Škoda Fabia Review

Find out more about the Skoda Fabia in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

Loading...
  • Pros
  • Spacious cabin compared to rivals
  • Great value for money
  • Drives really well
  • Cons
  • Cheap interior plastics
  • Bland styling inside and out
  • Entry-level engines are slow and uninspiring
  • MPG
    57 - 61
  • CO2
    105 - 111 g/km
Model review

Look back to the 1980s, and Skoda was considered a bit of a joke – but then in the 1990s Volkswagen bought the Czech manufacturer and its reputation changed from building cheap rubbish to building solid cars that were great value for money.

The Fabia supermini is at the forefront of that changed reputation, offering a better value alternative to the Volkswagen Polo on which it is based.

Introduced in 1999, the Fabia was designed to show the world that Volkswagen was serious about turning around the Czech manufacturer’s fortunes and as such it was very, very good.

Latest model

Now in its third generation, which was introduced in 2014, the Fabia was designed to appeal to a slightly younger audience, and as such it comes with bold styling and a range of bright colours. That said, its cheap and cheerful ethos leans a little too far from cheerful, meaning it’s rather uninspiring – though represents great value for money, particularly in the used market.

The biggest improvement for the latest generation was more efficient engines. According to Skoda, the latest range is 17 per cent more efficient than before. There are two petrol engines available in four different power outputs, and a diesel engine with three power outputs.

Value for money

Volkswagen uses Skoda as its budget arm, however these days the gulf in price between the two brands’ models isn’t that great. Still, as new you get slightly more kit for your cash in the Czech car, though they don’t hold their value quite so well making for used bargains.

The entry-level S trim starts at £11,155 and offers great long-term affordability provided you’re not too worried about how basic it is inside. Standard equipment on the entry level is limited, with electric windows and a digital radio about the only convenience features available.

Take the next step up to SE and there’s leather trim, parking sensors and a much-improved infotainment/audio system.

Those looking for performance will have to look to the used market because Skoda discontinued the go-faster vRS model for the latest generation. Two- to three-year-old models are available for well below £10,000, making them less expensive than the current entry model – though running costs will be much higher.

Looks and image

Skoda was keen to ditch the Fabia’s association with older buyers and as such the third-generation car was designed to be a bit more appealing to younger audiences. It has more modern, blocky styling and a range of bright colours.

However, once behind the wheel, it’s a little drab. Ease of use has been put before bling, so there’s chunky switchgear and a simple infotainment screen. The quality of materials used isn’t as good as the Polo, while the styling is much more restrained than most of its rivals.

It works as a budget option, but for true frugality there’s the more boring but much cheaper Dacia Sandero – and that car comes with better kit for your cash.

Behind the wheel, the Fabia is oddly more at home on the motorway than it is around town. At slower speeds on poor road surfaces, the Fabia never quite settles. It’s not awful, but the Ford Fiesta has a much more composed ride.

Space and practicality

As far as superminis go, the Fabia makes a great stab at being spacious and practical. In the cabin, both front and rear passengers have decent leg room, while the driver benefits from a fully adjustable steering wheel and seat, so finding the ideal driving position is easy.

Safety equipment is fairly basic, with airbags, driver aids and and alarm mostly standard across the range. However, that didn’t stop it receiving the full five stars in NCAP crash tests, managing more than 80 per cent for occupant safety.

Due to its size, the Fabia is better suited to younger families. However, because the rear has impressive space in the rear compared to rivals it makes an excellent value-for-money choice for small families who thought superminis would be too small.

Engines

There are three engines available in various power outputs made up of two petrols and one diesel.

The entry-level 1.0-litre engines will be mighty appealing to inner-city buyers as low emissions and impressive fuel economy will lead to low running costs – both the 59bhp and 74bhp versions emit a little over 100g/km of CO2 and record about 60mpg on the combined cycle. However, both feel a little strained at motorway speeds.

