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The new Fabia takes the old pragmatism upmarket and rocks the supermini segment in the process, eclipsing rivals that once had a tight grip on the market
What is it?
This might just be the pick of the new Skoda Fabia model range.
You see, while the facelifted Fabia hatch ticked all the right boxes so far as comfort and refinement were concerned when we first drove it in the Czech Republic a few months back, we found that the old Fabia’s unique selling point – that of offering superior levels of practicality compared to its rivals – didn’t necessarily apply anymore. Both the Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo offer larger boots, are more engaging to drive and, as far as price is concerned, don’t cost a huge amount more, either.
Now, though, we’ve experienced the updated 2018 Fabia on UK roads, and this time around it’s the vastly more practical Fabia estate that’s being put under the microscope.
As with the hatch, the Fabia estate is available with a range of 1.0-litre three-cylinder MPI and TSI power plants, with outputs ranging from 74bhp to 109bhp. Suspension, meanwhile, is by way of MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. Our £17,750 SE L-specification test car made use of the most powerful motor, which was paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Driven this week
What’s it like?
The Fabia quickly proved itself up for the task of navigating through the gridlock of our urban test route. The taxing nature of sitting in stop/start traffic in a car equipped with a manual gearbox was made easier thanks to the excellent weighting of the clutch pedal, while the quality of the gearshift itself was slick and reasonably short-of-throw. The low-down availability of the three-pot’s 148lb ft meant there wasn’t any need to constantly rev the engine out to get moving, either.
Out of the traffic and on the move, the Fabia estate remains much the same to drive as the hatch, which means a comfort-biased set-up is prevalent. Vertical body control remains decently tidy over low-frequency undulations, though sudden compressions are more unforgiving. Its secondary ride is generally good, too, with only larger lumps and ruts taking more of a toll on comfort levels.
The 109bhp engine doesn’t feel a great deal more urgent than the 94bhp unit we originally sampled in the hatch – likely down to the estate’s additional weight – but there’s enough poke on offer here to get the Skoda up to speed in reasonable fashion.
Similar to what we found in the hatch, the 109bhp three-pot is a smooth and reasonably quiet motor under throttle, and refined enough at a cruise. The additional 30lb ft of this more powerful unit also provides greater in-gear flexibility, with the need to swap to a lower gear when accelerating not quite as prevalent.
And so to practicality. As with the hatch, passenger space in the second row is decent – provided your legs aren’t too long – while the Fabia’s boxy shape means headroom is good. Where the estate really makes a strong case for itself, though, is boot space. With 530 litres on offer, the Fabia estate is not only vastly more capacious than any other supermini at this price point (the Seat Ibiza offers 355 litres), but it also outdoes some larger compact SUVs. The Mazda CX-5, for instance, makes do with a 506-litre boot, while Volvo’s XC40 only manages 432 litres.
Should I buy one?
The Fabia hatch failed to stand out not because it was in any way poor to drive, but due to the fact that next to its rivals – particularly those from within the Volkswagen Group – it didn’t offer obvious reason why you’d go out and buy one ahead of the others. It wasn’t quite as dynamically well-sorted as an Ibiza, didn’t offer the polish of the Polo, had a smaller boot than both and was only fractionally cheaper.
The Fabia estat, with its comparatively cavernous boot, does stand out. As a reasonably affordable, well-equipped (sat-nav, DAB radio, cruise control and 16in alloys are all standard at SE L level), and easy-to-drive family car, it’s going to take some beating.
It might not be a thrilling driving machine, but it’s certainly a smartly packaged one.
Skoda Fabia Estate SE L 1.0 TSI 110PS
Test location London, UK Price £17,750 On sale Now Engine 3cyl, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 109bhp at 5000-5500rpm Torque 148lb ft at 2000-3500rpm Gearbox six-speed manual Kerb weight 1182kg Top speed 122mph 0-62mph 9.7sec Fuel economy 60.1mpg CO2, tax band 107g/km, 22% Rivals Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza
Driven this week