The Fabia manages to Czech every box it has to.
The Skoda Fabia is a car that makes more logical sense than anything else. Being “Simply Clever” means that it even outdoes its Volkswagen Group stablemates from time to time, offering the best blend of practicality, performance, and value. But where the last model’s sales bombed due to odd stylistic proportions and an interior that could cure ADHD, the new car is a far more mature, more sorted, more handsome affair. Not inspiring to behold, but definitely an improvement over the old car.
The Fabia soldiers on as the most unpretentious supermini on the market, and continues to offer the practicality and usability that we liked in the previous generation, but wrapped in a package that is much more appealing across a broader base. But is it any good?
“The latest generation model does not betray its predecessors, and is a comfortable, well designed, extremely competent all-rounder, which has won a loyal following without performing spectacularly in any one area.” - CarBuyer
The Fabia is available in wagon and hatch body styles, and both look remarkably good. No, we’re not saying it’s good looking compared to the last generation, we’re saying it looks good full-stop. There’s something very likeable about the Fabia, with its all of its clean lines working together to create something that can be made to look elegant or sporty, depending on what you’d like.
In terms of looks, the Fabia can be jazzed up with a Colour Concept package that fits 16-inch wheels and contrast-coloured highlights to make it look a little different. Of note is that those 16-inch wheels that come bundled with the Colour Concept package will downsize the 17-inch wheels that come with the Sports Pack, which lowers and stiffens the suspension (as well as upsizes the wheels). This little quirk is a blessing in disguise, which we’ll touch on later.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Unlike the old Fabia, the new one also launches with the same 1.2-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engines as the Polo, with both the base 66TSI manual and upstream 81TSI matching its low 4.8L/100km fuel consumption figure.” - Motoring
There’s only one engine on offer here, albeit in two states of tune. The range kicks off with the 66TSI, which offers 66kW of power and 160Nm of torque, paired exclusively to a five-speed manual gearbox. Those who want more twist or want a self-shifting transmission will need to jump up to the 81kW/175Nm (creatively dubbed the 81TSI) to get the seven-speed, double-clutch DSG gearbox.
Both drivetrains claim a fuel consumption figure of just 4.8l/100km, though real-world testing reveals figures that vary between 6-7l/100km over mixed driving conditions.
“The Fabia's cabin environment isn't as well endowed with soft-touch materials as the VW Polo it draws much of its key structure and mechanicals from but still stacks up as a similarly classy example of the light-car breed, with a sober but distinctly high-quality feel.” - Drive
Inside is where the Fabia’s positioning as the Volkswagen Polo’s lesser cousin becomes clear. While the design and ergonomics might be familiar, the materials employed clearly have a tighter budget in mind. But don’t get us wrong, it’s not bad. Far from it, in fact. Considering that this is a value-driven budget offering, you might even say it spoils you.
The chunky steering wheel looks perfectly suited to the interior, while the standard-fit Baleno touchscreen infotainment system looks and feels an absolute treat. Smartphone mirroring is standard fare here, and when paired to the well-bolstered and supportive seats, means that the friend with the Fabia will likely be a choice road trip companion. If that friend has the Fabia wagon, its Tardis-like luggage space means that you can bring everything you could ever need with you: 505L with the rear seats up, and 1,370L with the seats down.
Behind the Wheel
“This engine is peppy and fizzy, with excellent mid-range response. The gearbox shifts ultra quick between the cogs, before settling in seventh at speeds around 70km/h.” - CarAdvice
The Skoda Fabia is generally considered to be a decent car to drive, with a little bit of feel and feedback from the car adding to the experience granted by the peppy powertrain. The manual gearbox is nothing of note (which is a silver lining: There’s nothing wrong with it), but the double-clutch DSG automatic is great in the Fabia. It shifts smoothly with an alertness that we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen gearboxes, and the little 1.2-litre is decently smooth and responsive for the most part. The ride is good too, provided you steer clear of the optional Sports Pack; the harder suspension and bigger wheels makes the little Skoda more agile, but the sacrifice in comfort is obvious.
