The Fabia is available with a couple of ageing 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines, but you’re better off spending a bit more on the 84bhp 1.4 or one of the torquey four-cylinder 1.2 turbos. There’s also a hot vRS model, which uses a turbocharged and supercharged 1.4-litre petrol, while three 1.6-litre diesels – with 74bhp, 89bhp and 104bhp – and a fuel-sipping 1.2-litre three-cylinder diesel complete the line-up.
The Fabia is quite big by supermini standards, but it’s dinky enough to excel in the city, and the controls are light. The ride is also pretty good once you get away from the manhole covers and patched roads of British towns. However, there’s quite a lot of body lean in bends and the steering is vague.
Wind noise builds up at motorway speeds, but road- and suspension noise are kept to a minimum and the 1.2 turbo engines have so much oomph that you rarely need to rev them hard. The 1.4 is pretty refined, too, but the entry-level 1.2s are at best an acquired taste and at worst downright noisy. The diesels are disappointingly clattery.
The Fabia isn't that cheap, but dealers offer good discounts and it holds its value better than many rivals. Fuel economy is also good – especially the 83mpg Greenline II model – but servicing bills are likely to be quite high compared with those for a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa.
The Fabia's interior is a bit of a disappointment. It feels sturdily screwed together, but most of the plastics are hard and unappealing, creating a dour ambience. Skoda has a fine reliability record, and the Fabia performed well in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey, finishing joint second in class.
All versions come with twin front and side airbags, but curtain airbags are standard only on Elegance models. The Fabia achieved a four-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, but many competitors have scored five stars. Entry-level cars also don't have an alarm.
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 very easy and instinctive to use. You get a good view out of the front, thanks to thin windscreen pillars.
The Fabia sits at the bigger end of the supermini class, so it has plenty of space to offer. There's plenty 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 deep and well shaped, too, and easily capable of swallowing a pushchair or weekly food shopping.
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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