Skoda Fabia Estate (2018 - ) review
The Fabia estate adds a larger boot to Skoda’s small hatchback, and in doing so creates a very roomy and practical small car that doesn’t really have any direct rivals.
Interested in buying a Skoda Fabia?
How good does it look?
You’d be hard-pushed to call the Fabia sexy, and it certainly doesn’t have the standout looks of some of its rivals such as the Citroen C3 or Nissan Micra. But this updated version does have some tweaked looks, with a new grille and bumpers and redesigned head and taillights, too. All versions have LED daytime running lights as standard, and you can get extra-bright, full LED headlights, too, but only as an option. The entry-level S model comes on 15-inch steel wheels, while the SE gets alloy wheels and front fog lights, and is likely to be the biggest seller. Opt for the SE L and you’ll get 16-inch alloys, while top-of-the-range Monte Carlo has some black bodykit elements on the front bumper, a black roof and a funky Monte Carlo badge on the side.
What's the interior like?
The interior of the Fabia is best described as functional and acceptable, with an unremarkable but inoffensive design and materials that are of decent, if not spectacular quality. It’s all screwed together well, and the seats are comfortable and adjust in plenty of different ways. With the steering column moving for both reach and rake, it’s easy to find your favoured driving position. The Monte Carlo version comes with more supportive sports seats, which are also comfy, but don’t adjust quite as low as the standard seats, which is worth noting for taller drivers. There are three different infotainment systems available, depending on which version you buy, but all operate in a broadly similar way through a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and are simple to navigate. The top two systems – called Swing Plus and Amundsen – feature Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and all have DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
How practical is it?
For a car of itssize, the Fabia is very roomy. There’s plenty of space both front and back, with decent leg- and headroom in the rear for adults. None of the Fabia’s direct rivals are available as an estate, which means the 530 litres of space you get in the boot is unmatched at this price. The other option for bargain roominess would be Dacia's Logan MCV, which is also impressively capacious for the (lower) price, but isn't very good in most other areas.
The rear seats fold down but not quite flat, and there’s a step up from boot floor to the back of the rear seats, which slightly impacts practicality, but you still get 958 litres of space in this configuration. There’s quite a lip at the boot aperture to lug stuff over, too, which is a bit of a shame, but with all that space it’s not likely to be a deal-breaker.
What's it like to drive?
If you’re expecting a sporty, involving drive then look elsewhere, to something like the Ford Fiesta or Seat Ibiza. The Fabia is set up for comfort, and it achieves that aim well, with the suspension massaging out the worst lumps and bumps in the road surface. The pay-off for that is that the cornering isn’t particularly sharp, and neither is the steering, but for 99% of customers that won’t be an issue. It’s absolutely fine for cruising about during normal driving. Don’t be confused by the top-spec Monte Carlo version. It might be named after the famous Monaco rally, but other than sporty seats and some cosmetic embellishments, it’s mechanically the same as the rest of the range.
How powerful is it?
Skoda has ditched diesel engines for the latest Fabia, which is worth keeping in mind if you do lots of long motorway journeys, as you won’t be able to take advantage of the improved fuel economy that diesel offers. That means there are three petrol engines available, which are carried over from the previous model but with new tweaks to reduce exhaust emissions.
The 95-horsepower version is likely to be the biggest seller, and it’s fine for most everyday driving, with enough mid-range pep to keep the Fabia from feeling sluggish. If you do want more zing, for example if you regularly carry a full car of passengers and stuff, then there’s a 110-horsepower version. It’s got smooth delivery and isn’t too noisy, and it’s also the only version available with an automatic gearbox, as the other engines are manual-only. The shifts are fast and seamless, and the only small hiccup is that it can be a bit slow to respond at lower speeds.
Skoda also offers a 75-horsepower version of the Fabia too, which we’ve yet to try in the newest car. On paper, at least, it’s not too appealing, as it’s slower, worse on fuel and more polluting.
How much will it cost me?
Prices for the Fabia estate are around £1,200 or so higher than the hatchback version, but even so are pretty close to rival hatchback models, such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. In most other areas, such as servicing and maintenance, fuel economy and resale value, it’s on a par with its rivals, which overall means those choosing a Fabia shouldn’t be worried that they’ve made a financially unwise decision.
How reliable is it?
Skoda has a very good reputation for reliability, sitting in the top half of Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, which ranks the manufacturers by past performance. The study's data for the Fabia, specifically, refers to an older model, but it too gets a good mark. JD Power’s 2017 Vehicle Dependability Study puts Skoda as the third best manufacturer overall. All this means that we’re confident that the new Fabia shouldn’t cause owners too many problems.
How safe is it?
The Fabia scored the maximum five stars when crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, although that was back in 2014 and standards have moved on since then. All models of the latest Fabia get Skoda’s Front Assist automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you don’t react to an impending accident. There are six airbags and two Isofix child seat mounting points in the back. Other new safety systems are available on the updated Fabia, but you’ll have to pay for them. These include Blind Spot Detection, which will keep an electronic eye out for cars lurking in your periphery, and Rear Traffic Alert, which lets you know of approaching vehicles when reversing out of a blind space.
How much equipment do I get?
All Fabias get LED daytime running lights and a trip computer in the dashboard, as well as Bluetooth and a DAB radio. Skoda thinks most people will opt for the SE model, which gives you alloy wheels, an upgraded infotainment system and electric windows all round. Upgrade to SE L and you can add a further upgraded infotainment system with some online features (free for the first year), some extra interior lighting, cruise control and keyless start. At the top of the range is the Monte Carlo, which gives you sports seats, a bodykit, sunroof and some special alloy wheel designs. Options include LED headlights and larger wheels, up to 18 inches in size.
Because you’re more bothered about space and comfort than a zingy drive and flashy looks. The Fabia isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is, which is a small car with maximum room for people and things that will drive them around in comfort, without burning too much fuel. All that, and at a good price, too. If your priorities align with the Fabia’s strengths, then you should find that it’s a little cracker.