Skoda’s Fabia has long been seen as a value alternative to the big-selling Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. Nothing wrong with that, but the Czech manufacturer's aspirations for the new model are higher than simply being a cut-price competitor. Skoda hopes the new car can take on the class best on when it lands in dealerships in January 2015.
The Fabia really is an all-new car. A different set of chassis components – linked, in no small part, to those in the latest Polo - underpin things and the engine line-up is extensively revised too. Two three-cylinder diesels from the VW Polo are set to appear, while the entry-level 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrols in 59bhp and 74bhp outputs are shared with the Skoda Citigo.,Two versions of the current car's turbocharged 1.2 TSI four-cylinder motor are also on offer, with 89bhp or 109bhp. It's the 89bhp car we have driven.
What’s the 2015 Skoda Fabia like inside?
As with most Skoda products, the Fabia’s cabin is about functionality, rather than flair. It’s a little wider than the previous-generation car’s, so there’s more shoulder room up front, and rear passengers benefit from the slight increase in wheelbase, because there’s more kneeroom back there than before.
The fascia is logically laid out, with a central screen on all but the entry-level S editions and shortcut buttons at either side to take you to the main features. There’s precious little joie de vivre, though; the fascia is neat and well screwed together but it’s a sea of various black textured plastics. The switches all feel solid enough except the dials to adjust the cabin temperature and speed of the fan, which feel a little more flimsy than we’d like.
The boot is an impressive 330 litres; that’s 40 up on a Fiesta, and more than enough for a week’s holiday luggage or the proceeds of a large weekly shop. The boot opening is wider than before, although there’s a bit of a lip to lift items over.
What’s the 2015 Skoda Fabia like to drive?
Our pre-production drive in Germany was in the 89bhp 1.2 TSI petrol. Skoda UK expects this to be one of the biggest-sellers, and we can see why.The engine is nearly silent at idle, it spins up smoothly, and it has a decent slug of low-down shove that means you don’t need to rev it hard to maintain relaxed progress.
The five-speed gearbox has nicely spaced ratios and while the transmission itself doesn’t feel supremely precise, it has a slick action that makes it easy to swap gears.
At higher speeds the engine’s limitations become a little more obvious, but not to the point where they’re ever really a concern. The 1.2 Fabia is perfectly capable of a motorway cruise and while that does require enough revs for the engine to start to intrude into the cabin, it’s a smooth enough drone for it to not be grating.
The rest of the time the engine is barely audible; you’re most likely to be bothered by wind noise, particularly from around the windscreen pillars and the door mirrors.
The suspension is firm, but only sharp ridges make it through to the cabin. These aren’t communicated through the steering, which doesn’t do a great job of telling you what the front wheels are doing. It’s consistently weighted, though, and you soon trust it.
Should I buy one?
Final judgement on Skoda’s latest offering will come when full details and pricing is announced, and the star rating below is based on the fact that our short drive was in an Elegance-spec vehicle that's unlikely to be the sweet spot of the range.
However, this doesn’t mean this generation of Skoda's supermini is as much of a value-led offering as its predecessor. The Fabia feels like it has come of age and grown into a mature, practical and refined product, albeit a slightly dull one. Instead, it just means that if Skoda does get the price right then there’s every reason for the Fabia to be on the very shortest of shortlists for small car buyers.
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