Decent and dependable

It might be showing its age ever so slightly, but the comfortable, practical Skoda Fabia remains hard to fault.

The Skoda Fabia is a well proven supermini contender that builds on the dependable nature of its predecessors with more tech and a surprisingly enjoyable drive.

It’s very roomy, handles tidily, has some strong engines, and mid-spec trim and above is well stocked with kit.

The 2018 revisions didn’t transform the Fabia into the class-leader, but it still remains a refined, sensible supermini. The Polo is marginally more comfortable and gets more advanced infotainment tech, but the Skoda is cheaper to buy in the first place. As a safe, dependable supermini, the Fabia is still very hard to fault.

The Skoda Fabia, whether it’s the five-door hatch or practical estate, is one of the best superminis for sale in the UK today. It offers practicality, decent space inside and a range of efficient engines. And while there’s no vRS hot hatch, the Fabia is still a decent handling yet refined supermini.

The current third generation Fabia arrived in 2014, and was given a minor freshen up in 2018. This saw the engine range revised with just 1.0-litre petrol engines available, more practical touches added to the interior and the most subtle of exterior facelifts.

Prices for the Fabia start from just under £12,000, with the estate incurring a premium of around £1,000 over the hatch.

Engines, performance & drive

The latest Skoda Fabia is a very accomplished car to drive with a chassis that’s well developed. Precise steering and the lower kerbweight of the latest Fabia mean it handles more neatly than the previous version, proving light on its feet and nimble in town. But sporty handling arguably isn’t as important as comfort in a supermini, and while the Fabia isn’t quick, it more than compensates in terms of ride quality.

The damping is forgiving, and the Skoda rides like the Polo. It smothers bad surfaces well, with the dampers controlling body and wheel movement nicely, offering lots of support when driving faster and decent refinement on the motorway. As with the Polo, the steering is direct and the five-speed manual gearbox (or six-speed for the most powerful petrol) serves up positive shifts.

At speed, the Fabia is impressively composed, again with the feel of a larger car than it is. This is why you may want to choose one of the more powerful engines to make it more of an all-rounder: the 1.0 MPI units struggle when speeds rise.

Cabin noise isn’t quite as well suppressed from the occupants as it is in a Polo, but it’s still an impressive long-distance car for its size.

As for brakes, lower-power models have discs at the front but drums at the rear, reflecting the likelihood they’ll be driven more slowly.

Engines

The 1.0-litre MPI petrol engines that work so well in the up! and Citigo do struggle a little in the larger Fabia. The five-door supermini isn’t too much of a step up in weight, which helps a bit, but there’s still no escaping the base car’s meek 16.4-second 0-62mph pace.

Our tip is to choose the 1.0 TSI turbo, in either 94bhp or 108bhp guise. The figures say it all: the 1.0 TSI 95 produces 160Nm of torque, instead of the 1.0 MPI’s 95Nm – and does so from lower down the rev range. The TSI 110 version delivers even more shove with torque at 200Nm.

While the MPI and TSI engines are throbby and characterful thanks to their three-cylinder layouts, the 1.0 TSI is much more appealing because you don’t need to rev it so hard as to make the engine note intrusive. It fades into the background and often, because it demands so few revs around town, is as refined as a much larger car. The TSI 110 may prove better on a motorway though – it benefits from a six-speed gearbox.

Skoda’s five- and six-speed gearboxes are snappy and ultra-light in the usual Volkswagen Group way, with an accurate and precise shift. This helps the TSI 95 model achieve a 0-62mph time of 10.7 seconds, while the higher-powered TSI 110 version shaves a full second off and manages the sprint in 9.7 seconds.

MPG, CO2 & running costs

The Skoda Fabia uses the latest-generation Volkswagen Group engine tech – no dated hand-me-downs here, which ensures fuel economy is strong across the board. Under WLTP testing, which provides more realistic and achievable figures, the Fabia still manages no less than 45.6mpg, with lower-powered models pushing past 50mpg.

