The Skoda Fabia has always had a reputation for great value and no-nonsense practicality, but the all-new model aims to inject a welcome dose of desirability and style. We’ve already driven left-hand-drive examples of the supermini, but this is the first time we’ve hit British roads in a UK model.
We tested the 1.0-litre Fabia SE. It features the same three-cylinder petrol engine that powers the Citigo, promising low running costs and eager performance. In entry-level S guise, it delivers just 59bhp, but SE versions get a boost to 74bhp – although both units have the same 95Nm torque output.
On paper, the SE’s claimed 0-62mph sprint time of 14.9 seconds doesn’t look worth getting excited about, but the Fabia does feel surprisingly sprightly. The engine is smooth, refined and responsive when you hit the throttle. Plus, the slick and precise five-speed manual box allows you to make the most of the available performance.
Fortunately, the small engine doesn’t compromise the Skoda’s grown-up driving experience. The handling is safe and secure, while the steering is direct and features natural weighting.
Body movement is well controlled and the ride is forgiving, even on the optional 16-inch alloys – the SE gets smaller 15-inch rims as standard. Wind and road noise are well suppressed, too.
Skoda’s efforts to make the Fabia stand out on the road have paid dividends, because the newcomer now looks much sharper and more upmarket than its rather plain and upright predecessors. The swept-back headlamps and wide grille take their cues from the brand’s larger Octavia and Rapid models, while sharp creases cut into the sides of the body create a sportier and more dynamic look.
Our SE test car was given even greater kerb appeal with the addition of the MINI-inspired £250 Colour Concept pack, which adds a contrasting white, silver or black paint finish to the roof and door mirror housings.
The slick style continues inside, where smart design is combined with excellent practicality. For starters, the driver gets a logically laid out dashboard that features large, clear dials, plus an intuitive infotainment touchscreen. However, while frequently used parts such as the steering wheel, gearlever and switchgear have a quality look and feel, plastics used elsewhere have a hard finish that undermines the Fabia’s upmarket aspirations.
There are no complaints about the Skoda’s practicality, though. It sets the class standard for space, with generous leg and headroom for rear passengers, plus a large, 330-litre boot.
There’s plenty of kit, too. Our car benefited from six airbags, a DAB radio, a MirrorLink function for smartphones, rear parking sensors and air-con. Factor in an attractive £12,760 price tag and 58.9mpg fuel economy claims, and it’s clear the Fabia’s upmarket push hasn’t come at the expense of value for money.
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