A turbocharged engine, wider track front and rear, a kerbweight starting under a tonne and design specifically aimed at attracting a younger crowd; it sounds special, but it’s actually the new 2015 Skoda Fabia.
New Skoda Fabia: what's new?
The latest Fabia is crucial for the Czech maker, the firm trotting out more than 3.5 million examples of the first and second generation superminis to date. Dealers will have their work cut out matching those numbers though - the Fabia is no longer the entry-level model, undercut in size and price by the back-to-basics Citigo.
This new positioning has allowed the Fabia to grow up, so Skoda head of design Josef Kaban has given it a more distinctive look. Of course it’s still a Skoda and, as he was keen to point out, Skoda buyers don’t want to be the centre of attention 24/7, they just like to stand out occasionally.
So sharper lines and creases adorn the 90mm wider bodywork, while the grille and headlight graphic are recognisable, though not identikit copies, from the Octavia. Seventeen-inch wheels are available, the axles are 30mm wider than before, and along with a 31mm lower roofline the overhangs have been reduced and the wheelbase lengthened.
The new Fabia has finally eschewed the dowdiness of its narrow and tall-hipped predecessor for something altogether more convincing in the hotly fought stylish supermini segment. Especially with contrasting wheels, roof panel and mirror caps.
Sounds like a lot of change?
Yes and no; the latest Fabia uses the MQB technology first seen in the VW Golf, Audi A3, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia. A two-hour workshop repeatedly told us MQB isn’t just a scaleable platform though, allowing consistent dimension changes with ease, but a whole umbrella of kit underpinning the entire vehicle.
Skoda engineers cherry-pick the best bits from a giant ‘VW group shop’, choosing the best-suited infotainment, safety systems, instruments, engines, steering and chassis systems for the Fabia. A bit like a teutonic kit-car, but built with a Czech accent.
That means it’s loaded with the same standard or optional safety and convenience kit found in the Octavia – including an auto-brake function for potential impacts, a warning for when the driver is feeling drowsy, keyless entry, auto lights and wipers, hill hold control plus front and rear parking sensors.
What’s under the bonnet of the new 2015 Skoda Fabia?
Three- and four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines, with power ranging from 59bhp to 108bhp, are available. In the UK less than 10% will opt for the diesel though, the lion’s share of sales taken by the 1.2-litre four and 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrols.
The latter is so thrummy it’s like a bad cliché, and if you regularly travel more than one-up, we’d urge you to think twice - it’s slow enough to warrant a man walking out front with a red flag.
In contrast, the 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit is refined, free-revving and usefully punchy. Combined with a supple ride, flat cornering and direct, if light, steering it makes the Skoda an enjoyable – though not scintillating – steer.
If you’re an Apple fan who regularly gets lost, then for now, this isn’t the car for you; there’s no on-board navigation available whatsoever, and Mirrorlink technology (showing your phone’s screen on the car’s infotainment display, and therefore maps) isn’t supported by Apple. The technology giant’s CarPlay is on the way, but not ‘til mid 2015.
Very much an early taste, our brief stint behind the wheel of the new Skoda Fabia in prototype guise shows it has real promise. A Fiesta’s more fun, but this is sharper-looking than a Polo, more spacious than a Clio and better built than a 108. As long as the pricing’s right, the Czech maker’s about to have another hit on its hands.