Skoda Fabia long-term test

Following the arrival of two excellent new small hatchbacks, does our 2015 Car of the Year remain a top-drawer choice?...

Skoda fabia long-term
  • The Car: Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 SE L
  • Run by: Kris Culmer, sub-editor
  • Why it's here: To see if our 2015 Car of the Year is still a top choice after the arrival of several new rivals
  • Needs to: Be smooth, sufficiently powerful, economical and enjoyable during the daily commute, as well as able to cope with the odd haulage job

Price £16,505 Price as tested £17,625 Mileage 5555 Official fuel economy 51.4mpg (WLTP) Test economy 38.2mpg Options Brilliant Silver metallic paint (£595), Winter Package (£250), keyless entry (£165), temporary steel spare wheel (£110)

5 February 2019 – Winter wonders

Minus six degrees celcius. That was what the thermostat inside my Skoda Fabia read as I got up at 7am last week to drive up to Northamptonshire to host one of What Car?’s reader test team events.

That was following a good six hours-plus of snowfall overnight on the south coast, and once I’d spent a good 10 minutes getting the car prepared. This involved clearing three inches of snow off the roof and windows and a coating of ice over the numberplates and lights. 

It’s very handy, then, that Skoda provides every Fabia with an effective little plastic ice scraper, held inside the fuel filler cap. Not least because I’m usually too scatterbrained to remember where I put my own one last spring.

That job complete, I then set about warming the car. Back when I was training as a journalist, the journey from my house to the ‘office’ was 4.5 miles – only as I parked up my bare-bones Peugeot 206 had its engine become warm enough to feed the ‘heater’ any air that wasn’t freezing cold. Miserable. 

Skoda fabia long-term

But flashbacks of driving in a duffel coat and thick gloves were soon forgotten in the Fabia, because its modern engine and standard air conditioning warmed within a minute, and the optional Winter Pack’s £250 cost proved more than a bargain. 

I’ve long been of the belief that heated seats are the best automotive invention since the internal combustion engine, while heated washer nozzles also proved their worth by working perfectly straight away and from then on clearing the windscreen of forming frost and road salt splodges. All this was capped off by SE L trim’s standard heated door mirrors.

Once on the move, the Fabia proved faultless. I admittedly avoided climbing a very steep hill to join the motorway, but 142 miles of wintry high-speed cruising passed with only two minor ‘moments’. Pretty impressive, I’d say, in a small, light, front-wheel-drive car.

That long journey gave me some time to ruminate on why I’ve been so impressed by the Fabia in these first few months. The conclusion I drew is that there’s virtually nothing about it that annoys me; everything just works exactly as you’d think it should.

This is an experience that I’ve almost (I’m looking at you, VW Beetle) invariably had when testing cars from the mainstream Volkswagen Group brands. And while some may say that makes for dullness, I’d infinitely prefer that over a car that I dislike driving due mainly to one or two small irritations. 

Skoda fabia long-term

For example, the Fabia’s cruise control almost always holds the exact speed at which I set it – rarer than you’d think. And I can adjust its climate controls without looking away from the road. And the touchscreen responds quickly and only very occasionally gets its knickers in a twist. All I’m missing is a hook in the rear from which to hang my suit jacket.

The 1.0 TSI 95 engine has, as expected, been great, too. Part of that is its economy, although I have an interesting comparison to make with my dad’s Toyota Yaris Hybrid, which is capable of more than 80mpg around town but far less at greater speeds, whereas the Fabia is fairly consistent across the board. We’ll do a full comparison soon.

More next month, and I doubt I’ll be complaining about anything.

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