The Fabia Estate is available with a choice of 69-, 84- or 103bhp 1.2-litre petrol engines. However, given the kind of demands that are likely to be placed on the car, we think you'll be better off with one of the two stronger 1.6 turbodiesels that produce 89- or 104bhp. On the other hand, if you want some performance with your practicality, there's even a 'hot hatch' vRS version.
The Fabia estate is big by class standards, but it's still compact enough to excel in the city. The ride is comfortable, feeling supple and composed on the motorway. The steering is light as well as accurate and there's plenty of grip in slippery conditions. That said, there is a fair amount of body lean when tackling tight corners.
A little wind noise builds up around the windscreen pillars as speed increases, but road and suspension noise rarely break the calm in the cabin. It's a shame the same can't be said of the engines; all the three-cylinder engines are noisy, especially at low speeds, but the real villain is the 1.9-litre diesel, which is loud and gruff compared with modern diesel engines.
The Fabia estate is priced to rival the Peugeot 207 and Renault Clio estates, but Skoda dealers are far less likely than these manufacturers to offer discounts. However, high-demand from Skoda's loyal fan base means that the Fabia will enjoy stronger-than-average resale values. No matter which model you choose, running costs won't break the bank, with the forthcoming Greenline II model promising excellent economy.
The Fabia's interior is a bit of a disappointment. Most of the plastics are hard and unappealing, giving the cabin a dour atmosphere. Everything seems sturdily screwed together, though, so it should stand the test of time. Fabia owners certainly seem like a happy bunch according to the 2012 JD Power survey; the car finished second in class, and was rated as above average for reliability.
All models come with twin front and side airbags, but you'll need a top-trim Elegance car to add rear curtain airbags. Although no results are available for the estate, Euro NCAP crash test results gave the hatchback four stars for occupant protection. Thatcham security ratings awarded the Fabia five stars for resisting drive-away theft and four stars for preventing entry into the cabin.
Making yourself comfortable at the Fabia's wheel is easy, thanks to two-way adjustment for both the steering wheel and driver's seat. The dash has a simple, logical layout, too, making it easy and instinctive to use. You get a good view out of the front, thanks to thin windscreen pillars.
The Fabia hatchback sits at the bigger end of the supermini class, so the estate that's based on it has plenty of space to offer. There's a good deal of head- and legroom in any seat - enough for four large adults to travel in comfort, and five can squeeze in for shorter distances. The boot is enormous and well shaped.
Entry-level cars (S trim) have electric front windows, remote central locking and a CD/MP3 stereo. Next is SE, which adds air-conditioning, body-coloured electric door mirrors and halogen headlights, with SE Plus adding climate control, electric rear windows and a multi-function steering wheel. Then comes Elegance, with extra speakers, a trip computer, alloy wheels and curtain airbags. At the top of the range, Scout models have a unique look inside and out, but only air-conditioning.
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