Looks like the new Roomster, but without the cut-and-shut treatment
That’s because the Fabia and Roomster are the only Skodas so far to wear the new corporate nose. The Czech firm wants to move away from the ultra-conservative styling of cars like the Octavia.
So it’s equally new underneath?
Not quite. Volkswagen used the first Fabia as a testing ground for the new platform it was developing for the next Polo, but this time the Fabia makes do with a tweaked version of the old car’s oily bits. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: the old car was vaunted for its grown-up feel, refinement and comfort, if never its ability to excite.
Damn parts commonality, eh? It just spoils all the surprises. I don’t even have to ask what’s under the bonnet...
I know, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you anyway. First the petrols: a pair of 1.2-litre triples, a two-valve per pot version with 60bhp, and a three-valver with an extra 10bhp; an 86bhp 1.4; and a range-topping 1.6 with 105bhp. But diesel fans are equally well catered for, with a choice of a 70bhp and 80bhp 1.4 triples and the old faithful 1.9 with 105bhp.
So what’s new?
While the platform is carried over and the wheelbase unchanged, the Fabia is now 22mm longer which means there’s a huge boot: 300 litres (up from 260 litres) with the seats up and 1163 litres with them folded down. If you need any more than that, you’ll have to wait for the estate due later. But if the boot is big enough you’re unlikely to be complaining of space elsewhere. There’s an extra 33mm of rear legroom and that, combined with the tall roof, means it’s entirely possible for four adults to travel from one end of the country to the other in comfort. The dash comes straight from the Roomster and looks great, although models with the really light grey (almost white) plastics can look dirty quickly. But the quality of materials is great and the driving position adjusts to suit almost any body size.
Good to drive?
To a point. Good in that it’s refined, rides most surfaces well and generally feels far more like a car from the class above rather than a supermini. But while body control is good, there’s no feel from the steering. To be fair it does everything needed of it and the fact that it doesn’t steer like a Lotus Elise won’t matter at all to the people likely to buy it. We drove the 1.9 TDI (£11k-ish, 105bhp, 62mph in 10.8sec and 57.6mpg) whose vibrations send the pedals into a frenzy at the lights but which endows the Fabia with a very unsupermini turn of speed that makes motorway driving as easy as the urban stuff. A sixth gear wouldn’t go amiss, though. But if you’re sticking to city driving, one of the smaller engines might be on your list. We didn’t try the basic 59bhp 1.2 petrol (62mph in 16.5sec) but given that last number and how slow the more powerful 68bhp version feels despite being a 1.5sec quicker on paper, we’re not sure we’re missing out. Actually the triples are sweet things and, providing you’re not expecting to get places swiftly, they’re much more endearing than the usual bottom-rung supermini fare.
Anything else I should know? What about a vRS version?
On the way, but probably not for a couple of years. It'll be a five-door again - Skoda says there are no plans for a three-door Fabia - and diesel-powered, possibly by the newer 2.0-litre twin-cam diesel which can give up to 170bhp, although the vRS is unlikely to be that meaty. But this time a petrol engine is in the plan too. Which could take the form of the Golf GTI’s 197bhp 2.0-litre or, more likely, Volkswagen’s clever turbocharged and supercharged 1.4 TSI. Presently offered in 140bhp and 170bhp forms in other Volkswagen Golfs and Tourans, it would give the Fabia vRS the quirkiness that diesel power did first time around.
There’s nothing revolutionary about the new Fabia. It’s handsome but breaks no new ground; competent on the road but never exciting. Yet it’s a thoroughly likeable car. Skoda has focused on the things that genuinely needed improving and avoided straying from the path followed by the old Fabia.