Skoda Fabia hatchback (2018 - ) review
The Fabia is Skoda’s small hatchback, and a rival to cars like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and plenty of others.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0
What the Fabia lacks in driving panache and, arguably, style, it more than makes up for in comfort, practicality and value. The 2018 facelift to this model, which has been around since 2014, is minimal, but it keeps the Fabia up-to-date against newer rivals and means that overall it’s still one of the best small hatchbacks around.
- Efficient engines
- Comfortable ride
- Loads of space
- Not for those wanting a sporty drive
- Looks won’t be to everyone’s tastes
- No diesel option
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 favourite 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 this size, the Fabia is very roomy. There’s plenty of space both front and back, with decent leg and headroom in the rear for adults. At 330 litres, the boot is bigger than most rivals, such as the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo, and if you’re really hankering after extra space, Skoda make an estate version of the Fabia too, which none of its rivals can boast. In the hatch, 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. There’s quite a lip at the boot 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 steering isn’t particularly sharp, and the cornering not particularly taut, 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. 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 are slightly up on the outgoing model, but remain below the equivalent Fiesta and some way below the pricier Polo. In most other area, 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. Their 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, albeit not by a huge amount. All models of the latest Fabia get Skoda’s Front Assist automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you don’t reacting 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. The S model is pretty sparsely equipped, aside from that, and is only available with the 75 and 95 horsepower engines. 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. Skoda also makes a Colour Edition of the Fabia hatch, which lets you personalise bits of the car, such as the roof, wheels and side mirrors, with different coloured paint. 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.