SKODA FABIA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Light five-door hatchback
Price: $18,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.5 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.3 l/100km
Skoda’s Fabia light car is at first glance quite a promising proposition: built in Europe on a German-engineered platform and powered by a perky turbocharged engine, it also used to sell for nearly a grand less than the mechanically-identical Volkswagen Polo 77TSI, before a recent price adjustment eroded that advantage.
Still, it makes for a rather impressive commuter car, and, as we discovered after a week at the wheel, the Skoda Fabia 77TSI’s appeal extends well beyond its spec sheet.
Quality: The design is pretty bland, but the Fabia impresses with high-quality plastics and durable fabric trim.
Build quality is excellent too - not surprising given its shared lineage with the Polo.
We had issues with the remote central-locking though. It occasionally refused to lock the car, requiring the use of the key (how quaintly old-fashioned).
Comfort: The cabin is quite tall, so headroom in the Fabia is never a problem for either front or rear passengers.
The upright seating position gives an excellent view of the road ahead, and the tilt-reach adjustable steering wheel (which is also leather-trimmed) makes it easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat.
Rear seat accommodation is generous for a light car, with excellent legroom and plenty of under-thigh support.
Equipment: The base-model Fabia is equipped with most of the ‘must-have’ gadgets that buyers demand today, with cruise control, air conditioning, trip computer, power windows (all with auto-down/up), Bluetooth telephony, a USB audio input and steering wheel controls all as standard.
A set of 15-inch steel wheels is one trade-off, but 15-inch alloys are available as an option. Other options include climate control, reverse-parking sensors, a sunroof and partial leather upholstery.
Storage: The boot measures in at 315 litres with the 60/40 split seatbacks in place, which is just 15 litres off the VW Golf’s cargo capacity.
There’s a couple of handy storage pockets either side of the boot floor too, and two shopping bag hooks.
Up front there’s a double-decker glovebox, covered centre armrest storage and a pair of cupholders; there are also storage bins on each door and map pockets behind both front seats.
As far as practicality goes, the Fabia gets full marks. It might be small, but it’s got great utility as an urban runabout.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Volkswagen-sourced 1.2 litre turbocharged inline four found in the Fabia 77TSI is a fantastic powerplant. It may not be overly powerful with just 77kW and 175Nm of torque but it spins like a jewel.
There’s not much torque at low rpms, but, get things spinning, and there’s a strong midrange surge that carries almost right through to redline. You don’t have to rev it hard to extract good performance, but the 77TSI doesn’t mind at all if you do so.
Hills can blunt progress in fifth, particularly if there’s a passenger or three aboard. Solution: just knock it back a gear and keep more than 3000rpm on the dial - the Fabia’s excellent midrange torque will take care of the extra weight.
The five-speed manual gearbox is currently the only transmission available (a DSG automatic will join the range later), and could perhaps use an extra gear to make the best use of the engine’s output.
It’s easy to use though, with a light shifter and light clutch.
Refinement: It’s fairly quiet inside the Fabia, thanks to the tall sidewalls on the 15-inch tyres and the smooth, well-balanced engine. The car’s boxy profile generates some wind noise at highway speed, though it’s not terribly intrusive.
Suspension: There’s a greater emphasis on ride comfort with the Fabia when compared to the Polo, with which it shares its platform and suspension design. The Skoda’s suspension feels much softer, and it soaks up bumps with great ease.
It’s not too shabby in a corner either, but the soft suspension tune creates a fair deal of body roll. For everyday urban duty though, the Skoda definitely has the right kind of suspension for the job.
Braking: Brake feel is good. There’s no grabbiness from the all-disc brake system, and the pedal is responsive and not too spongy.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars. In EuroNCAP testing the Fabia was marked down for marginal leg protection for the driver and front passenger (but scored 15 out of 16 in the side impact pole test).
Safety features: Standard safety features include stability control, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
Six airbags are standard, and include front, front side and full-length curtain ‘bags. Each seat is fitted with a three-point seatbelt, with pretensioners for the front belts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Consult your local Skoda dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Polo 77TSI Comfortline ($18,990) - Under the skin, the Polo and Fabia are close to identical. The Fabia packs slightly more equipment for the same amount of money though, and has a more commodious and practical cabin. (see Polo reviews)
Ford Fiesta LX Petrol Hatch ($18,990) - Excellent handling and an equipment list that equals the Skoda makes the Fiesta a good buy, but it’s smaller inside and its 89kW/151Nm 1.6 litre naturally-aspirated engine isn’t as torquey as the Fabia’s. (see Fiesta reviews)
Toyota Yaris YRS Hatch ($17,390) - Toyota’s revamped Yaris has a roomy cabin but a much smaller boot space. It is quite well equipped though, and cheaper than the Fabia.
Its 80kW/141Nm 1.5 litre engine gives it more power than the Fabia, but it needs to be revved hard and isn’t as relaxed a performer as the Fabia’s crisper 77TSI 1.2 engine (see Yaris reviews).
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
In fact, it could be argued that the Czech-built Fabia is actually more European than the Polo, which is assembled in South Africa.
The Fabia 77TSI is priced at the higher end of the light car market, but you really do get a lot of car for your money.
Its roominess and sizable boot space mean it can conceivably compete against some from the small car segment, which actually makes it a bit of a bargain.