Skoda Fabia Hatchback (2014 - ) review
The new Skoda Fabia majors on comfort and practicality, and it's also affordable to run. Just make sure you pick the right engine
- Roomy cabin and a big boot
- Comfortable and capable on the road
- Fantastic turbocharged engines
- Non-turbo engines aren’t nearly so impressive
- Can’t match key rivals in a number of areas
- Purchase prices not low enough to compensate
At a glance
The Fabia is closely related to the Volkswagen Polo, and you can really see that relationship in the car’s styling. Not only are the proportions of the two cars predictably similar, but so are many of the details, such as the front- and rear light units and bumper designs. It’s no bad thing, because like the Polo, the Fabia is a handsome, grown-up looking little car. Unless you choose the bottom-rung S trim, that is, because this version misses out on alloy wheels and chrome exterior trims
Compare the Fabia’s cabin with those of its supermini rivals, and it’s fair-to-middling for quality. The plastics on display look pretty smart have a substantial, robust feel, but because the surfaces are hard to the touch, they don’t have the outright lushness of those you’d find in the classiest superminis. That said, buyers do have a choice of interior trim options to mix up the colour scheme, and the dashboard has a no-nonsense layout and simple controls. Two of the three trims available also come with a touch-screen infotainment system that’s easy to navigate thanks to its logical menus and clear graphics. If you have a compatible Android smartphone, you can also use many of your phone’s functions and apps directly through your screen, including one to support sat-nav.
This is the area in which the Fabia really impresses, and it’s all to do with the space provided. Both rows of seats have really generous headroom and legroom, and the 330-litre boot is among the biggest in the class. The seats fold down to open up an 1,150-litre loadspace, which again, is more than you get in most rivals. However, it’s not perfect. While many of those rivals give you an extended loadbay that’s flat and level, the Fabia’s is both stepped and sloped.
Ride and handling
Get the Fabia out on the road, and you’ll realise that the focus of the car is very much on comfort, thanks to a suspension that feels impressively supple and forgiving over bumps of all types. Even so, body roll is contained well enough to make the car feel reasonably sharp and precise in corners, and that’s helped further by the strong grip and nicely weighted steering. Wind and road noise are also well isolated, even at high speeds, but how quiet your car will be overall depends largely on which engine you pick.
There’s no shortage of choice on engines. The petrol range includes two 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engines with either 59bhp or 74bhp, and two turbocharged 1.2s with either 89bhp or 109bhp. We’ve tried two of them, the 59bhp and the 89bhp. The former is best avoided, not because it’s slow – you’d expect that from an engine with such limited power – but because refinement leaves a lot to be desired. It produces a loud boomy tone anytime you try to pick up speed, and you feel strong vibrations through the controls and the floorpan. The latter, meanwhile, makes the Fabia feel like a completely different car. The engine is impressively quiet and smooth, even when you work it hard, while the performance you get is perky and flexible. The range also includes a couple of 1.4 diesels, available in outputs of either 89bhp or 104bhp, but we haven’t tried these versions yet.
Gone are the days when Skoda was a budget choice, so the Fabia is hardly any cheaper to buy than many of its mainstream supermini rivals. Resale values are very much of the so-so variety as well. Fuel economy, however, is pretty good. Only two of the four petrol engines fail to beat 60mpg, and they only miss out by a whisker, while both the diesels will beat 80mpg if you avoid the twin-clutch gearbox. The correspondingly low CO2 emissions also mean that all versions will be tax-friendly for private buyers and company car drivers alike.
Traditionally, the Fabia has always proved to be a pretty hardy little machine. The car has an excellent score in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and Skoda features towards the top of the manufacturer’s standings. That should give you plenty of confidence that your car won’t let you down. Even if it does, dealing with the problem should be relatively hassle-free, because Skoda dealers usually feature among the front-runners for customer service in most surveys. A three-year/60,000-mile warranty is provided, but this can be augmented by the optional extended warranty and servicing packs available, which take care of all your needs for a nominal one-off fee.
Like most supermini rivals these days, the Fabia comes with standard safety features including six airbags and a stability control system. You also get a tyre-pressure monitoring system provided across the range. If you’re prepared to pay a little extra, you can also add collision mitigation technology, which slows or stops the car automatically if an impending collision is detected. Even more encouragingly, the Fabia has already achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.
Of the three trims available, SE is the pick. It takes the DAB radio, Bluetooth and remote locking of the entry-level S trim, and adds desirable features like alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a leather steering wheel and a better stereo with the touch-screen system. Range-topping SE L trim adds climate and cruise controls, plus keyless entry, but it takes the purchase price too high. Also, it's a bit strange that no version, even the range-topper, comes with powered rear windows as standard.
Because you want your supermini to be as practical as it can be, and because you like the idea of having something a little bit more left-field than the more obvious choices in the supermini class. However, the more popular superminis are more popular for a reason, and that’s because they’re a little bit better. If you’re not totally sold on the Fabia’s practicality and individuality, we’d point you towards a Ford Fiesta or VW Polo, both of which are better all-rounders.