As for downsides? Well, noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels are pretty high for a car in this segment, and the DSG automatic will downshift when going downhill to provide a little engine braking, making the little engine rev louder. However, the Skoda claws back brownie points with its XDL electronic differential, which brakes the inside wheel during fast cornering to make the Skoda feel a little sharper.
Safety & Technology
“The Fabia is fitted standard with the latest technology in Front Assist with the autonomous emergency braking function across the range.” - CarsGuide
Owing to is Volkswagen Group parentage, the Fabia enjoys a mix and match of safety features and tech that don’t break the bank. Like in the quote above, the compact Skoda comes with autonomous emergency braking across the range, putting it a good head above some of its competition in terms of safety. There are also smart features like a “multi-collision braking system” that reduces the risk of your car becoming a hazard after an accident by jamming the brakes on. This system also triggers the brake and hazard lights when it’s activated, and is easily deactivated by accelerating or emergency braking.
All Skoda Fabias benefit from a full five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The Fabia often gets overlooked in the segment, and that’s no fault of its own. While the previous generation was dreary and uninspired, the current generation looks good, drives well, and is brilliantly packaged, making it a strong contender among its peers. Maybe it’s the badge on the nose, which has been considered as the mark of a ‘poor Volkswagen’ in recent years. We urge those shopping in the segment to at least shortlist the Fabia, if not buy it outright. You really will be hard pressed to find something significantly better.
Our pick of the bunch is the higher-powered 81TSI, in the compact hatch body style. While its asking price might be a little on the high side (it’s all relative), its a peppy drivetrain with great fuel consumption figures, while offering enough twist to make keen drivers giggle in delight. The wagon body is recommended only if necessary, because the additional weight can result in slightly increased fuel consumption figures.
CarAdvice - 80/100 - “All in all the Skoda Fabia is a big improvement over its already impressive predecessor. It may not be perfect but it is undoubtedly better value than before, and it challenges some of the big names in terms of outright equipment and pricing, too, not to mention its excellent technology and safety highlights and frugal, punchy engines.”
CarsGuide - 90/100 - “We came away from our week with the smart little Skoda Fabia wagon impressed by the quality of finish, solid on-road feel and the semi-sporty handling. Need a sensible wagon but don't feel the need for a macho SUV, the Fabia should be high on your list to test drive.”
Drive - 80/100 - “The Fabia runs at or near the front of the light-car pack for performance, economy, safety, technology and driving nous. These strengths, plus its plentiful personalisation opportunities and the functional talents of the wagon, are all reasons to consider this talented newcomer very seriously.”
Motoring - 82/100 - “If the all-new, third-generation Fabia doesn’t take Volkswagen’s Czech brand to the next level in Australia, nothing will.”
WhatCar - 100/100 - “The Skoda Fabia is one of the most rounded cars on sale, and should be at the very top of your list.”
AutoExpress - 80/100 - “The obvious draw is great value pricing. It’s not quite as bargain basement as it was, but the extra features offered by the Fabia more than justify the outlay. Standout qualities such as an excellent safety score and real attention to detail in the practicality department are further draws. Few superminis have paid such attention to the details that make everyday life that bit easier.”
TopGear - 80/100 - “Skoda’s taken everything the old Fabia did so well, and modernised it. The common sense supermini choice.”
AutoCar - 80/100 - “Skoda's supermini is easy to use, comfy and grown-up, smart but anonymous to look at, classy but forgettable to drive. That said, it is tough to be bold in the supermini segment and, in the absence of originality, pragmatic buyers will happily accept this car’s considerable practicality and quality, carefully hewn dynamic maturity, obliging ease of use and unquestionable value for money. Although it’s a long way from great, the Fabia is evidently a very good addition to the supermini ranks and demands rational consideration.”