What’s Hot: New smartphone mirroring tech, AEB standard, great to drive
What’s Not: No cruise control in 66TSI, hard cabin plastics, auto is expensive
X-FACTOR: Sharper style, impressive equipment levels and solid on-road performance elevate the Fabia - and the Skoda brand - to new heights.
Vehicle Style: Light hatchback
Price: $15,990 (66TSI hatch drive away) to $21,440 (81TSI wagon drive-away)
- 66TSI: 66kW/160Nm 1.2 petrol turbo 4cyl | 5sp manual
- 81TSI: 81kW/175Nm 1.2 petrol turbo 4cyl | 7sp dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.8 l/100km (both models) | tested: 6.2 l/100km
Remember the Fabia? That rather homely light hatch made by Czech brand Skoda? You could be forgiven for knowing little about it, because it hasn't sold terribly well.
But there’s a new Fabia in town, and it deserves your attention.
The frumpy lines of the old car have gone. The new car brings a more chiselled style, and, inside, the presentation is neat and with an upmarket feel.
But style is not the only area where the Fabia has improved.
It’s also quite comprehensively equipped, and tech freaks (or anyone under the age of 30) are bound to appreciate the standard inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring across the range.
The price of entry is static at $15,990 for the base 66TSI hatch, but if you want an auto you’ll need to spare $20,290 for the 81TSI model.
The wagon bodystyle returns too, allowing the Fabia to retain its title of 'Most Affordable Wagon In Australia'.
Simply put, the new Fabia is no longer the poor Eastern-European cousin of the Volkswagen Polo. It’s now a genuinely enticing thing, and, as a package, is at the pointy end of the segment for value and appeal.
- Standard equipment: Central locking, power windows and mirrors, leather multifunction steering wheel, air conditioning, trip computer, cloth upholstery, rear parking sensors.
- 81TSI adds: Cruise control, front centre armrest with storage tray.
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch colour touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, AM/FM radio, 6-speaker stereo, SD card and USB audio inputs plus Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.
- Luggage capacity hatch: 305L minimum, 1125L maximum
- Luggage capacity wagon: 505L minimum, 1370L maximum
It’s a fine-looking interior for a $15,990 car, and the crisp design of the exterior translates well into the cabin environment.
The alloy-look dash trim is a nice touch, and a leather multi-function steering wheel is standard equipment for all models - an uncommon feature in this segment.
But… the quality of some plastics and the overwhelming use of hard materials leaves something to be desired. The Mazda2 does a better job of conveying an upmarket feel in a downmarket car, and it does it for less money too.
But will buyers notice? Maybe not. They’ll be too busy being wowed by the slick, seamless integration of the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto technology that’s driven through the 6.5-inch colour touchscreen (another range-standard feature).
By mirroring the function of your smartphone (whether it be a late-model iPhone or Android phone), you can get access to your messages, listen to streaming audio services via your data connection AND access an integrated sat-nav system.
All you need to do is plug your phone in via the car’s USB port. Even voice assistants like Apple’s Siri will work through it, allowing you to dictate text messages and search for addresses by simply speaking.
As far as infotainment is concerned, the Fabia trumps all of its rivals - except perhaps the Polo, which will feature the same system from next month.
A fully-integrated sat-nav is available for $950, but if you’ve got an up-to-date smartphone you probably don’t need it.
Comfort is another ace up the Fabia’s sleeve.
The front seats are firmly-cushioned but offer great support under the legs and to the upper back, and the driving position is aided by standard seat height-adjustment and a reach/rake-adjustable steering column.
The rear seats, so often a no-go zone for bigger adults in light cars, are actually quite pleasant to be in.
The outboard seats are sculpted to help hold your body in place, the taller squab gives adults and kids a better view outside, and there’s good under-thigh support as well.
Knee room isn’t amazing, but it feels roomier than the previous-gen Fabia - likely a result of the new car’s increased wheelbase.
Want versatility in your light car? The Fabia again triumphs. The hatch’s boot space can swallow up 305 litres of cargo, and comes equipped with bag-hooks, side pockets, a shopping-bag 'corral' and a dual-position parcel shelf.
Like to shop in bulk? The Fabia’s got your back.
If you need even more space in your light car, the Fabia Wagon is able to deliver. With a seats-up capacity of 505 litres, it’s properly capacious.
ON THE ROAD
- 66kW/160Nm 1.2 litre turbo petrol inline four | 5-speed manual
- 81kW/175Nm 1.2 litre turbo petrol inline four | 7-speed
- Front wheel drive
- Disc brakes, electric power steering
While the previous Fabia (excluding the sporty RS model) was powered by a sole 77kW engine, two variations of the same 1.2 litre motor propels the new Fabia.
At the bottom end of the range is the 66kW 66TSI, mated exclusively to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Want an auto? You’ll have to step up into the 81kW 81TSI, which gets a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic as its sole transmission option, necessitating a $20,290 minimum spend.
But after sampling both on the roads in and around Sydney, we’d vouch for the 66TSI over the more powerful 81TSI.
The manual gearbox is light, slick and easy to use, and the engine has a handy 160Nm of torque from a very low 1600rpm. It does its best work from 2500rpm and up, and it’s surprisingly fun to drive hard.
The 81TSI has more power, but with 175Nm (against the 66TSI's 160Nm) its torque advantage isn’t especially noticeable.
The DSG also exhibits the usual twin-clutch issues of jerky low-speed engagement, which is annoying when crawling in heavy traffic or trying to smoothly negotiate a steep driveway.
But if you want cruise control, the 81TSI is the only model to get it as standard, and only available in conjunction with the $1300 Travel Pack.
But no matter which engine you go for, ride comfort is excellent. None of the cars we drove were equipped with the standard 15-inch wheels (steel on the 66TSI, alloy on the 81TSI), but on 16s the suspension proved more than compliant enough.
If you’re not afraid of a firmer ride, Skoda can equip your Fabia 81TSI with a 15mm lower sports suspension for $1200, which also brings 17-inch alloys, front foglamps, LED daytime running lamps and a fatigue detection system.
Even on the 17-inchers and sportier suspension, there’s not much to complain about besides slightly more road noise a bit of suspension jiggle.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.16 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Standard features across the 2015 Fabia range include autonomous emergency braking, stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, reverse parking sensors and six airbags.
A fatigue monitor is added to the list when any option pack is selected.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new Fabia represents a massive jump over the old one. While the outgoing Fabia played a minor role in the light car segment, the new one has the right stuff to become a major player.
The infotainment upgrade with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay alone is bound to get many buyers ‘over the line’, while the sharp drive-away pricing that’s currently in place offers another incentive to buy.
But beyond that, it’s a nice car to drive and to look at.
Go for the two-tone Colour Concept option (which is bundled with the Sports Pack [81TSI] and Travel Pack [66TSI]), and it’s easily the most visually-interesting light hatch around.
There are some shortcomings though. A lack of production options means there’s no auto for the base 66TSI engine, so those seeking an automatic will need to spend big. Same again if you want cruse control.
Hard plastics are another, and spoil what is otherwise a very neat and upmarket-feeling interior.
Those qualms aside, the new Fabia is one to put on your shortlist.