Skoda Fabia long-term test: report 1

The Fabia is one of the cheapest small cars you can buy, but how easy is it to live with? We're finding out...

Driving the Skoda Fabia

The car Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 SE Comfort Run by Kiall Garrett, senior videographer

Why it’s here To see if this budget-friendly small hatchback can suit the high-mileage and practicality needs of What Car?’s videographer

Needs to be Have acres of space for camera gear and equipment bags, while also being comfortable on long journeys and not too expensive to run

Mileage 412 List price £17,990 Target Price £17,433 Price as tested £19,540 Official economy 55.8mpg Test economy 53.2mpg Options fitted Race blue metallic paint (£660), Simply Clever Package 1 (£195), rear disc brakes (£100), textile floor mats (£45)

18 November 2022 – Grounded but great

Beauty is subjective, of course, but I doubt many heads would turn upon seeing my Skoda Fabia drive past. And likewise, the sound of its 94bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine won't cause performance enthusiasts to gawp in my direction. But don't for a second think that the Fabia is any less mighty because of those things, because after just a week in its company, it's winning my affections.

Skoda Fabia driving

Admittedly, some of this might be a reaction to having just finished a six-month stint with a fully electric car, and the cold sweats that break out when I think of the state of some of the UK's public charging network. So, just the fact that the Fabia has an engine is an instant win.

Similarly, I’m really enjoying the snappy five-speed manual gearbox – which actually feels like a novelty these days. Outside of the small car world, the automatic gearbox is becoming all-conquering, but in this class of car it still makes a lot of sense.

Not least because it keeps the price down. Starting from £17,990, the Fabia competes with some of the cheapest new cars you can buy. This was one of my largest pulls towards the car –  after all, who doesn’t love a bargain?

But what do I need this car to do?

Skoda Fabia manual gearbox

Well, as a videographer for What Car’s YouTube channel, I carry a lot of equipment with me. The amount of cases, tripods, bags and mounts I store is equivalent to having a family of children – with big, bulky cases and long tripods that stick through from the boot.

The good news is the Fabia’s boot seems up to the job. At 380 litres, it’s more spacious than the pricier Volkswagen Polo’s 351 litres (and it’s almost as large as that of the Seat Arona small SUV, which was one of my previous company cars).

I decided to keep the cost down on the Fabia by going for entry-level SE Comfort trim. This includes a 6.5in infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay as standard, plus adjustable lumbar support and LED headlights. Colour Edition – the second-cheapest trim level – adds a larger, 9.0in infotainment screen, a 10.5in digital instrument panel and privacy glass.

Skoda Fabia interior

Although the extra tech was definitely tempting, I’m actually a fan of the standard analogue dials in my car; they’re like a throwback, given the intense digitisation of everything in new car interiors.

And sure, the infotainment screen is a little small, but its graphics look slick and I only really need to use the touchscreen to change songs.

I also felt keeping the list price down with the entry-level trim would be worth it because I was eyeing up a couple of optional extras.

Metallic paint was one, of course. I’ve gone for Race Blue, just to give the Fabia some extra pop on the road, while the Simply Clever Package 1 gave me boot accessories like a boot net and a double-sided boot mat with a wipeable surface for when it gets muddy. It’s been useful so far in stopping loose bits of equipment from sliding around the boot while driving.

Skoda Fabia boot mat

The textile floor mats were a no-brainer to add, and I felt having rear disc brakes (in place of the standard drum set-up) were, too. 

Continuing the money-saving theme, I’m hoping some impressive fuel economy will keep my running costs down. I haven’t yet managed to achieve the car’s official average figure of 55.8mpg, but 53.2mpg is a good start from the 400 miles I’ve done in the week I’ve had the car – and that’s just on one tank.

So far, I’m very optimistic about the next few months with the Fabia. With its analogue dials, manual ’box, punchy little engine and a small footprint, it feels like it could give me a taste of old-school motoring at its finest.

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