We know you can barely contain your excitement at the prospect of a new Fabia Estate, so we'll get right down to business. The latest Fabia supermini is a fine and fun little thing, and the old Fabia estate has a dedicated following. In it’s own quiet way this new version is actually kind of important. Especially as the small estate segment is currently blossoming. Peugeot’s 207SW may be ugly, but it’s clever, and Renault's Clio Sport Tourer will be with us soon. Value conscious buyers could even be tempted by the Kia Ceed SW from the class above.
So, the Fabia estate no longer has the market to itself. Can the new one still carry the day?
For the sake of (small) dog owners everywhere we’re about to find out. Let’s start with the looks. The Fabia hatch lends itself to the elongated estate car treatment really rather well. We wouldn’t go so far as to say it was beautiful, but the blackened pillars maintain the hatchback’s ‘floating roof’ side graphic, and overall it has an eye-pleasingly cohesive appearance. Trim levels – simply 1, 2, and 3 – are all borrowed from the standard Fabia, as are the engine options.
The Estate doesn’t get the entry-level 60bhp 1.2-litre petrol but there is a 70bhp 1.2, alongside 1.4 and 1.6 petrols, two variations of 1.4 diesel, and a range-topping 1.9 oil burner. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a six-cog auto available on the 1.6.
A 1.2-litre estate car? Blimey, that must be a struggle…
It’s not the quickest thing we’ve ever driven – 0-62mph takes 15.1 seconds, and even two-up with no luggage you’ll be wanting to steer around hills – but it isn’t completely gutless. Thanks to some impressive engineering sorcery, turning the Fabia into an estate has only added 14-20kg (depending on model), so even the littlest engine just about copes. What’s more the starting price for this version is just £9,360 – a bargain.
That said, the 105bhp 1.9TDI we also drove is the predicted best seller, and a much more sensible proposition. The 177lb ft of torque makes it almost nippy – 0-62 taking 11.0 seconds here. And while you never escape that telltale diesel drone under power, it’s quiet enough at a motorway cruise.
What about the practical side?
Driver and passengers get a pretty good deal. The Fabia’s cabin is light and airy, and the two-tone dashboard designs are a revelation compared to the black-on-black look of the previous generation. While some of the plastics are a bit harsh, the instruments are clear, and it’s well equipped across the range. Even better, by repositioning the rear seat backwards and downwards, Skoda has freed up enough head and legroom to make an average adult comfortable.
Investigate the all-important load area, and you’ll discover an excellent 480-litre boot – big enough to take on cars from the class above. Collapse the rear seats and this expands to 1460 litre.
Sounds good so far – any problems?
Despite some neat features – including fold-out takeaway hooks, 12v socket and a one-touch retractable load cover – the boot space isn’t quite as good as it could be. Folding the 60:40 split rear seats reveals some below average finishing. Worse, it’s a surprisingly awkward job too, unforgivable on a supposedly practical estate car. The 207 SW does this much better, and even has somewhere you can stow the load cover, another thing Skoda hasn’t thought of.
But given the choice we’d still take the Fabia, as it excels over the Peugeot in every other area, and offers much better value for money.
Anything else I should know?
All manner of usefulness expanding options will be available when the Fabia Estate goes on sale here in February – from dog guards to underseat storage at the front – while most of the important stuff is included as standard. Air-con shows up at trim level 2, aux input for your MP3 player is available, the steering wheel reaches and rakes – but despite a height adjustable drivers seat the gearlever somehow still manages to be too far away.
Safety-wise it’s crammed full of deformable structures, ‘defined load bearing paths’, and already meets 2010 pedestrian impact regulations. Four airbags are fitted on the 1 and 2, six on the 3. ESP is only optional, but you probably won’t need it anyway.
Friendly then, is it?
Unless you’re planning on driving like a total hooligan, grip levels and handling are more than adequate for a small family estate car. The balance between body control, ride comfort (you hear the bumps more than you feel them) and even entertainment is nicely judged, and although the steering could do with more feel, it is consistent. Skoda promises things remain predictable when the car is fully loaded, but we weren’t able to try this to find out.
The 80bhp 1.4TDI loves the environment best, producing 120g/km of CO2 and managing 61.4mpg on the combined cycle. However, every version (except the auto) returns over 40mpg, and CO2 levels are competitive.
Priced from £9,360 to £13,775, the new Fabia Estate offers great value, decent equipped levels, and does the basics not just well, but with charisma. Folding the rear seats could certainly be easier, but if you’re in the market for a small family estate the Fabia’s otherwise well-rounded features mean it deserves to be your starting point.