The pick of the petrols is the 1.2-litre, 89bhp version. It’s sprightly around town but is much better suited to motorway miles – all while returning near-identical economy figures to its smaller equivalent. The only downside is that it’s not available on entry S models, so buying in costs a bit more.

As for the diesel, there’s a 1.4-litre unit that’s available with 74, 89 or 104bhp. For buyers looking to spend most of their time on the motorway they’re ideal – the middle of the three is the best compromise of performance and economy, registering 100g/km of CO2 and 74mpg on the combined cycle.

Running costs

Running costs for the Fabia are impressively low. All of the engines emit below 110g/km of CO2, while the smaller petrol engine is in insurance group three so will be appealing to younger drivers.

Road tax will be considerably more expensive under the new rules introduced in April 2017. However, all but the 89bhp 1.4-litre diesel will cost £140 per year, so they’re still relatively low. That diesel will cost £120 in the first year and £140 thereafter.

Things to look out for

Early cars, as would be expected, appear to be the least reliable models. There are some problems with high oil usage in the petrol models, so make sure you check the levels to make sure the owner hasn’t neglected to top up.

With later models, most owners appear to be happy with the general reliability, with minor niggles being the main cause of frustration. So before buying make sure to poke and prod the interior and check for any engine lights that might be a sign of small but annoying problems.

Rivals

The obvious rival to the Fabia is the Volkswagen Polo. As new there isn’t a huge amount of price difference, but generally the kit available in the Skoda is better. The Polo feels a bit more grown up though, and the materials used inside are much better.

Another VW Group rival comes in the form of the Seat Ibiza. It has way more character and is more fun to drive, but costs a little more than the Skoda.

Elsewhere the Suzuki Swift and Hyundai i20 offer similar cheap and cheerful thrills, but without the refinement that comes from a VW Group product. The Honda Jazz meanwhile is the ideal choice for those who want reliability.

Depreciation warning

The average expected loss of a car in this class is about 50 per cent in the first three years of ownership. However, frugal used buyers love the Skoda Fabia, so it tends to hold its value marginally better than that.

Which Fabia to Pick

Trims Explained

There are four trims for the Fabia. Here are the differences in the range:

S

The entry-level trim is ‘S’ and it’s available with both the 1.0-litre petrol engine and the 1.4-litre diesel. Standard equipment is fairly basic and includes 15-inch steel wheels, electric front windows and a DAB radio with Bluetooth connectivity.

Prices start from £11,155.

SE

The next step up is the SE trim. It’s available with all engines except for the lower-powered diesel. The 15-inch steel wheels are upgraded to alloys, while the interior gets leather added to the handbrake and gearshift knob. Parking sensors are fitted to the rear, while an upgraded audio system is fitted inside.

Prices start from £13,375.

SE L

One step further and it’s the SE L. It gets the same engines as the SE as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and climate control.

Prices start from £14,165.

Monte Carlo

Top of the range is the Monte Carlo. It’s only available with the 1.2-litre petrols and 1.4-litre diesels. The 16-inch alloy wheels come in a unique design, while the cabin feels bigger thanks to a panoramic roof.

Prices start from £15,830.

Summary

  1. It’s one of the best superminis for families as interior space is decent
  2. It’s budget-orientated so expect cheap plastics and rather dull interior styling
  3. The 1.0-litre petrol is only really useful if you rarely venture on to the motorway
  4. Depreciation isn’t as bad as most cars in this market, though Polo holds value better
  5. Reliability is generally good, but most owners talk of many minor niggles
  6. Fabia doesn’t handle bad road surfaces at low speeds well, but smooths out above 50mph
  7. It’s one of the best to drive of the budget option superminis
  8. There’s no go-faster vRS model anymore, so if that’s what you want you need to go used or find a rival car
  9. Top-spec Monte Carlo feels more fun and characterful, but you might be better going for a Seat Ibiza at that price
  10. Skoda brand now considered the intelligent, frugal option having shed its old image for poor quality