- Good value
- Looks like a Polo
- Looks like a Polo
- Rear headroom could be bigger
- Fiesta more fun to drive
We review the 2014, third-generation Skoda Fabia — a rival to the likes of the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai i20.
Skoda has had a little hit on its hands since it first introduced the Fabia supermini in 1999. As with much of the Skoda range it makes the most of its Volkswagen parentage to create practical and good value cars that are more than the sum of their parts.
Now it has released the third-generation Fabia, and as well as the inevitable improvements in efficiency and space Skoda is also aiming for better quality and sharper looks. We drove the UK’s likely best-seller, the 1.0 MPI 75PS in mid-range SE trim, which will cost £12,760.
There’s an instant and obvious step forward for the Fabia here compared to the old car, more so than the most recent Octavia. It wears sharp creases down the flanks and at the rear while the front end wears the new family face with confidence. It’s already made the old one look a little toy-like, which is a good sign of progress.
You could argue that now it looks more like the Polo as a result, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – except for Polo owners.
The Fabia has only increased in width and fractionally in length, but better packaging has freed up a little more space for passengers and luggage. If you’re sat in the front then it’s all good news, with plenty of head and legroom and enough elbow room to accommodate wider folk. In the back it’s a little more size-dependent; average height adults will be OK but those at the taller end of the scale will find headroom at a premium.
Boot space is impressive, however, with Skoda claiming a class best of 330 litres, rising to 1,150 litres with the seats folded. There’s also a few of what Skoda terms ‘Simply Clever’ features such as a high-vis vest hidden in the driver’s door and pockets on the inside edge of the front seats.
Performance & handling
The Fabia gets the pick of the latest petrol and diesel units to come from the Volkswagen Group and while the outgoing units were fine, the improvements are certainly welcome. The 1.0-litre petrol unit is very willing and refined, even if you choose to give it some stick. The performance figures are modest; 107mph flat out and 0-62mph in 14.7 seconds but it feels more lively than that.
More impressive is the composure and refinement in the way the Fabia drives. All the major controls have a pleasing weight to them that makes it feel a little bit more grown-up than before – and closer to its Polo relation. The ride quality is significantly better than before, and although it’s not as sharp to drive as the Fiesta, in many ways it behaves like a car from the class above. For many buyers that ‘big-car’ feel is an important factor.
Economy & environment
The new range of engines means Skoda is happy to boast about the improvements in economy and emissions across the range. The 1.0-litre petrol replaces the old 1.2-litre and although it’s 200cc down with still just three cylinders it’s 7.5mpg and 20g/km better than the previous equivalent. That’s also partly due to weight saving across the range too, with some models 65kg lighter than before.
The headline-grabber at launch is the 1.4-litre TDI 90PS unit which manages an impressive 83.1mpg combined and 88g/km of CO2, and that’s before the inevitable GreenLine version to come.
Equipment & value
The Fabia benefits from a significant boost in equipment across the range, although there is a price to pay. The entry-level S model has almost all the kit you could possibly want; it gets Bluetooth, DAB radio with USB and auxiliary input, remote locking, tyre pressure monitoring, electric windows and doors plus ESC and related electronic safety systems. Most of that list is new to the base car too.
The only key item missing is air conditioning, but move up to the SE model and you get that plus alloy wheels, trip computer, MirrorLink on the upgraded audio system, speed limiter and some leather trim. However adding air conditioning to the S model costs £750 whereas the price jump between S and SE is £1,300, so there’s little incentive to do so.
The Fabia comes with all the latest safety equipment from the Volkswagen Group and every model in the range is fitted with ESP as standard as well as traction control and brake assist. It’s also highly likely to achieve the full five-star EuroNCAP rating like the Polo.
The latest Fabia is the perfect demonstration of just how far the modern supermini has come. It’s quiet, comfortable, good to drive, refined and well-specified, plus it looks smarter than before too. The only downside is that it’s a bit more expensive than before, although there’s still a sizeable gap between it and the Polo. It still makes a very sound choice though, and buying one makes a lot of sense.
The key rivals offer something slightly different. The Fiesta is more fun to drive although not as spacious or as well-finished as the Fabia, while the new Corsa is good value and has a much-improved driving experience.
|Engine||1.0 MPI 75PS|
|Power||75hp @ 6,200rpm|
|Torque||95Nm @ 3,000-4,300rpm|
|Economy||58.9g mpg combined|