Skoda Fabia long-term test: report 2

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

Skoda Fabia driving

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 760 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)

24 November – Back to basics

Sitting in the Skoda Fabia for the first time, it was like I’d got in a time machine back to the good old days of motoring.

A simple compact hatchback, with a modest but functional interior featuring actual buttons, an analogue driver display and a manual gearbox. Simple joys.

Skoda Fabia analogue driving instrument cluster

Admittedly, it took me some time to appreciate this beautiful simplicity. Initially, I felt slightly underwhelmed. These days I am often driving the latest, shiniest new cars, where everything comes with an infotainment screen that’s larger than my laptop and costs more than £30,000.

However after my first trip in the Skoda Fabia I came to realise its interior might just be my favourite thing about the car.

The entry-level trim I have costs £17,990 while the top Monte Carlo trim starts from £21,125 and gets a bigger screen and digital driver display. 

But to be honest, I think I actually prefer the modest trim I have.

Using the Skoda Fabia's infotainment screen

My SE Comfort Fabia gets a 6.5in infotainment, which does look pretty tiny compared to most other new cars. But it is flanked either side by physical shortcut buttons to hop between the menus which are helpful and easy to use. And I’ve found that Apple CarPlay runs perfectly smoothly and is very easy to see, despite the small screen.

If you go for the bigger screen on the higher trims then you lose the physical shortcut buttons, and the attractive old-school analogue dials are swapped for a – in my eyes – a more forgettable digital driver display.

After spending a lot of time recently in cars with huge, laggy screens that struggle to just load up Apple CarPlay smoothly, and require zen-like patience and skill to just change the temperature, this simplicity is very welcome.

The Fabia's air conditioning dials

I do, though, wish I had opted for heated seats as the temperature in London is dropping quicker than Neymar running into the penalty area. Unfortunately they are part of the optional Winter Package, which you can’t add to SE Comfort.

But the standout highlight of the interior? For me it’s the manual gearbox. No, the Skoda Fabia isn’t a sports car or a hot hatch but even on a simple car like this a manual 'box just adds a layer of interaction and enjoyment that no automatic can get close to.

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