Competent, confident all-rounder with lots of nice touches
No electric options, maybe it’s all a touch too sensible?
What is it?
The fourth generation Skoda Fabia supermini, the smallest and cheapest Skoda you can buy. Skoda’s proud of the fact it’s sold more than 4.5 million since the Fabia first went on sale in 1999. It was that first-gen car that really established Skoda as a credible carmaker after years of quips and jibes at the Czech firm’s expense.
So with the demise of the Citigo it’s up to the Fabia to provide a smooth entry into the Skoda range. What with all the giant SUVs knocking around it’s looking smaller than ever, even if the new car has stretched beyond four metres in length for the first time. Want proof cars of all types have grown in the last 20 years? The new Fabia’s 2.56-metre wheelbase is longer than the 1996 Octavia’s, even.
It looks fancy, aren’t Skodas supposed to be cheap?
Skoda has put much effort into formulating a classier family look of late, with a bit more uniformity across the range. The Fabia certainly looks more purposeful in the metal than the pictures suggest, but the design isn’t as distinctive as it once was. To our eyes the rear has a generic look of Ford Focus about it, but the front end is unmistakably Skoda, with the vertical grille slats and bonnet creases.
It’s easy to forget that Skoda used to be the budget option, but the entire range has moved upmarket in recent years and the firm focuses more on nifty ‘surprise and delight’ features and family practicality these days. There are a few areas of suspect plastics around the cabin, although the company might say that these are intended to be durable for family wear and tear rather than trying to keep the relatives at Volkswagen and Audi happy.
Does it feel budget to drive?
Nope: the Fabia oozes the sort of relentless competence we’ve come to expect from across the Volkswagen Group. Buyers in the UK have a choice of many different petrol engine options, ranging from the 1.0-litre 3cyl in unturbocharged 79bhp form with a five-speed manual, all the way through to the top-end Monte Carlo with its 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder. That makes 148bhp, but sadly a proper vRS is a just a pipe dream.
That’s not to say the Fabia can’t be hustled briskly along, though. More on that over on the driving tab.
So what does it cost, then?
Well, after recent inflation the range now starts at a not-insignificant £18,605 for the SE Comfort trim. Previously you could pick up a headline-grabbing don’t-bother S-badged model, which no one except the rental place you’ve booked with in Crete bought.
The SE Comfort and £21,135 SE L trims are probably aimed at a more traditional (old) clientele, while on the other side are the cars aimed at tempting new, young, trendy consumers to the Skoda range. That starts with the Colour Edition – think more personalisation options and gadgets – at £19,300, and also includes the rally inspired £21,835 top spec Monte Carlo version.
Has the Fabia got all those fun Skoda widgets?
The usual so-called ‘Simply Clever’ suspects are here – there’s the umbrella in the driver’s door and the ice scraper inside the fuel filler flap – but Skoda’s trying out a few new ones in the Fabia. Little things like a USB-C charger in the rear-view mirror to plug your dashcam in, and a cover that flips out of the boot to protect your paintwork, or a pen loop and car park ticket holder in the little storage ahead just in front of the gearstick. These features may or may not change your life, but at least you’ll enjoy showing them off to your friends.
There are also tech features in the Fabia that have trickled down from bigger cars – heated steering wheel and windscreen, aircon vents for the rear passengers, plenty of safety gizmos. You could downsize from something bigger and you wouldn’t miss out.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Fabia offers a mature drive with no real surprises, which admittedly sounds mean but is actually a solid plus – you’ll get exactly what you’re expecting from this car and it’ll slot into your life without any fuss. If you looked up ‘easy to live with’ in the dictionary it would just be a picture of the Fabia.
If you want any of the latest electric tech, though, then you’ll have to go elsewhere. This generation of Fabia is the last crack at wringing all the cash Skoda can out of a purely petrol line-up. It’s a solid set of engines, mind, offering a decent blend of flexible performance and economy. If you’re not quite ready to go electric yet then you could do a lot worse than the baby Skoda.