2022 Skoda Fabia review: prices, specs and release date
All-new, fourth-generation version of the Skoda Fabia arrives to take on the Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz and Volkswagen Polo...
On sale Late 2021 | Price from £15,000 (est.)
There are small cars that are cheap, but you feel every penny of the cost savings. There are small cars that you pay a premium for but, perhaps after some Sherlock-style scrutiny, you find yourself wondering, “What’s all the fuss about?”. And then there’s the Skoda Fabia.
Traditionally, this little car has managed to feel more than the sum of its parts, for less than you’d expect those parts to cost. That’s a jolly neat trick, and one of the reasons the Fabia has enjoyed such success – more than 4.5 million have found homes since its inception in 1999.
Now it’s time for the all-new, fourth-generation Fabia, with first deliveries beginning at the tail end of this year. At the birth of a new car, writing that ‘it’s longer and wider than the previous model’ instantly rings any motoring journalist's cliché alarm. The Fabia is both those things, though – while also being lower than before, giving it a squatter stance on the road.
There are other new things to talk about. For the first time, it's available with digital instruments rather than analogue instrument dials, plus you can have a heated steering wheel and windscreen. Full LED head and tail-lights are standard on all trims and the latest safety aids, including lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, are available.
Those trims start with S, rising through SE Comfort and Colour Edition, to the top-spec SE L. A sportier Monte Carlo version will join the range early in 2022, along with the most powerful engine, a 148bhp turbocharged 1.5 TSI 150 petrol.
The engine line-up starts with two non-turbocharged 1.0 MPI petrols. One has 64bhp and the other 79bhp, but it’s the peppier, turbocharged petrols that, from experience of the old Fabia, will be better options. They’re the 94bhp 1.0 TSI 95, which is expected to be the bread and butter as far as sales are concerned, and the more powerful 107bhp 1.0 TSI 110.
So, is the Skoda Fabia still one of the best small cars out there, ticking all the boxes without feeling like a box-ticker?
What's it like to drive?
We haven’t tried either of the 1.0 MPI engines but, given that 0-62mph takes 15 seconds or so, our advice is to go for the 1.0 TSI 95. It can crack 0-62mph in around 10sec and even copes with motorways well, although if there’s a hill and you’re looking to make headway from 50 to 70mph, you’ll need to drop the five-speed manual gearbox down from fifth to fourth. The 1.0 TSI 110, which instead has a six-speed manual 'box, offers a touch more fizz, but you'll want to wait for the 1.5 TSI 150 if you want real zing – it smashes 0-62mph in just 7.9sec.
Both the five and six-speed gearboxes are slick, if not as snickety-snackety as the manual in a Ford Fiesta. The clutch and brakes work with you too, so, bar some slight jerkiness when you squeeze the accelerator pedal or lift off it at low speeds, the Fabia is an easy car to drive deftly in traffic. As far as engine noise goes, the 1.0 TSI engines emit a bit of boom and babble and little vibrations through the pedals when you wind them up. Drive sedately, though, and they’re hushed.
What’s big news, compared with the old car, is the reduction of noise elsewhere. Suspension noise, wind noise and road roar on motorways (with the smaller 16in wheels at least) are certainly lower. If the new Fabia isn't one of the quietest small cars on sale, it won’t be far behind.
Traditionally, the small car category hasn’t been a safe haven for those that appreciate a wafty ride, unless you opted for the Peugeot 208. Well, the Fabia has joined its rank. It’s much softer than the Fiesta and Seat Ibiza – maybe softer even than the Audi A1 and VW Polo.
It rides almost any dip or divot in the road supremely well, but the drawback is it pitches about too. It means your head bobs and sways, although not like you’re in the midst of an earthquake – it’s gentler, more like a wind chime in a mischievous summer breeze.
As far as handling is concerned, it’s good enough. This is Skoda’s premise these days: concentrate on ride comfort and just make the handling safe and secure. So it steers accurately – just flick the drive mode into Sport to add more reassuring weighting – and there’s plenty of grip. There’s a lot of body roll, though, which is why the Fiesta and Ibiza are better if you enjoy something flighty to fling around bends.
What's it like inside?
What’s lovely about the latest Fabia is its interior. It’s not super-plush – there are few soft-touch materials – but where the last iteration didn’t hide its rudimentary facets, this new one disguises them ably.
The cross-hatched upper surfaces, for instance, are unforgiving but look surprisingly upmarket. There are some fabric inserts and glossy black coatings that make you feel as though some serious effort was made in its design. Indeed, the new Fabia is in the same ballpark as the A1 for interior quality, and that's obviously a far more expensive option.
It's functional, too. The driving position is great, with a comfortable seat that has good side support and adjustable lumbar support. The steering wheel switches and major controls are proper buttons – you know, the physical kind, which you can use without looking away from the road – while the digital instruments behind the steering wheel are rendered clearly. They can show navigation maps, which means you can have something else on the infotainment screen (this is either 8.0in or 9.2in depending on spec) and still get directions to where you’re going.
Oh golly, though, that infotainment screen. Why must there always be a negative? It looks brilliant, with sharp graphics and pretty colours but, as with the latest systems in other Skoda models, it’s not all that user-friendly. Not at all, in fact. It’s full of bugs and not very responsive, so dearly needs the software patches that, from our discussions with the manufacturer, are recognised as required and currently being worked on.
Visibility is up there with the best in the class. The windscreen and middle pillars are much thinner than those in the Vauxhall Corsa, so you can see out more easily at junctions. The rear screen area is more open than the Fiesta’s, although admittedly not as unrestricted as the previous-generation Fabia’s.
Space is fantastic in the front, with oodles of head and leg room for anyone over six-feet tall. There’s storage space to match as well, including well-sized door bins, trays, cubbies and a massive glovebox.
Rear space is nothing like as fulsome as it is in the larger Skoda Scala, but it’s on the level of the Ibiza and more generous than in the Fiesta. As long as the front seats aren’t slid all the way back, you’ll be able to carry two tall rear passengers without any moaning and, thanks the rear air vents, you'll be able to keep them cool.
Being a Skoda, there are loads of other thoughtful touches, including an ice scraper and tyre-tread gauge clipped to the inside of the fuel filler flap, and an umbrella hiding neatly in a recess in the front door. There's an array of boot practicality accessories, too, including a hammock you can lay items in to stop them flying around.
Speaking of the boot, it’s a voluminous 380 litres, which is 50 litres more than the previous Fabia. Again, the Scala dwarfs that, but the new Fabia betters its small car rivals, including the Fiesta and Ibiza. You'll be able to fit a good-sized fold-up buggy below the parcel shelf easily enough. There are 60/40 split-folding rear seats for those occasions when you need to carry more, but no height-adjustable boot floor.
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