A decade ago, most manufacturers had a supermini estate in their price lists, but in recent years these practical models have gradually been phased out in favour of more fashionable crossovers. However, Skoda has remained committed to the spacious small car concept, and has just pulled the wraps off its new Fabia Estate.
Now in its third generation, the versatile supermini delivers a vast 530-litre load bay and a whole host of family friendly features. It also incorporates the same sharp styling cues as its hatchback cousins, plus it promises to be every bit as good to drive and cost effective to run. Prices start at £12,460, and here we test the 89bhp 1.4-litre TDI diesel in top-of-the-range £17,385 SE L guise.
So what other options are there if you want to maximise space and minimise running costs? With its blend of compact dimensions and MPV-inspired versatility, the Nissan Note has always stood out. Clever packaging means the British-built model can combine big saloon-rivalling rear legroom with more boot space than many family hatchbacks. And in £17,370 1.5 dCi Tekna trim, it’ll cost very little to run. So which of our contenders wins this space race?
The Skoda looks to have a decisive advantage in this encounter. With the rear seats in place there’s a 530-litre load bay – that’s 119 litres more than in Nissan, even with its siding bench pushed far forward.
However, fold the seats flat and the Note holds 1,495 litres, while the Fabia accommodates only 1,395 litres. Plus, the Nissan’s false floor
creates a flat load area (below); to get the same effect in the Fabia, you pay £110 for the variable boot floor.
All Fabias get a slick touchscreen infotainment system. However, there’s no sat-nav option; instead you use MirrorLink software to beam route-finding instructions and maps from your Android phone. The Note’s NissanConnect screen is smaller and looks dated, but does feature sat-nav as standard.
Skoda and Nissan have taken different approaches with their diesel engines. The Fabia’s 1.4-litre TDI features three cylinders and twin overhead camshafts, and meets Euro 6 emissions standards. The Note’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder from Renault features a single cam and only meets Euro 5 levels.
1st: Skoda Fabia Estate
If you’re looking for the greatest carrying capacity for your cash, then the Fabia Estate takes some beating. Its 530-litre boot shames models from the class above, plus it’s packed with neat storage solutions. The Skoda is also good to drive, while its no nonsense cabin is well equipped and feels a cut above the Nissan’s for quality. The three-cylinder diesel is noisy, but it’s a punchy performer and costs peanuts to run.
2nd: Nissan Note
If you frequently carry rear seat passengers, then the spacious Note deserves a second look. At the heart of the Nissan’s appeal is its brilliantly packaged interior that allows you to choose between extra legroom in the back or a bigger boot. There’s also plenty of standard kit. Unfortunately, the Note doesn’t feel as grown-up to drive as its rival – although its diesel engine is more refined.
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