Which car to pick? Yes, a Fabia. But which one? The new Fabia can be customised in many ways and Skoda offers just about all of them to the press. What colour roof would you like? What colour A-pillars and wing mirrors? And what kind of rims? So many choices! After careful consideration a "race blue" vehicle with white accents was chosen.
As is usual with Skoda the layout of the cabin is simple and sober. But... with the right options even the inside can flourish! For example, the test vehicle is executed with "Denim" upholstery. This makes the car look fresh and highly original. The white colour of the outside of the car is used once more on the trimming of the dashboard.
A fun detail: instead of a photo frame, a custom-made sticker can be applied to the dashboard. Other things that make the Fabia a true Skoda are the waste bins in the door pockets, an ice scraper in the fuel door, a bottle holder in the glove box and a phone cradle in the centre console. None of these items make the car significantly more expensive, but they do make daily life with the Fabia that much more pleasant. It's what Skoda calls "Simply Clever".
The new Fabia is shorter, lower and wider than the previous generation but despite this offers about the same cabin space. Compared to other cars of this size, the interior space of the Fabia is average. Only the boot is far above average, measuring 330 litres (which increases to 1,150 litres by folding flat the back seat).
Volkswagen parts are interchangeable, even with the cars of its auxiliary brands. In that way it is much cheaper to develop a new model and the latest technology can even be offered in a basic model like the Fabia. For example, the Fabia can automatically brake to avoid an accident. Regrettably, this went wrong during the test drive. On an extremely bad road surface a warning was issued first. When the driver did not brake, the brakes were wrongfully applied by the computer.
To cut costs, the Fabia comes with "MirrorLink". This means that Skoda supplies the loudspeakers and a display, while the smartphone of the driver is the "brain". In this way satellite navigation is available almost for free. Or so it seems. At the moment of writing "MirrorLink" isn't mature enough for the general public. It crashes regularly and it is impossible to use any other functions (like listen to the radio) while using MirrorLink.
Chances are that MirrorLink will never be improved, because Google (the creator of MirrorLink) focusses on "Android Auto" instead. Regrettably, Skoda doesn't offer built-in sat nav for the Fabia.
Less useful but certainly fun are the "Smart Gate" apps. They provide access to the heart of the car to any smartphone. In that way the driver can learn to improve his/her driving style, learn how to drive more economically, etc.
While MirrorLink only works with Android, Smart Gate requires an iPhone. That is why two smartphones were connecting while test driving, and that is everything but an economic solution!
Underneath, the Fabia is based on the 2014 Volkswagen Polo. Yet, it handles differently. While the Fabia is as capable as the Polo, the Fabia doesn't show it. To offer as much comfort as possible, the car seems to be as unobtrusive as possible. It's only when really provoking the car that it will show off its true qualities. Even when driving fast on demanding, twisty roads, the Fabia remains as exciting as watching paint dry.
At the same time the underpinning is relatively firm, which makes the car come a alive ever so slightly. On bad road surfaces every dent can be felt, yet the "sharp edges" are being eliminated so well that the car is never uncomfortable.
For the Fabia, Skoda has improved the existing "1.0 MPI" engine so much that the engineers regard it as a new engine. By decreasing internal friction and adding an idle stop system, both performance and fuel economy have been improved. The less than smooth run that three-cylinder engines are known for has been eliminated by generous use of sound insulation.
To make things even better, the gear box ratios have been chosen almost perfectly. At exactly those speeds travelled most frequently (30, 60 and 90 mph) the engine runs smoothly and quietly, making the Fabia perform effortlessly.
However, when requesting more than just trotting along with traffic, the 75 PS / 95 Nm fails miserably. On steep ascents it is necessary to shift down not one, but even two gears. At speeds over 65 mph the noise levels suddenly rise and the engine is almost out of breath.
That is why the 1.0 MPI forces a calm driving style. The advantage is that the factory fuel figure of 4.6 litres per 100 km (61 mpg) can easily be achieved.
As an alternative to the "1.0 MPI", a "1.2 TSI" engine is available. It doesn't just have a bigger displacement, but also delivers a bigger punch (90 PS / 160 Nm) thanks to a turbo. Even at low revs the difference with the base engine is obvious. Acceleration of the 1.2 TSI is much better and steep ascents are not a problem any more.
Despite better performance, the 1.2 TSI is just as economic to run as the 1.0 MPI. Even on a highly demanding route with many mountainous roads, a very lengthy photo shoot and lots of city traffic, fuel consumption was 5.9 litres per 100 km (48 mpg).
On a relatively simple route with motorways and a flat landscape, it should be no problem to be as frugal as Skoda promises.
For many years, Skoda was known as a clever choice. Buying a Skoda meant buying German quality at a Czech price. And the same goes for the all-new Fabia! As usual the Fabia is well built, practical and a decent drive. The new engines perform reasonably well and in real life they are as economic as stated in the brochure.
The so-called "Simply Clever" features make the car hardly more expensive, while making it much more pleasant to live with. Regrettably, one of those features does not work: "MirrorLink". However, it is the only way to navigate with the Fabia because Skoda doesn't offer built-in sat nav and that's a real shortcoming.
What makes the new Fabia special is that it isn't just sensible, but it's also very attractive. The design has been greatly improved and thanks to the many options its looks can now be personalised, which makes this German / Czech creation more worthy of its name than ever before. Fabelhaft!
- Good looks
- Excellent handling
- As frugal as promised
- No built-in sat nav available
- Automatic braking system unreliable
- Noise levels suddenly increase above 65 mpg with 1.0 MPI engine
"Mainstream" Renault Clio
"Sweet temptation" Peugeot 208
"Régénération" Volkswagen Polo
"Modern yet familiar" Seat Ibiza