Skoda Fabia Estate (2008 – ) expert review

By Ian Robertson, 26th November 2010

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:

3.8

Pros

  • Plenty of space
  • Reliability
  • Holds its value well

Cons

  • Diesel engines noisy
  • Curtain airbags optional on most models
  • Skoda badge still a barrier for some

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Skoda Fabia could never be described as a pretty looking car, with an almost old fashioned look to it. The traditional grille and large headlamps help to make the Fabia stand out from the curvaceous crowd of superminis. The grafting on of the load-lugging box is quite successful, looking quite elegant from the rear. Well chosen designs of alloy wheel also help the Fabia to look more upmarket than some of its rivals.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

The dashboard is well laid out and intuitive, with the big buttoned audio system a particular triumph, thanks to its simple design and ease of use for the mature buyer. The recent facelift has meant that the Fabia has adopted plenty of soft-touch plastics around the cabin, which has lifted the quality quite considerably. It now feels quite luxurious and upmarket, but the MINI Clubman is still a much funkier proposition.

Our rating: 4

3. Practicality

The amount of luggage room is quite exceptional considering the footprint of the Skoda Fabia estate, with 480 litres of space available with the seats up, and 1,460 litres with them folded down. This is considerably more than the Peugeot 207 SW and Renault Clio Sport Tourer, and marginally more than the Fabia’s sister car, the SEAT Ibiza ST. Inside the cabin, thanks to the tall stance of the Fabia, there’s lots of headroom both front and rear. Legroom is pretty generous too, with all passengers able to travel in comfort. The multi-adjustable steering wheel and well padded seats ensure that the driver can get a decent position to pilot from. Though it would probably be rare for a supermini to tow, the Fabia can tow anything from 800kg to 1,200kg depending on the model chosen.

Our rating: 5

4. Ride and handling

Out on the road, the Fabia handles quite tidily, with decent feedback from the steering and plenty of grip. The suspension settings are particularly well judged, delivering a supple and comfortable ride that soak up the pot holes very well indeed. Engine refinement from the diesel models isn’t particularly good, with plenty of noise transmitted into the cabin. The petrol engines are better, only feeling strained and getting noisy when in the upper levels of the rev range. The Fabia makes a comfortable motorway cruiser, as that is when the engines are at their quietest, and both road and wind noise is thankfully low.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

There’s a wide range of engines to suit all pockets and tastes, with a choice of five petrol engines, and four turbodiesel units. Petrol power kicks off at 59bhp for the 1.2 6V, rising up to 178bhp in the flagship vRS. On the diesel front, the smallest engine is the three-cylinder 1.2-litre TDI engine developing 74bhp, right up to the most popular unit – the 1.6-litre TDI with 104bhp on tap. As an example, the top-flight diesel engine has a top speed of 118mph and accelerates to 62mph in 11.0 seconds, while the sporty vRS does so in 7.3 seconds and has a maximum speed of 140mph. Apart from the vRS, all Fabia models are plodders when it comes to performance, with none of them able to crack the sub-ten second acceleration figure, which is to be expected in a car that predominantly spends its time in an urban environment.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

All of the engines deliver competitively low CO2 emissions and decent fuel economy. Surprisingly for this sized car, the most popular engine is a diesel, with the top selling 1.6-litre TDI producing 104bhp, kicking out CO2 emissions of 109g/km, and delivering 67.3mpg on the combined cycle. Residual values fare better than most of the Fabia’s rivals – beating the Renault Clio and Vauxhall Corsa – while insurance costs are pretty competitive.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Skoda always does well in customer satisfaction and reliability surveys, with the Fabia continuing the trend. Owners praise the dealer network for providing high levels of customer service, and report very few problems. As the Fabia makes use of the underpinnings from the Volkswagen Polo, everything is solid and well made. Owners have been reporting problems with particulate filters on diesel models, though as these cars are predominantly bought by older buyers, this may be down to the driving style, rather than a manufacturing or design fault.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The estate version of the Fabia hasn’t been crashed tested by Euro NCAP, but the hatchback was in 2007, when it scored a four star rating. All models come with driver, passenger and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and a seatbelt warning system. Electronic stability programme is optional on all models, except on the Greenline II and vRS, where it comes as standard. Rather disappointingly, curtain airbags are optional on all but the Elegance and vRS models, rather than standard equipment.

Our rating: 3

9. Equipment

Generally all Skoda Fabia models come relatively well kitted out, with entry level S models featuring electric front windows, radio with auxiliary socket and remote central locking. SE models add 15-inch alloy wheels, alarm system, electric and heated mirrors, aircon and trip computer, while Elegance models feature 16-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control, front fog lights and leather steering wheel and gearknob. The sportiest model in the range, the vRS, also includes projector headlights, LED daytime running lights, sports seats, sports suspension, sports pedals, privacy glass and a sporty looking bodykit. There’s also the frugal Greenline II model that is based on the S trim with the addition of 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, electronic stability programme, an alarm system, electric and heated mirrors, front fog lights, aircon and tyre pressure monitors.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

Most buyers of the Skoda Fabia estate will be older, where the sheer amount of space, low running costs and reliability will be top of the shopping list. Equipment levels are reasonable, prices keen and when it comes to resale time, the Fabia will still be worth more than its mainstream rivals. These all add up to a winning package.

Our rating: 5

Expert review 3.8stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior4
  • Practicality5
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety3
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?5

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

Fabia S 1.2 12V

Small petrol engine and entry spec is best budget buy.

Best seller:

Fabia Elegance 1.6 TDI CR 105

Diesel economy and lots of kit makes it a popular choice.

Blow the budget:

Fabia vRS 1.4 TSI DSG

Sporty looks and great to drive is the dream drive.

The amount of luggage room for this size of car is quite exceptional.