► Entirely new Fabia hatch driven
► Huge tech upgrades, more space inside
► Is it the better buy than a Polo or Ibiza?
Now that the Citigo is history, the Fabia once again rounds off the bottom of the Skoda model range. But it now can't be picked up for pennies – this new Fabia costs as much as the previous-gen estate, which unlikely to be replaced due to a distinct lack of demand.
Compared to the rather pointless Scala, though, this new Fabia is a bargain.
So, what do you get for your money then?
Skoda has in the VW group replaced Seat as maker of inexpensive entry-level motor cars. The latest Fabia iteration has grown to 4108mm in length, its boot now holds a best-in-class 380 litres, and the drag coefficient has been honed to a slippery 0.28Cd. The car looks as classy and clean as an early Audi A3, the cockpit easily beats the Golf VIII for intuitive functionality, the seats are comfy, and the build quality gives third-world materials a wide berth.
Unlike his colleagues working for other brands of the group, Skoda chief designer Oliver Stefani avoided controversial idiosyncrasies like cryptic touch sliders, obscure ergonomic push zones and hidden puzzle corners inside. Instead, his team created a cockpit which is self-explanatory, free of pointless redundancies as well as logically structured.
Specs in the UK are yet to be confirmed (but you can safely expect SE, SE Technology and SE L) and, true to the Simply Clever motto, the cabin of the new Fabia incorporates 16 different oddment spaces with a total volume of 106 litres.
In combination with the high-end satnav, the multi-tasking assistant named Laura comes on board to answer questions you might never ask. The only items this Skoda lacks is an extra helping of flair in places, one or two unique selling propositions and a more dedicated commitment to driving pleasure.
So far, so good – what engines can I have?
Two naturally aspirated three-cylinders (64bhp and 79bhp) and one turbo'd three-cylinder (108bhp) TSI for now. With a paltry 69lb ft, the two weakest units need to be worked hard to deliver a lethargic rate of progress.
The top-of-the-line TSI unit musters a much more useful 148lb ft of torque, and it can be paired with a six-speed manual or a seven speed DSG box.
Not yet available is a 1.5-litre TSI due early next year with 148bhp and 184lb ft. That can count to four (cylinders), relay its power to the seven-speed DSG only, does the acceleration job in eight seconds flat, tops 141mph and still averages a miserly 50.4mpg. No surprise that this version will debut with a go-faster Monte Carlo trim pack.
How does the new Fabia drive?
We drove the new Skoda in a thoroughly Westernised Poland, where only the network of C and D roads still displays an antiquated mix of bald tar surfaces crumbling at the edges, apparently abandoned half-finished construction zones and brief stretches of EU-funded paradise turf.
The speediest Fabia (before that 1.5-litre one arrives) depends on ABS to eke out the dapple terrain irregularities, it does benefit from the largest tyre size to complete tricky turns without making a fool of its driver, but it could do with a meatier and more communicative steering.
On the good side, we noted the impeccable directional stability, failsafe handling and neatly weighted controls. Although the manual gearbox is light and precise, top gear reaches from Mlada Boleslav almost to the Bavarian border, and fourth and fifth are not exactly short-legged either.
The most dramatic improvement over the stiff and brittle previous model is the almost cushy suspension which balances out the worst vagaries with the nonchalant perfection of an Oktoberfest waitress juggling a dozen steins of beer. Praise is also due to the markedly reduced overall noise level which muffles the coarse engine, the part-time drummer inside the rear axle and the wind playing catch and release with wipers, mirrors and door handles.
Skoda Fabia: verdict
On paper, the latest Fabia is another Skoda which beats its VW and Seat stablemates at their own game. It's roomy, handsome, well-built, easy to use and should be cheap to run. Your trade-off is the lack of an estate, and ho-hum dynamics. But that last part isn't really the point, is it?
Read more Skoda reviews here
Specs are for a 1.0 TSI DSG