The basic 1.0 MPI 60 is a 53.3mpg car emitting up to 134g/km of CO2. The 1.0 TSI, in either of its power outputs, is impressively close to the MPI’s fuel-efficiency. The 95PS version has a claimed economy figure of 52.3mpg, while emissions are rated at 138g/km. The more powerful 110PS engine quotes 51.4mpg and CO2 of emissions of 141g/km.

Diesel engines are no longer offered with the Fabia, while the revised range doesn’t see a fuel-efficient Greenline model as part of the line-up, either. If you choose the Fabia Estate, then fuel economy figures stay the same.

Insurance groups

Standard autonomous braking across the range helps to keep insurance groups for the Skoda Fabia low. They start at group 1 for the 1.0 MPI 60 in either S, SE, SE Drive or Colour Edition trim levels.

However, there’s a bit of a jump up for the 1.0 TSI compared to the 1.0 MPI: a 1.0 TSI 95PS S is in group 8, while SE models and above are in Group 9. The higher-performance 1.0 TSI 110 jumps again, to group 11 when combined with SE trim and group 12 for every model afterwards.

Depreciation

The latest Skoda Fabia boasts some very impressive retained values for a small supermini-sized car. The best version overall is actually the entry-level 1.0 MPI 60 S, which retains nearly 51% of its value after three years, the sort of slow depreciation normally associated with in-demand premium cars.

Interior, design & technology

The latest Fabia sports a sharper-edged design than its predecessor, more in keeping with the Mk1. The large Octavia-style chrome grille is distinctive and the deep, crisp side featureline is smart. We also like the ‘kick’ at the base of the rear side window, a feature seen on other Skodas.

Inside, the dashboard design changed little in the 2018 round of updates. A couple of new interior trims and colours were added, the dials feature revised graphics, while those sat in the back benefit from a couple of extra USB ports. The design itself is a little bland: Skoda chooses to focus on simple, user-friendly designs, so swoopy style is substituted for plain layout and coherency. Straightforward heater controls and big, chunky switchgear familiar from other Volkswagen Group models ensures it’s fuss-free to use, if not as interesting as some rivals. It’s well built but the solid, sturdy plastics aren’t as rich as in a Polo.

Neat features such as a rear courtesy light and front reading lights are standard on all, while SE models feature front fog lights, rear parking sensors and 15-inch alloys, instead of the steel wheels offered on the entry-level S version.

The SE Drive includes larger 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors and unique black/grey fabric seat upholstery. SE L ups the technology count with LED running lights, climate control, cruise control, KESSY GO keyless start and an auto-dip rear view mirror.

In Monte Carlo trim, the Skoda gets some sporty styling additions, including black 16-inch alloys (although 17-inch wheels are an option costing about £370), while inside there are more supportive sports seats and a three-spoke leather-trimmed sports steering wheel. From 2018 onwards, the top spec car gained LED brake lights (they’re optional on other Fabias), with LED headlights becoming an optional extra.

From 2018 onwards, the S gained a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen. Bluetooth and a digital radio are included, although the S lacks a built-in navigation system.

SE models feature Smartlink + which enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while SE Drive and SE L versions include satellite navigation.

The touchscreen system itself is very straightforward to use. The home page presents eight shortcut tiles to the main functions, and physical shortcut buttons surround the screen, so it’s always simple to move between sub menus.

The slick navigation system offers the driver a choice between the fastest, shortest and most fuel-efficient options. The graphics are clear and bright, too, and loading times are more than good enough.

SE cars and above also have an upgraded six-speaker surround sound system from Arkamys. For about £35 you can add voice control to make using the system on the move easier, too.

Practicality, comfort & boot space

The practical and roomy Fabia is one of the most flexible superminis on sale, with plentiful comfort for both front and rear seat occupants.

