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Skoda Fabia Estate (2008 – ) expert review

By Ivan Aistrop, 24th April 2014

The verdict

The Skoda Fabia estate is an incredibly spacious supermini, offering class-leading space for both passengers and luggage. Running costs are low and reliability is strong, too.

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Expert rating:

3.2

Pros

  • Comfortable and easy to drive
  • Affordable prices
  • Very practical

Cons

  • Poor cabin quality
  • Stingy kit, especially on safety
  • Some engines are old and a bit noisy

Full Review

1. Exterior

Many people would struggle to describe the Skoda Fabia estate Estate as a pretty car. The grille and large headlamps help to make the Fabia stand out from its rivals, but it doesn’t have the joie de vivre of the Mini Clubman or the aggressive angles of the Seat Ibiza ST. The grafting on of the estate-car rear end could be described as a touch clunky, too. Well-chosen alloy wheel designs do help the Fabia to look more upmarket than its price would suggest, though. For a more rugged look, you could choose one of the Scout models, which come with chunkier, 4×4-style bumpers and body cladding.

Our rating: 2

2. Interior

If you think the Fabia’s bodywork is short on style, just wait until you get inside. The materials on display are hard, scratchy and unappealing, making the cabin a fairly joyless place in which to spend time. It’s certainly nowhere near the high standards set by the classiest superminis. The interior design is rather bland, too, but at least the simple dashboard layout and logical placement of the controls makes everything easy to use. Thankfully, visibility is great and it’s easy to get comfortable, because all models have driver’s seat height adjustment and a steering wheel that moves for both height and reach.

Our rating: 3

3. Practicality

The amount of luggage room is exceptional, considering the footprint of the Fabia Estate, and it also compares well with other supermini-based estate cars. There’s 505 litres of space available with the seats up, and 1,485 litres with them folded down. That’s way more than you get in the Mini Clubman or Seat Ibiza ST. Inside the cabin, there’s lots of headroom in the front and at the rear thanks to the tall stance of the Fabia. Legroom is pretty generous too, with all passengers able to travel in comfort.

Our rating: 5

4. Ride and handling

Importantly for a car like this, the Fabia is easy and relaxing to drive in town, thanks to its dinky dimensions, clear visibility and light controls. The notchy gearshift is slightly frustrating and the ride can be a bit jumpy on bumpy urban surfaces, but it’s impressively comfortable on faster roads. Corners are taken with plenty of grip and stability, but there’s quite a bit of body lean to be felt and the steering is rather vague. The vRS hot hatch version is sharper in the bends than other Fabias, but compared with the best small hot hatches, it’s nowhere near as crisp or responsive.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

The Fabia has a vast range of engines to choose from. We’d avoid the three-cylinder 1.2 petrol, which delivers 68bhp, because it’s underpowered and noisy. If you can afford it, we’d recommend one of the turbocharged four-cylinder 1.2s that give 85bhp or 103bhp. Both have a surprising amount of fizz, and stay impressively smooth and quiet. Three 1.6-litre diesel engines offer 74bhp, 89bhp and 103bhp, and have enough mid-range urge to keep life easy. The three-cylinder 1.2 diesel in the Greenline II model has rather less urgency and feels a bit rattly. The hot vRS version has a turbocharged and supercharged 1.4-litre petrol engine delivering 178bhp: it’s quick enough, but the standard semi-automatic gearbox is frustratingly jerky.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

If minimal running costs are your main priority for your Fabia, the Greenline II trim will be of interest. Fitted with a small diesel engine and a raft of fuel-saving modifications, it manages to average 83.1mpg and has tax-busting CO2 emissions of just 88g/km. All three versions of the 1.6 diesel will return a very decent 67.3mpg, while all the petrols bar the vRS will better 50mpg. The vRS only marginally falls short of that mark, too. Purchase prices are reasonable and resale values are also fair-to-middling.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

The Fabia has a pretty strong score in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index and, as a manufacturer, Skoda rates pretty highly, too. That should give you confidence that your Fabia won’t go wrong, but if it does, it shouldn’t cost the earth to fix. Getting it fixed shouldn’t be a painful experience, either, because Skoda dealers are widely regarded as being among the best for customer service.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The estate version of the Fabia hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but the hatchback was assessed in 2007, when it scored a disappointing four-star rating. Since then, not only have five stars become the class norm, but the tests themselves have become more stringent. All models come with driver, passenger and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and an electronic stability programme as standard. Rather disappointingly, curtain airbags are only standard on the Elegance model; they’re options on the other versions.

Our rating: 2

9. Equipment

Safety isn’t the only area in which kit provision is a little sparse in the Fabia. For example, no version of the car, even the range-topper, has a Bluetooth phone connection as standard. That’s pretty poor by today’s standards. Entry-level S trim is particularly basic – you don’t even get a lid for your glovebox – but you do get remote locking, electric front windows and a CD player with four speakers. SE is better, with alloys, air-con, electric mirrors and four more speakers: Greenline II trim gets similar. Elegance trim adds front foglamps, leather on the steering wheel and gearknob, plus climate and cruise controls. The vRS has all sorts of sporty styling goodies.

Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

If you want as much cargo space as possible from a car with the same footprint as a normal supermini, then the Fabia Estate is it. No other small estate car can rival it for sheer capacity. But if you also value other aspects of a car – such as looks, interior quality or driver appeal – there are rivals that are better at ticking those boxes.

Our rating: 3

Expert review 3.2stars

  • Exterior2
  • Interior3
  • Practicality5
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety2
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?3

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:

SE 1.2 TSI 86

Cracking engine and not too expensive

Most economical:

Elegance 1.6 TDI CR 75 Greenline II

All the energy-saving gubbins give you more than 83mpg

Best avoided:

S 1.2 12v 69

Weak engine simply isn’t up to the job

The amount of luggage room is exceptional, considering the footprint of the Fabia Estate. It also compares well with other supermini-based estate cars..