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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Lots of car for the cash. Good to drive, solidly built

Against Not as exciting to drive as a Fiesta. Cabin is a bit drab

Verdict The Fabia is a brilliant, grown-up supermini that’s unfairly overlooked by badge snobs

Go for… 54bhp 1.2-litre petrol

Avoid… 64bhp 1.9 SDI diesel

Skoda Fabia Hatchback
  • 1. Check the coolant hoses are all connected - they can come off and cause overheating
  • 2. The 75bhp 1.4-litre engine is prone to cylinder-head gasket failure
  • 3. Check the front footwell carpets for damp - if they're wet, the air vents may be clogged with leaves
  • 4. The cabin is very well made and comfortable throughout
  • 5. For a supermini, the boot is a decent size
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Skoda Fabia Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Some buyers still won’t touch a Skoda because of a perceived downmarket reputation. It’s the buyer’s loss, though, because Skoda no longer builds cheaply made, ramshackle cars, and hasn’t for some time.

Even the earliest Fabias were constructed after the company’s rebirth as part of the VW Group empire, so anyone who buys one is getting a quality product. Mechanically, it's pretty much the same as the Volkswagen Polo of the same era, and yet the Fabia is more reliable, just as classy and better to drive.

The Fabia gives an outstanding balance between ride and handling. It may not be as much fun as a Ford Fiesta, but it’s agile enough. The ride is great and refinement is excellent, making the Fabia very relaxing. Interior space is impressive, with enough room for five adults, while the cabin is classy and solid, if a bit drab. Build quality is top-drawer and, best of all, the car's cheap to buy and run.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Diesel the stronger engine, but petrol Classics still find eager buyers

James Ruppert
Used car guru

There are plenty of versions to choose from, but we’d avoid the gutless 1.0-litre petrol. Two 1.2 petrols are available, one with 54bhp and one with 64bhp, while there are also two 1.4s, with either 75 or 100bhp. There’s also a 2.0 petrol. All are good all-rounders, but the less powerful 1.2 is our favourite. It’s far from quick, but performance is just about adequate, while it’s cheap to buy and you get 47.1mpg.

There are plenty of diesels, too. The 1.4 TDI comes with outputs of either 70, 75 or 80bhp, and all give good economy and reasonable performance. We’d leave the sluggish 1.9 SDI alone, but the 100bhp 1.9 TDI is much better. It’s pricier, but it returns 56.5mpg. The range-topping vRS uses a 130bhp diesel, so even the hot version gives 55.4mpg.

Choose basic Classic trim. It’ll give you air-con and a CD player, while keeping things as cheap as possible.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability, despite some big bills - overall a good car

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The Fabia was great value for money when it was new and, because Skodas don’t hold their value as well as other Volkswagen Group cars, it makes an even better prospect as a used buy than some of its sister cars.

The majority of the engines give very strong fuel economy, so running costs won’t be huge, either, especially as insurance costs are a big plus point. Our favourite 1.2 petrol engine sits in group 1, so premiums are rock bottom. Most of the range varies between groups 2 and 6, while the vRS will cost the most to cover, but even that's only in group 9.

Servicing costs will be similar to what you’ll pay for a VW Polo or a Seat Ibiza, but the Skoda will be a tiny bit cheaper to maintain. You may pay a bit more than Corsa or Fiesta owners, though.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Diesel the stronger engine, but petrol Classics still find eager buyers

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Skodas are now the least problematic European cars you can buy. What’s more, if your car does go wrong, repairs are fairly cheap because parts aren’t expensive and Skoda mechanics usually do a reasonably quick job at a fair price.

However, there are a few things to look for and, in particular, check the footwells for damp, as water can drip in through the air vent intakes when they get blocked. It's easy enough to fix, though, as clearing the blockage and ensuring the filter is properly sealed should cure it.

Keep an eye on coolant levels, too, because one of the hoses has a habit of dislodging and leaking. This can ultimately cause engine damage if the coolant levels are allowed to get too low.

If you go for the 1.4 petrol, check the timing belt tensioner, because it can break early. There have also been some head gasket failures on the 75bhp 1.4, so check the coolant for oil, and for water under the oil filler cap - both signs of trouble.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability, despite some big bills - overall a good car

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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