQB components, rather than being a complete MQB model like its sister cars, the SEAT Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo.

Precise steering and the lower kerbweight of the latest Fabia mean it handles more neatly than the previous version, proving light on its feet and nimble in town. Now that the entire range is powered by 1.0-litre petrol engines, kerbweight for all models comes in at less than a tonne, further boosting the Fabia's agility and nimble handling.

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• Best superminis

But sporty handling arguably isn’t as important as comfort in a supermini, and while the Fabia isn't quick, it more than compensates in terms of ride quality.

The damping is forgiving, and the Skoda rides like the Polo. It smothers bad surfaces well, with the dampers controlling body and wheel movement nicely, offering lots of support when driving faster and decent refinement on the motorway. As with the Polo, the steering is direct and the five-speed manual gearbox (or six-speed for the most powerful petrol) serves up positive shifts.

At speed, the Fabia is impressively composed, again with the feel of a larger car than it is. This is why you may want to choose one of the more powerful engines to make it more of an all-rounder: the 1.0 MPI units struggle when speeds rise. Cabin noise isn't quite as well supressed from the occupants as it is in a Polo, but it's still an impressive long distance car for its size.

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As for brakes, lower-power models have discs at the front but drums at the rear, reflecting the likelihood they’ll be driven more slowly. A hill-hold function, stopping rollbacks in town, is a £60 option on all models (and standard on the DSG versions).

Engines

The 1.0-litre MPI petrol engines that work so well in the Up and Citigo do struggle a little in the larger Fabia. The five-door supermini isn’t too much of a step up in weight, which helps a bit, but there’s still no escaping the base car’s meek 15.7-second 0-62mph pace. The 73bhp version doesn’t actually offer any more torque either; it cuts a second from the 0-62mph time purely through top-end power. In the real world, it won’t feel much faster and you’ll have to work both engines hard.

Our tip is to choose the 1.0 TSI turbo, in either 94bhp or 108bhp guise. The figures say it all: the 1.0 TSI 95 (that number representing its power in metric horsepower) produces 200Nm of torque, instead of the 1.0 MPI 75’s 95Nm – and does so from 1,400-3,500rpm instead of a peaky 3,000-4,300rpm.

While the MPI and TSI engines are throbby and characterful thanks to their three-cylinder layouts, the 1.0 TSI is much more appealing because you don't need to rev it so hard as to make the engine note intrusive. It fades into the background and often, because it demands so few revs around town, is as refined as a much larger car. The TSI 110 may prove better on a motorway though – it benefits from a six-speed gearbox, and the extra power means you don't have to work it quite as hard. 

Skoda Fabia vs Volkswagen Polo vs Vauxhall Corsa

Skoda's five- and six-speed gearboxes are snappy and ultra-light in the usual Volkswagen Group way, with an accurate and precise shift. With the most powerful petrol you can choose an optional DSG twin-clutch automatic, using the Volkswagen Group seven-speed unit. Performance is pretty much the same for both manual and automatic; the DSG is actually a tiny bit more fuel efficient and emits marginally less CO2. However, this is because the auto takes its bias towards economy to the extrme: upshifts are undertaken at the very earliest opportunity, which makes even the most powerful engine option feel a little lethargic at times. It's compounded by the DSG's tardiness away from a standstill, which makes pulling out of tight junctions rather nerve-wracking at times.

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