Skoda Fabia long-term test
The Fabia is one of the cheapest small cars you can buy, but how easy is it to live with? We're finding out...
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 2728 List price £17,990 Target Price £17,433 Price as tested £19,540 Official economy 55.8mpg Test economy 53.2mpg Dealer value now £14,961 Private value now £13,299 Running costs (excluding depreciation) Fuel £508.11
13 February 2023 – Cheap thrills
When I took delivery of my Skoda Fabia, everyone was talking about the rising cost of living, so a small, 1.0-litre hatchback seemed like a pretty smart choice.
Now, as I prepare to hand back the keys, the cost of living is still rising, and I’m happy to report that the Fabia has indeed been a frugal companion. Better still, it’s been practical enough for my needs – and surprisingly fun.
It made a good impression from my first drive in it. You might think that, with just 94bhp, the petrol engine would lack punch or excitement, but I really enjoyed the driving experience, starting with the manual gearbox I chose to go with it (as a bonus, this is usefully cheaper than the automatic).
It gave the Fabia a dynamism I hadn’t expected – you could even say it made me feel more ‘at one’ with my car. Whether I was taking it casually along 20mph urban streets or going for quick, slick gear changes on more involving country roads, the Fabia delivered enough of a dose of sportiness to put a smile on my face.
Up to 30mph, it felt quick, with the pace to make up time with a few traffic-light sprints and overtakes if I was running late.
True, beyond the urban limit, acceleration eased off noticeably, but not enough to bother me. After all, the Fabia doesn’t aspire to be a hot hatch – and my main requirements are long-distance comfort and space for all my camera equipment.
I am constantly carrying cases and bags of video gear with me. And although the Fabia’s 380-litre boot is on the small side compared with other long term test cars I’ve had, it manages the space very well.
I chose an optional extra called the Simply Clever Package 1. That gave me some helpful features to make loading up my video equipment easier, including a double-sided boot floor mat and storage nets that I could stuff some of my kit in to stop it rolling around.
On the minus side, the Fabia is short on space in the back seats, which are best suited to pre-teen children. Head room is fine, but my adult passengers struggled to get comfy because of the lack of leg room, even on short journeys. Fortunately, it’s rare I need to give more than one person a lift, but it’s worth bearing in mind if the Fabia is on your small car shortlist.
Lack of back-seat spaciousness aside, I really enjoyed the Fabia’s interior. For a start, the standard Skoda two-spoke leather steering wheel feels solid and pleasant to hold, with proper switches instead of touch-sensitive pads. I was also happy with the (cheaper) analogue driver display, and never felt I was missing out by not having a digital one packed with configurable data. Sometimes simple is best.
The infotainment system in my car was the entry-level 6.5in screen with wired Apple CarPlay. I found the screen responsive enough, but its size meant I didn’t use it that much. I think the larger 9.2in screen option might have made life easier, especially when using the sat-nav to find unfamiliar shooting locations. Still, going for the smaller one did save £2535, which is, as they say, not nothing.
My time with the Fabia has been very enjoyable, then, and it ticked all the boxes for practicality and comfort. With precious few negatives, it’s definitely a model to consider if you’re looking for a frugal small car for commuting and trips to the shops. That said, it will be too small for many families, especially if they have older children.
The biggest standout has been how fun and comfortable it is to drive with a manual gearbox. As an auto becomes the only option on more and more new car models, flicking through the gears feels like an old-school treat.
Farewell, then Fabia - you’ve been Fab...
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