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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 Fabis is a brilliant, grown-up car that’s still unfairly overlooked by badge snobs

Go for… 1.4 petrol

Avoid… 1.9 SDI diesel

Skoda Fabia Saloon
  • 1. Check the footwells for dampness. Water can drip in through the air vent intakes when they get blocked
  • 2. One of the hoses has a habit of dislodging and leaking. This can cause engine damage if the coolant levels are allowed to get too low
  • 3. If you go for the 1.4, check the timing belt tensioner, because it can break early
  • 4. There have been head gasket failures on the 75bhp 1.4, so check the coolant for oil, and for water under the oil filler cap
  • 5. Boot is decent for the car's size, but it lacks the hatchback's versatility
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Skoda Fabia Saloon 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 a 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 a very relaxing drive. 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's can be better, but petrol Classics still find eager buyers

James Ruppert
Used car guru

If you go for a Fabia saloon rather than the hatchback, you'll have far fewer models to choose from. Not only did the saloon sell in far lower numbers, only a small portion of the hatch's engine range was available.

There's only one petrol engine, a 1.4. As in the hatch, it came with either 75 or 100bhp, but the less powerful version came with an automatic gearbox, so we'd avoid it and go for the more powerful version instead. Alternatively, you could go for a diesel, but as it's the sluggish 1.9 SDI, we wouldn't bother.

As for trims, it's simple - there's no choice. Each engine came with just one trim, so all you can do is to shop around for a car with some options fitted.

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.

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, with every model sitting in groups 3 or 5.

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's can be better, 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. This is because parts aren’t expensive and Skoda mechanics usually do a reasonably quick job at a fair price.

There are some things to look for, though, and in particular you should check the footwells for dampness. Water can drip in through the air vent intakes when they get blocked. But, it's easy to fix, 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 cause engine damage if the coolant levels are allowed to get too low.

If you go for the 1.4, 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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