Skoda Fabia (2015-2017) review
The Skoda Fabia is practical, frugal and well-equipped but its nondescript styling and dull interior won’t set your pulse racing
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The Skoda Fabia is a small but practical family car that’s available with a selection of frugal engines and loads of clever interior features to make it easy to live with. It’s also available as a practical estate.
The Fabia was introduced in 2014 and received a few subtle revisions in early 2017. The old 1.2-litre petrol engine was replaced with a more efficient 1.0-litre version and the headlights were revised.
What hasn’t changed is the robust feeling of the interior. Its materials are harder wearing than a Vauxhall Corsa’s, although entry-level S models have a sea of dark plastics that are particularly unappealing on the eye.
Another reason to avoid entry-level S models is their basic-looking five-inch touchscreen infotainment system, although it does come with Bluetooth and DAB digital radio. The upgraded 6.5-inch screen – fitted to SE models and above – is clearer, brighter and easier to read on the move.
If you want satellite navigation, however, you’ll have to pay an extra £500. Really, you’re better off using Mirrorlink, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (all fitted as standard to the 6.5-inch system) to mirror your smartphone’s navigation apps on the Fabia’s built-in screen.
The Fabia’s roomy whichever model you go for, though, and there’s plenty of space for you to get comfortable even if you’re very tall. Steering wheel and driver’s seat-height adjustment come as standard and all but entry-level S models get height adjustment for the passenger seat too.
There’s plenty of space in the back for two tall adults to sit fairly comfortably – providing you avoid the thick sports seats fitted to Monte Carlo models. Carrying three abreast is a tighter squeeze than in a Honda Jazz but kids will have no problem getting comfy. Fitting a child seat is dead easy, too, thanks to the clearly marked Isofix anchor points and the fact the rear doors open nice and wide.
A big boot is another string to the Skoda’s bow. Its 330-litre space is only outclassed by the likes of the 354-litre Honda Jazz and 355-litre SEAT Ibiza. It’s easily big enough for a baby buggy and some soft bags, and grows to 1,150 litres when you fold the rear seats down. The handy two-way (60:40) split-folding rear seats mean you can carry long items and two passengers in the back, too. With all the seats down, a bike will fit easily with one wheel removed.
The Skoda Fabia comes with bundles of clever, family friendly features that make it the small car equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife
You may as well stay on the bike if you specify the super-slow 60hp petrol engine. You’re much better off going for the nippier 95hp 1.0-litre TSI petrol, which will return fuel economy of around 55mpg in the real world and is brilliant for cruising around town. The 105hp 1.4-litre diesel – that’ll return 72.4mpg (officially, at least) – is a better bet if you cover many motorway miles.
Zippy performance or not, the Skoda will never be as fun to drive as a Ford Fiesta or as comfortable as a VW Polo, but the Fabia’s a good all-rounder. Its soft suspension can struggle slightly with bumps at slow speeds but it settles down into a relaxed cruise on the motorway.
Reassuringly, Euro NCAP awarded the Fabia a five-star safety rating in 2014 – it’s worth noting the tests have been made significantly stricter since then. That said, the Fabia’s still a safe small family car that’s well worth considering if you’re looking for something frugal and very practical considering its size.
The Fabia’s impressively spacious for a car this size. Just avoid the thicker sports seats in Monte Carlo models if you regularly carry adults in the back – they cut into your passengers’ knee room
You’ll have no excuse not to keep your Fabia looking neat and tidy inside – there’s an extra storage pocket between the front seats, a phone holder and even an optional removable waste bin
There’s plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment to help you get comfortable in the Skoda Fabia. You’ll be treated to more head and legroom in the front than you’ll find in a Ford Fiesta or the Mazda 2, and 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, but it’s a £75 option on S versions.
The standard seats are pretty supportive, but you can upgrade to more heavily bolstered sports seats in SE L models for £175. Or, just pick a Monte Carlo model which gets them as standard. Unfortunately, lumbar adjustment – that helps prevent backache on long journeys – isn’t available on any models.
Jumping in the back is as easy as pie – all Fabias come with five-doors and the flat roofline 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 considering the Fabia’s a small car, but if your passengers are very tall they’ll feel slightly more hemmed-in than they will in the airier Honda Jazz and SEAT Ibiza. There’s enough legroom for your six-foot friends to get fairly comfy, but the thicker sports seats on Monte Carlo models slightly cut into your back passenger’s knee and foot room.
