- Car Reviews
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 original 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 currently have a choice of five petrol engine options, ranging from the 1.0-litre 3cyl in 64bhp, 79bhp, 94bhp tune – equipped with a five-speed manual ‘box as standard – or 108bhp in six-speed manual or seven-speed auto flavours. We’ve tried our hands on the 94bhp and 108bhp variants so far, and found them to be pretty handy, too. More on that over on the driving tab.
But wait, there’s more too – later this year a top-end 148bhp variant will be available (though a proper vRS is a just a pipe dream sadly), so anyone looking for a more spirited drive will have to wait until then. Or just buy something else. That’s not to say the Fabia can’t be hustled briskly along, though.
So what does it cost, then?
Well, the range starts at £14,905 for the headline-grabbing don’t-bother S-badged model, which no one except the rental place you’ve booked with in Crete will buy. Then Skoda’s two-pronged attack on the market comes into play – the SE Comfort and SE L models are aimed at a more traditional (old) clientele, with the latter the current high point in the range price list at a smidge under £19k.
On the other side are the cars aimed at tempting new, young, trendy consumers to the Skoda range starting with the Colour Edition – think more personalisation options and gadgets – and soon, as recently teased by Skoda, the rally inspired Monte Carlo version. Head over to the buying tab for the full lowdown.
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.