Skoda Fabia

Very capable, safe and well-made supermini, but a little charmless

£8,995 - £17,555 Price range

5 Seats

45 - 83 MPG

8.1
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 11 reviews
  • Spacious cabin
  • Well equipped
  • Decent ride
  • Underpowered base models
  • Styling won't set world alight
  • Not huge fun to drive

Skoda has been one of the main contenders in the supermini class since the launch of the first Fabia in 2002. Generally, the first two generations of the Fabia received good write-ups from the motoring press; they offered solid build quality and decent value, but slightly dull styling. This third generation model, according to testers, offers solid build quality and decent value, but – you guessed it – slightly dull styling.

Can the latest model add anything else to its list of attributes in order to finally top the class-leading Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta?

Subjectively, there is very little to complain about inside the Fabia. Thanks to a longer wheelbase than the previous model (and despite a reduction in overall length) the Fabia is one of the few cars in this class which can seat four six-footers in comfort. The 330-litre boot is more generous than rivals like the Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, and there are plenty of cubbies scattered about the cabin. It’s all very well screwed together, and most of the plastics feel nice enough.

For those looking for a little fun inside their supermini, then we’d recommend looking elsewhere. Although Skoda are keen to emphasise the various colour and trim combinations available on the third gen Fabia, it all looks very staid inside. Cars like the Corsa and Peugeot 208 look more funky inside, while the Polo is still a higher quality product.

The Fabia receives plenty of praise from testers for its cosseting ride and secure handling. Overall, they consider it to be “impressively fluid, comfortable and refined”, while a lack of wind noise makes for a capable motorway car too.

As with the interior, it all just lacks a little character. Although accurate enough, the steering feels “inert” according to several critics, and for some, the soft suspension causes a little too much body roll when cornering. One tester suggests that the soft ride can even feel a little ‘bouncy’ in some models. Overall, it’s not going to trouble the Fiesta in the enjoyment stakes, but in most regards the driving experience is accomplished nonetheless.

There is the usual crop of Volkswagen Group engines available here, with a selection of petrol and diesel units. Most testers agree on two things: that you should avoid the base 1.0-litre petrol unit, and that the 89hp 1.2-litre turbo motor is the pick of the range. It’s quiet and smooth, with great flexibility, yet still returns a claimed 60.1mpg. The diesel models are great too, but the higher purchase prices mean that they’re only worth considering if you are going to be doing very high mileages.

A quick-shifting dual clutch gearbox is available on the top petrol and diesel models, but the manual option is more than adequate for most drivers, and cheaper too.

Most testers agree that whilst this engine is characterful and fun in the Volkswagen Up!, the extra 100kg it needs to haul around in the Fabia makes it feel "painfully sluggish". Insurance groups are very low, but performance will be inadequate for most.

The extra 15hp that the more powerful version of the 1.0-litre three cylinder helps, but it still takes a rather pedestrian 14.7 seconds to reach 60mph. However, testers note that the engine is "seriously quiet and refined." One or two critics suggest that due to less weight over the front wheels compared to larger-engined models makes the ride feel a little bouncy though, so it may be best to make sure you’re happy with it before you buy.
This is the engine which comes in for the most praise, thanks to feeling smooth and refined, yet having more than enough power to never struggle amongst other traffic.

Whichever state of tune you choose, performance and economy are strong. Even the lower powered 89hp version will hit 60mph in 10.9 seconds, and thanks to the generous 118 lb ft of torque available from just 1,400rpm, overtaking flexibility is great. The one we'd recommend.
If fuel economy is your number one priority, then this is the model to have. A claimed figure of 83.1mpg is the best in the range, but performance is still fine, and it doesn’t sound gruff unlike some diesels in the class.

The more powerful 104hp diesel trades 3mpg for one second knocked off the 0-60 dash. Personally we’d pick the lower powered version, as the extra economy would be a greater benefit to most people.

Buyers can choose between a regular manual gearbox and the seven-speed DSG auto.

The Fabia scored five stars when it was tested by Euro NCAP in late 2014; one of the few cars in this sector to receive more than four stars in what is now a tough test for small cars.

Equipment levels are quite strong, with six airbags fitted as standard, Isofix child seat fittings in the rear, and a tyre pressure warning systems that alert drivers if the tyres are under inflated or punctured.

The Fabia gets off to a very good start, thanks to a list price which matches the Fiesta and undercuts the Polo. It may not hold its value as well as those two – particularly the VW – but strong equipment levels should help to compensate slightly.

Even the most basic models come equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, digital radio, electric front windows and a tyre pressure monitor. Emissions are low across the range, which means that at most you’ll only pay £20 for annual road tax.

Conclusion

Considering that Skoda hoped to aim the latest Fabia at a younger audience, they seemed to have missed a trick slightly.

Yes, it is a very capable, solid car, but despite the customisation options that Skoda offer, it’s unlikely that younger drivers will actively choose one over a Fiesta or Corsa.

For those who don’t mind or care about the blandness though, there is plenty of reason to take a closer look at the Fabia. It isn’t quite class leading, but it is a very well-rounded car in its own right.

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