Skoda Fabia review
The Skoda Fabia is a small car with a decent amount of space in the back and a fairly roomy boot, but alternatives are more exciting to look at and to drive.
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The Skoda Fabia may be a small hatch but it entirely adheres to the manufacturer’s brief of being practical and available with a range of efficient engines plus some clever features.
If there’s a downside, it’s that the Fabia is pretty dull to look at and live with. Think of it as an automotive rucksack that does everything instead of a Louis Vuitton bag that you’ll want to show off to your chums.
The Skoda Fabia has been around in its current form for a fair few years now (it was launched in this shape in 2014) but there have been enough updates to keep it looking and feeling fresh with a few subtle revisions over the years. The latest of these means that you can now get it with brighter LED headlights, and all models come with a 6.5-inch infotainment display instead of the old car’s smaller 5-inch unit.
What hasn’t changed is how robust the Skoda Fabia’s interior feels. Unfortunately, entry-level models look comparatively dull with their plain black design, and the plastics on the doors and dashboard are solid rather than luxurious. It gets better on the higher-spec cars as they come with the option of some brighter red or posh-looking brushed-metal effect dashboard inserts.
Some of the tech is pretty posh, however – you can get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems while the real top-of-the-range models offer a portable wifi hotspot that you can connect up to two devices to. Mercifully, the system is pretty easy to use, thanks to a selection of physical shortcut buttons and bright, clear menu graphics.
Some small cars trade on their fancy looks and entertaining handling – not so the Skoda Fabia. Instead, this compact hatchback comes with loads of family-friendly features that help make it a doddle to live with.
The Skoda Fabia is impressive in the amount of stuff and people you can squeeze into it, too. Two tall passengers will be able to stretch out in the front and still leave space for two six-foot-tall passengers to get comfy in the back. It’s also a doddle to fit a pair of child seats using the standard and easily located Isofix points.
Don’t think this generous cabin has come at the expense of boot space. Sure, it’s not quite as roomy as a VW Polo or SEAT Ibiza, but the Skoda has a fairly big load bay. The Fabia’s forte is in the detail though – there are numerous handy hooks, partitions and straps to hold your luggage securely. With the back seats folded there’s even room for a bike with one of its wheels attached.
Unfortunately, driving the Skoda Fabia can feel about as quick as riding a bike sometimes – if you go for the rather sluggish 60hp petrol engine, that is. Pick one of the perkier turbocharged petrols and it feels perfectly happy pottering around town or cruising along on the odd motorway journey.
Talking of motorways, while you can get a seven-speed automatic gearbox, you can’t get the Skoda Fabia with a diesel engine so if lots of long motorway trips are on your agenda then you would most likely be better off looking at one of the Fabia’s alternatives.
Around town, the Skoda Fabia’s relatively soft suspension does a fairly decent job ironing out bumps, but very large potholes still send a rather unpleasant thud through the cabin. On a twisty country road, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as nimble as a Ford Fiesta, either.
The Fabia might not be a car you’ll want to make the focal point of your holiday Instagram snaps, but it’s a practical and understated choice that will carry plenty and is comfortable to live with.
The Skoda Fabia might be small, but there’s still an impressive amount of space in its back seats for adults – providing you avoid the bulkier sports seats in Monte Carlo versions.
You can get the Skoda Fabia with a huge number of clever storage features – from a removable waste bin to a neat clip-on boot basket to stop groceries from sliding around.
The Skoda Fabia’s boxy style might not make for attractive looks but it does mean that there is a whole heap of space inside.
There’s plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment to help you get comfortable and you’ll enjoy more head and legroom in the front than you’ll find in a Ford Fiesta or the Mazda 2. To be doubly sure, all models come with a height-adjustable driver’s seat as standard. SE models and above get height adjustment for the front passenger’s seat, too.
The standard seats are pretty supportive, but if you want more bolstering then you’ll have to go for the range-topping Monte Carlo model where sports seats come as standard, or for the SE L where you can add them in as an optional extra. It’s worth bearing in mind that they are slightly thicker so cut into legroom for rear passengers. Unfortunately, you can’t get adjustable lumbar support to help reduce backache on long journeys in any Skoda Fabia.
Jumping in the back is as easy as pie. All Fabias come with five-doors and the flat roofline and tall body mean you won’t have to stoop massively to get in, even if you’re very tall.
There’s an impressive amount of space in the back seats for a small car, too, but if your passengers are particularly lanky they’ll feel slightly more hemmed-in than in the airier Honda Jazz and SEAT Ibiza. There’s enough legroom for your six-foot friends to get fairly comfy, although slightly less if you go for those sports seats of course.
There is room for three adults to get into the back, but shoulder space is a bit tight and you’ll feel comfier in a SEAT Ibiza. The Skoda’s wide-opening rear doors and clearly marked Isofix anchor points with no fiddly covers to deal with make fitting a child seat a breeze.
