Skoda Fabia (2015) 1.2 TSI 90 review

Published:24 October 2014

2015 Skoda Fabia tested in 1.2 TSI 90 guise
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

Having batted on for a sterling seven years, the outgoing Skoda Fabia is preparing to walk off with its head held high and waiting in the wings is this, its fighting-fit replacement.

New from the ground up, the 2015 Skoda Fabia’s styling rigidly toes the corporate line with an Octavia-esque snout and the same kind of crisp Corby trouser press creases in the panels. Neat and well turned out, certainly, but perhaps not the most stirring design to behold.

The five-door only range kicks off from £10,600, with an estate on the way later in 2015.

What makes the new Skoda Fabia better than the old one?

Using certain components and know-how from the VW Group’s modular MQB chassis toolbox, the new Fabia’s shed a fair bit of weight and manages to squeeze a roomier interior and relatively big boot inside a silhouette that’s 8mm shorter than before. Nudging the wheels closer to each corner with a lengthened wheelbase and widened track has helped free up interior room – it’s genuinely spacious by supermini standards – as has repositioning the firewall’s location.

Skoda’s joined the customisable colour scheme party, with mix-and-matchable hues for the roof, mirrors and wheels, and on the kit front the likes of DAB, Bluetooth and USB connectivity are standard across the range. Available too is the latest tech to link your smartphone up to the dash display, although that’s not always plain sailing – more on which in a bit.

Every engine meets the latest emissions regs from Brussels, with three powerplants on offer – a 1.0-litre triple-cylinder, a 1.2-litre turbo four-pot and a diesel-fuelled 1.4, all with a choice of power outputs.

How does the 2015 Skoda Fabia drive?

On the ride, handling and refinement front, fine. On the performance front, not so much.

We drove both the 1.0-litre triple with the lowest 59bhp output (a 74bhp version is also available) and the 1.2-litre turbo with 89bhp (likewise, the same engine can be had with 109bhp).
Unless low insurance grouping is an absolute priority, avoid the 1.0-litre. Even by the standards of the class it’s painfully sluggish, with steep hills becoming real ‘will we make it’ challenges. Flatten the throttle from low revs in third gear and, quite genuinely, nothing happens.

Once you’ve managed to build up some momentum it’s seriously quiet and refined, especially for a three-cylinder. From the inside at least, you could imagine sitting it on the rev-limiter in the middle of a library without triggering so much as a ‘shhh.’

The 1.2-litre turbo’s impressively hushed too and although it’s still not overflowing with performance, it’s a much easier engine to live with. Response from low revs is still slothful so you need to stir the gears to keep it on the boil, if you do it’ll make progress well enough and inclines are far less stressful.

There are no steering and throttle modes to muck about with in the Fabia, and the electric power steering’s actually quite nicely weighted. Suspension is relatively soft and there’s a reasonable amount of body roll when cornering but decent ride quality is the trade-off. It’s no Fiesta, but the Fabia’s set up with safe, predictable handling that’s entirely appropriate for the class.

What’s the interior like?

The crisp, clean and painfully sensible styling theme continues on the inside. Like most other Skoda interiors it’s composed of dark, heavy-duty plastics, which are expertly put together and will no doubt last forever but don’t half look dreary. Were it not for the slab of shiny plastic across the middle of the dash (available in a range of colours) the Fabia’s cabin would be quite a dull place to be.

All three trims get a touchscreen multimedia display, with the mid-range SE and top SE-L versions getting a larger display that’s Mirrorlink enabled, which means you can link some of your Android smartphone’s apps and functions directly to the screen. The alternative Carplay system for Apple phones is still being worked on.

Mirrorlink, developed by a conglomerate of carmakers, is widely regarded to be the future but to be frank, in the Fabia it’s a bit crap at the moment. It’s still in the beta testing phase and the clunky, less than intuitive interface will improve given time. The whole point of the system is that it can be continually updated with new software, so the Fabia’s infotainment system will never date.

For that reason, there’s no longer any factory sat-nav option on the Fabia. Incredibly, it was specced on only 1% of previous-gen Fabias sold, so it’s not being offered on the new car. We navigated our test route by using an Android smartphone plugged into one of the USB ports with the ‘Sygic’ sat-nav app. It got us lost – quite a lot – but again, it’s early days.

Verdict

The new Fabia’s a very capable addition to the supermini class, with its roominess, ride quality and refinement all scoring it brownie points. It’s just missing some personality, both in terms of design flair and performance. Ultimately it’s a car that could only ever be a rational purchase, not something you’d buy because you really want it.

Specs

Price when new: £14,240
On sale in the UK: January 2015
Engine: 1197cc turbo 4-cyl, 89bhp @ 4400-5400rpm, 118lb ft @ 1400-3500rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 10.9sec 0-62mph, 113mph, 60.1mpg, 107g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1109kg / steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3992/1732/1467

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Photo Gallery

  • New Fabia is based on new platform, but spoils it by adopting boring Skoda corporate look
  • It might be dull to look at but it sure it practical - with more space for people inside and a 330-litre boot
  • Typically dark Skoda interior brightened up by coloured dash panel - thank goodness
  • Manual gearbox can be upgraded on higher-powered 1.2 and 1.4 TSI variants
  • Yep. That is a lot of space for a supermini
  • Just don't bother with the 1.0-litre engine: it's dog-slow
  • That said, Skoda thinks the 1.0-litre 75 will rank joint best-seller with the 1.2 90 tested here. Buy the 1.2
  • Overall, the 2015 Skoda Fabia is a good thing, but we'd still take a Fiesta instead

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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