The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.1
The Fabia is easy to drive, comfortable and practical. All that makes it a decent car, but unfortunately for Skoda, the supermini class is full of exceptional cars. These make the Fabia look very out of date in a number of different areas. We’d look elsewhere.
Reasons to buy
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Affordable prices
- Very practical
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The supermini class contains lots of smart-looking and stylish cars and, by comparison, the Skoda Fabia looks a little dowdy. The high roof gives the car bulbous, slightly awkward lines, while the styling of the bumpers and the large light units is rather plain and uninteresting. The entry-level S model looks particularly unappealing, with its steel wheels and black door handles, but the rest of the range gets body-coloured handles and alloy wheels.
What's the interior like?
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 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. Visibility is also 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.
How practical is it?
This is where the Fabia has the beating of many other superminis. The high roof means everyone gets plenty of headroom and there’s sufficient rear legroom to satisfy a couple of tall adults on a long journey. The 315-litre boot is bigger than those of many supermini rivals, and the space is deep and square-sided. All versions come with a split-folding rear seat that lets you boost capacity, but you have to remove the rear headrests before folding them down.
What's it like to drive?
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 as responsive.
How powerful is it?
The Fabia has a vast range of engines to choose from. We’d avoid the three-cylinder 1.2 petrols, which deliver 59bhp and 68bhp, because both are underpowered and noisy. The 85bhp 1.4 is better on both counts, but if you can afford it, we’d recommend one of the turbocharged four-cylinder 1.2s that produce 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 vRS hot hatch has a 1.4-litre petrol engine that’s turbocharged and supercharged to deliver 178bhp. It’s quick enough, but the standard semi-automatic gearbox is frustratingly jerky.
How much will it cost me?
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 just falls short of that mark, too. Purchase prices are reasonable (rather than cheap) compared with other mainstream superminis, and resale values are also decent.
How reliable is it?
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.
How safe is it?
All Fabias come with electronic stability control and front and side airbags. However, it’s really disappointing that you have to fork out for high-spec Elegance trim before you get curtain airbags. The Fabia was last crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2007, where it only earned four out of five stars. That performance is even more disappointing today, when most supermini rivals are achieving the full five stars, despite facing more stringent tests than the Fabia did.
How much equipment do I get?
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.
Because you want a car that’s easy to drive, comfortable and practical, all for an affordable price. However, the Fabia is some way behind the class leaders in a number of other areas, most notably quality, style, equipment and particularly safety. That’s why we’d look elsewhere.