On the face of it, the new Skoda Fabia Estate could be the ideal runaround for growing families. Based on our newly crowned Car of the Year, it clearly has many virtues, but its bigger boot should make it even better suited to domestic life.
Skoda charges £1145 more than it does for the equivalent Fabia hatch, although the weakest 69bhp petrol engine isn’t available in the estate, meaning prices start at £12,430 for a 74bhp 1.0-litre.
However, since we’ve criticised that engine for its pedestrian performance in the hatch, it’s unlikely to be up to the job here. So chances are you’ll be considering one of the two diesels (both 1.4s, with either 89bhp or 104bhp) or this 89bhp 1.2 turbo petrol, which costs from £14,535.
What’s the 2015 Skoda Fabia Estate like inside?
The space between the front and rear wheels is exactly the same as it is in the hatch, so there’s no extra kneeroom for those sitting in the back. There’s still plenty of space for two six-footers, though – let alone a couple of kids.
However, if you need to carry five on a regular basis you’ll want a bigger car altogether; the Fabia’s rear cabin is quite narrow and whoever sits in the middle has to straddle a chunky raised tunnel.
As for the boot, it’s around 60% bigger than the hatch’s – mostly because of a longer rear overhang. It’ll swallow considerably more luggage than a five-door Volkswagen Golf, and the usefully square shape of the load area makes the space eminently useable.
The rear seats leave only a slight angle when folded and, if you spec the height-adjustable boot floor (£110), there’s no annoying step up into the extended load area. The handy contraption means there's no big lip to negotiate at the entrance of the boot, either, and also lets you keep fragile items out of harm’s way by storing them under the floor.
Unsurprisingly, sitting in the front of the estate feels much the same as it does in the hatch. There’s lots of adjustment to help you get comfy and a hard but solid-feeling dashboard that’s a doddle to use. True, the seats could do with a bit more support at the sides, but that’s our only real gripe.
The 5.0in colour touchscreen that features on entry-level S models becomes a larger and quicker-responding 6.5in display on SE and SE-L cars. Both systems have big shortcut buttons at either side to take you directly to the main features without needing to scroll through various on-screen menus.
The graphics on the larger screen are razor sharp, and the swipe function works well, but our experience of Mirrorlink – a standard feature from SE upwards that allows you to mirror your smartphone's apps on the dash screen – isn’t so positive. Some of the menus suffer sluggish responses in this mode, and the navigation sometimes becomes confused.
What’s the 2015 Skoda Fabia Estate like to drive?
Just 89bhp might sound like a feeble amount for a car with such a hefty carrying capacity, but in reality the 1.2-litre petrol engine copes admirably. Even with four on board and a full boot of baggage performance is brisk enough. And because the engine is turbocharged you don’t need to thrash it to make snappy progress.
Otherwise, the estate feels much the same to drive as the hatchback. It handles neatly, with fairly light but accurate steering and plenty of grip. You’re aware of that extra mass hanging over the rear wheels when cornering, but body control is still more than acceptable for a family estate.
It’s a pity the ride isn’t a little smoother around town, though, and that every road imperfection transmits an annoying ‘boom’ from the suspension. Still, the ride is much better at higher speeds and, a bit of wind noise aside, the Skoda is a reasonably hushed cruiser on the motorway.
Should I buy one?
There’s very little in the way of direct competition for the new Fabia Estate, apart from the Seat Ibiza ST – a car launched some five years ago and one that feels predictably dated alongside the Skoda. So if you’re looking for great value small estate with a surprisingly big boot this could be just the ticket.
However, although the Fabia Estate is cheap compared with most other load-luggers, £1100 is a lot of money over the already practical Fabia hatch. So unless you’re sure you’re going to need the extra space, it’s probably best to save the cash.
What Car? says...
Skoda Fabia Estate 1.2 TSI 90
Engine size 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Price from £14,535
Torque 118lb ft
0-62mph 11.0 seconds
Top speed 115mph
Fuel economy 60.1mpg