Appropriately for a car with a roomy cabin, the Skoda Fabia comes with a selection of handy cubby holes throughout.
Both front door bins can easily hold a large bottle and there’s a pair of cupholders in the centre console, albeit ones that are two different sizes. The square storage tray under the dashboard is perfect for taking a smartphone and Monte Carlo models come with a light to help you find smaller items in the dark.
The glovebox is big enough for a large bottle, but only top-spec SE L models come with a front armrest and storage bin as standard. You can get this feature fitted to other versions, but it costs extra. You can also pay extra for the Simply Clever package which comes with a luggage net for the boot, a dedicated phone holder and a removable rubbish bin that slots into the driver’s door. SE models and above also get a small umbrella under the front passenger seat.
The Skoda Fabia’s 330-litre boot is pretty much average for the class – it’s roomier than the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa’s, but loses out to the Honda Jazz, VW Polo or SEAT Ibiza. There’s still enough space to carry a baby stroller, a large suitcase and a few small suitcases without removing the parcel shelf, however.
The Fabia’s wide boot opening makes loading bulky items relatively easy but there’s quite a large boot lip that can make it more difficult to load and unload very heavy things. The deep floor does mean you can carry two large boxes, but there isn’t quite enough space for a set of golf clubs.
You can fold the back seats down in a two-way (60:40) split as standard so you can carry long items and a rear-seat passenger at the same time. With both back seats flipped down, the Skoda Fabia’s boot grows to 1,150 litres – that’s roomy enough to carry a bike but you do have to take one of the wheels off to do so. Folding the rear seats does produce a bit of a step in the floor, so sliding longer items all the way to the back of the front seats is a little tricky.
The boot also contains a few handy tricks designed to make life a bit easier. All models come with handy luggage hooks to stop shopping bags rolling around in the boot and the optional adjustable boot floor is a sensible buy that’ll make it even easier to load heavy luggage. There’s space underneath to hide away a few valuables when it’s in its raised position, but not enough space to tuck away the parcel shelf.
You can also pay extra for the Simply Clever pack which comes with a handy divider that clips into the boot to stop small bags sliding around and a luggage net to securely tie down bulky bags or fragile items.
The Skoda Fabia’s cheap to run, very easy to drive and fairly comfortable, but if it’s fun on an empty country road you’re after, you’d be better off with something else.
The Fabia’s engine range is designed to be easy to drive and efficient rather than wildly exciting, and it consists of three petrol engines.
The most affordable 1.0-litre MPI model with 60hp is best suited to those on a strict budget who spend most of their time pottering around town. It is pretty slow, even when you accelerate hard, but on the flip side it’s relatively smooth and fairly cheap to run. Go easy on the accelerator and it’ll return around 45mpg or maybe a bit more.
One of the two 1.0-litre TSI models are your better bet if you do a bit of both town and country driving. It’s available with either 95hp or 110hp. Both feel far perkier than the sluggish 60hp MPI model, but the 95hp has more than enough oomph for everyday use. These turbocharged engines will both return around 55mpg in normal driving conditions.
There is a choice of either a five- or six-speed manual gearbox as standard – the former on the 60hp and 95hp models and the latter on the 110hp engine – or you can go for an optional seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic to help take the stress out of long journeys and long traffic jams. The auto is a little jerky at slow speeds, however, and often changes up a gear too quickly when you accelerate out of a junction which can make the automatic Skoda Fabia feel a little sluggish.
Visibility is one big upside of the Skoda Fabia’s relatively upright styling, which helps a great deal when it comes to making your way around tight urban roads. Add in a light steering setup and the rear parking sensors that you get on SE models and upwards and it is easy to park, too.
The suspension takes the edge off big potholes but it feels a bit fidgety over the kind of rough road surfaces that are common around UK towns. Head out of the urban areas, though, and the Fabia settles down happily and gets on with being a comfy motorway cruiser. It manages to keep the worst of the tyre and wind noise out of the cabin, too.
Unfortunately, the Fabia leans quite a lot in tight corners – your passengers in the back may start to feel a little car sick as a result. This is less of an issue in the sportier Monte Carlo models with their lowered suspension. Speaking of Monte Carlo versions, the larger 18-inch alloy wheels you can get on these range-topping cars are best avoided if comfort is your priority – they look great but they’ll make the Skoda Fabia a bit more jiggly on the move.
Euro NCAP awarded the Skoda Fabia a five-star safety rating in 2014. The tests have been made significantly stricter since then, however.
SE models and above come with a speed limiter and automatic emergency braking features while SE L, Colour Edition and Monte Carlo models get cruise control as standard. You can also pay extra to get blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert systems to help prevent avoidable collisions on motorways and when you’re pulling out of parking spaces.
The Skoda Fabia’s cabin comes with a decent amount of kit and is sensibly laid out, but it doesn’t feel all that upmarket.