► 2018 Skoda Fabia review
► New facelifted hatchback
► Modest changes, still sensible
As superminis go, the Skoda Fabia has always been the sensible, pragmatic option. Skoda has spent much of the past two decades establishing a reputation for delivering solid and spacious, family-friendly cars - frequently with lashings more space than in-class rivals. That’s still true of the newly facelifted 2018 Fabia range, fresh from a revamp after four years on sale.
We’ve just spent a day driving the new hatchback and estate (badged Combi on the Continent) and can vouch for its impeccable practicality creds. It’s one of the most capacious small cars this side of a Honda Jazz.
It's affordable, too: UK prices start at £12,840 for S trim, and buyers can pick from SE, SE L, Monte Carlo and Colour Edition specs. It's an important car, this - across Europe it's the biggest selling model range.
What makes the Skoda Fabia so practical?
Despite its diminutive 3997mm-long footprint, this small car is cleverly packaged and its 330-litre boot outstrips some cars from the sector above. A false boot floor means you can keep it level with the loading lip, or drill down deep into the spare wheel well for extra storage (NB: no spare is offered).
The Fabia Estate is even better - its 530 litres adding a whole new dimension, and there’s not a huge amount of competition nowadays, since small estates have gone out of fashion. Neither the Clio nor Ibiza baby wagons are available any more.
Simply Clever: the little touches add up
Skoda calls them ‘Simply Clever’ - the tagline for its practicality hacks that make everyday life a little bit easier. Stuff like the ice scraper built into the fuel filler flap (now with tyre tread depth gauge built in), the parking ticket holder attached to the A-pillar and - new for 2018 - the reversible boot liner, which can be flipped from wipe-clean plastic surface to fluffy carpet, depending on whether you’re transporting plants or pets.
It’s this kind of hands-on usefulness that’s made Skoda rather endearing to us. New on the Fabia with the 2018 facelift are twin USB charging points for rear-seat passengers, a rechargeable torch in the estate’s boot and the availability of (optional) tablet holders so kids can watch films more easily in the back.
What else is new for the 2018 Skoda Fabia?
Err, precious little, if we’re being honest. There are few mechanical changes and the design is only modestly tweaked, with a reprofiled front grille, new LED front and rear lights (depending on spec) plus repositioned rear foglamps. It’s detail stuff and you’ll get extra nerd points if you can spot one at 50 paces. It's not the most exciting design on the planet.
Diesel has been dropped for 2018, as a miserly 6% of Brits were ordering Fabia derv models. So you’ve got a simple choice of three power outputs, all from the same 999cc three-cylinder base petrol engine:
- 1.0 MPI 74bhp
- 1.0 TSI 94bhp
- 1.0 TSI 109bhp
Tellingly, the two more powerful TSI engines with the addition of the petrol particulate filter will be the biggest sellers here - and both provide adequate acceleration. This is not a fast car (no vRS is likely, boo hoo…) but the 109bhp model will scamper from 0-62mph in 9.6sec, which is decent enough for a cooking supermini.
The middle power output doesn’t feel that much slower, in all honesty. Skoda didn’t provide a 74bhp for us to sample on the European launch, so we can only imagine that may feel a little more asthmatic. Nor is the UK market taking the humble 59bhp version that European mainlanders can buy.
It’s a well refined three-pot, with less of the thrummy off-beat swagger you’ll find in some triples. Tall gearing aimed at efficiency means you’ll often be stuck in the third/fourth plane, so you’ve got to remember to change up to the higher cogs at dual carriageway speeds (it's that long-legged, honest!). Most buyers will pick the functional, perfectly acceptable manual gearbox although the higher-powered 109bhp can be specced with a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic.
Should you still buy a diesel car?
Is there a big 'but' coming? Is the Fabia frightfully dull to drive?
Not really. It’s common VW Group stock fare: it drives much like an older Polo or Ibiza, albeit one with a more stolid character. We mean that in a serious, sensible, Skoda kind of way - it feels mature and planted, not fizzy and frisky like a more dynamic Fiesta.
This will surely suit most buyers, who will appreciate the decent refinement, the 50mpg+ economy and the smattering of new kit on offer: an updated 6.5-inch infotainment screen, the addition of blindspot detectors and the group’s latest auto-shuttering active headlamps that dip parts of the beam to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic. Yes, even this clever-clogs equipment is now available on a humble supermini.
You’ll only find this smartest Fabia kit in the higher echelons of the spec range (or on the options list, obvs), but they’ve done a decent job of keeping this old-timer feeling reasonably up to date in the face of newer competition.
Pity the interior feels so resolutely plasticky though. Hatchback prices start at £12,840 for a Skoda Fabia 1.0 MPI 75PS in S trim; the same engine and trim cost £13,860 in the Estate bodyshell.
The Skoda Fabia is ageing graciously. It's based on older VW platform technology, rather than the very latest group stacks, but this is reflected in prices - it undercuts the Ibiza by £2285 at time of writing and the blue-chip Polo by £1395. That's a handy saving for a very democratic, unflashy sensible buy.
If you want a sensible supermini, it's worth a look. Just remember that those who enjoy driving, cutting-edge style and standing out in a crowd may prefer to shop elsewhere.
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