Three adults will be less cramped in the Fabia than in a Vauxhall Corsa or Ford Fiesta but a SEAT Ibiza delivers a little more shoulder room. The Skoda’s wide-opening rear doors and clearly marked Isofix anchor points make fitting a child seat a breeze, however.
The Fabia has up a great selection of handy cubbyholes throughout its roomy cabin. The door bins are generous and can easily hold a large bottle of water and there’s a pair of large cupholders in the centre console. The square storage tray under the dashboard is perfect for holding a smartphone, too.
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’ll set you back a rather cheeky £95. For a more reasonable £65 you can get the optional Simply Clever package – it comes with a luggage net for the boot, a dedicated phone holder and a removable waste bin that slots into the driver’s door. SE models and above also get a small umbrella under the front passenger seat.
The Fabia’s 330-litre boot is just shy of the 354-litre Honda Jazz, but above average for this size of car. You’ll still be able to carry a baby stroller and a few soft bags even with the Fabia’s rear seats and parcel shelf in place.
Loading bulky items is relatively easy thanks to the Fabia’s wide boot opening and low boot lip, and you can expand its capacity to 1,150 litres by folding the rear seats. These flip down in a handy two-way (60:40) split so you can carry long items and a rear-seat passenger at the same time.
There’s a slight step in the rear floor to contend with once you’ve folded the seats, but it won’t prove too much of a pain unless you regularly carry very large or very heavy items. Filling the Fabia’s square boot is easy and a bike will fit once you’ve removed a wheel.
All models come with handy luggage hooks to stop shopping bags rolling around in the boot and the £110 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, too.
The £65 Simply Clever pack 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 Fabia’s cheap to run, as well as being comfortable and reasonably quiet on the motorway, but it won’t put an ear-to-ear grin on your face like a Ford Fiesta can
Go for a 1.0-litre petrol – you'll be surprised how nippy the more powerful 110hp version feels in the Fabia
You can get the Fabia with three petrol and three diesel engines and with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a DSG dual-clutch automatic. All models are designed to be efficient and easy to drive rather than sporty, however, so don’t expect them to be particularly exciting.
Pick a 1.0-litre TSI petrol model if you spend most of your time pottering around town. It’s available with either 95hp or 110hp and both versions feel far perkier than the rather sluggish 75hp MPI model. They’ll both return around 55mpg in real-world conditions.
You should only consider one of the Fabia’s 1.4-litre diesels if you spend more time on the motorway and rack up a high mileage. The 75hp version fitted to S models is best avoided. It’s noisy, rattly and will struggle to keep up with motorway traffic – especially if you’ve got passengers on board.
The 90hp model has enough grunt to keep up with fast-moving traffic and will return around 65mpg in real-world driving. It’s a little louder than the petrols around town but they settle into a reasonably quiet cruise on the motorway.
All Fabias come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard but you can upgrade to a DSG automatic for an extra £1,000. It’ll really help take the stress out of long journeys and seemingly endless traffic jams but it’s a little jerky at slow speeds which can make parking a little bit nerve-wracking.
The Fabia’s boxy body makes it easy to see out of and a breeze to thread through tight city streets. Its light steering and rear parking sensors – standard on SE models and above – help make it easy to park, too.
The Skoda’s suspension does its best to soften the blow of large potholes but it’ll still fidget slightly over poorly maintained roads – especially at slow speeds. Head out of town and the Fabia settles down into a fairly comfy cruise. It’s smoothest on the motorway and manages to muffle most unpleasant wind noise and tyre roar.
Unfortunately, the softly-sprung Fabia leans quite a lot in tight corners – your passengers in the back may start to feel a little car sick as a result. Sportier Monte Carlo models with stiffer suspension lean less but you’ll feel bumps and potholes more clearly through your seat. The larger 17-inch alloy wheels present a similar problem – they look great but they’ll make the Fabia less comfortable to drive. Save yourself £350 and stick to the standard 16-inch items.
Euro NCAP awarded the Skoda Fabia a five-star safety rating in 2014. The tests have been made significantly stricter since then, however, so newer five-star-rated models – such as the Nissan Micra – will offer extra protection in a collision.
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.
The Fabia’s fairly minimalist cabin doesn’t look particularly exciting but all its various knobs and buttons are easy to use. Sadly, they also feel rather cheap