Size

Skoda has sized the Fabia to perfectly hit the supermini ideal average dimensions. It’s a smidgen under four metres at 3,997mm long, 1,732mm wide and 1,467mm tall. The Monte Carlo is a tiny bit bigger: 4,009mm long and 1,452mm tall: this is due to its black-accented bodykit and the larger 16-inch standard wheels.

With its extended rear, the Skoda Fabia Estate obviously comes in bigger than the hatchback. It’s 4,262mm long and, thanks to standard roof rails, 1,488mm tall. To help make parking easier, SE models and above have standard rear parking sensors; a rear view camera is a £275 option.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

The spacious Fabia offers impressive space up front, with a height adjustable driver’s seat and both height and reach-adjust steering wheel combining with lots of seat fore-and-aft adjustment to allow a good driving position to be found. Leg room is ample and there’s lots of headroom.

It’s even better in the rear. Two six-footers can sit reasonably comfortably behind tall adults, and it will even take three adults without too much of a squeeze.

Boot

The Fabia can claim to have one of the biggest boots in the supermini sector. In standard guise, it offers 330 litres of space, which expands to 1,150 litres with the 60:40 split seats folded. All versions have handy luggage hooks in the boot.

The 110PS models are fitted with a full-size steel spare wheel as standard, which does have an impact on boot capacity: seats-up luggage space is reduced to 305 litres, and seats-down capacity drops to 1,125 litres. If you want the reassurance of a full-size spare or space saver wheel, it costs an extra £110.

If boot capacity is a necessity in your small car, then the Skoda Fabia Estate is the car to go for. It has a 530-litre boot thanks to its extended rear end, and this increases to a maximum of 1,395 litres when they’re folded.

Reliability & safety

Skoda took fifth place (out of 30) in the Auto Express 2019 Driver Power satisfaction survey, beating the likes of Nissan, Audi and Ford. The Fabia itself has never been rated as highly as other products in the range and didn’t feature in the 2020 poll. However, in the previous year it placed 64th out of 100 best cars to own, with strong feedback on running costs as well as for the ride and handling.

The Fabia has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, earned in 2014. Front Assist collision warning and autonomous braking are standard, while six airbags feature across the range. It earned an 81% score for Adult Occupant protection, 81% for Child Occupant safety, 69% for Pedestrian safety and 69% for Safety Assist features.

All models have side and curtain airbags as standard, plus a front passenger airbag deactivation switch. There are Isofix mounts on the outer rear seats, a tyre pressure monitoring system and remote locking with SAFE function that prevents unlocking from the inside.

Even more impressive is the inclusion of standard Front Assist on all models. This uses a front bumper radar to monitor for impending collisions – it sounds a warning buzzer to alert the driver and, if they don’t react, it will auto-brake to help minimise the effect of any collision, and possibly avoid one altogether.

Warranty

Skoda offers a three-year, 60,000-mile manufacturer warranty on the Fabia – which, it’s worth noting, doesn’t actually have a mileage cap for the first two years. Worth bearing in mind if you’re an ultra-high mileage user. It can be extended to four or five years with Skoda’s optional extended warranty. It’s backed up by a 12-year anti-perforation body warranty.

Servicing

Fabia new car buyers can choose whether to take fixed or variable service intervals. The fixed regime comes every 10,000 miles and is for those who cover lower mileages with more short journeys, heavy-duty use and often use high revs.

The flexible regime, which is mainly for constant-speed motorway users, will flash up servicing needs variably between 9,000-20,000 miles, depending on use: if you’re easy on your Skoda, you can stretch services to a maximum of two years.

Verdict 4/5

Positives

  • Decent value
  • Roomy interior
  • Practical touches

Negatives

  • Slow smaller engines
  • S version is basic
  • No vRS hot hatch

Stats

  • Price: from £11,805
  • Fuel consumption: up to 53.3mpg
  • CO2: from 134g/km

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