Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The pick of the engine line-up is the 1.0 TSI 95 turbocharged petrol. With 94bhp, it pulls well from low revs, feeling sprightly around town while also managing B-roads and motorways quite ably. It really is all most people will need and is the only engine in the range with the option of a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. If you fancy a bit more poke, there's the 109bhp 1.0 TSI 110 version.
The 1.0 MPI 60 petrol engine that kicks off the range is just about adequate around town, but you’ll find its shortage of oomph frustrating on faster roads.
Suspension and ride comfort
Ride quality is a mixed bag. In town, across broken surfaces and potholes, the Fabia jostles you around a bit – particularly if you choose a trim level with bigger 16in or 18in alloy wheels, or the Monte Carlo trim, which has sports-tuned suspension. The thing is, the Fabia is never actually uncomfortable, it's just that the softer versions of the Ford Fiesta and, even more so, the Volkswagen Polo are noticeably smoother.
Once you pick up speed, the Fabia's ride improves. On motorways, and faster roads in general, it's actually fairly supple, but a bit bouncier through dips and crests in the road than the Fiesta or Seat Ibiza.
The benchmark for handling in this class is the Ford Fiesta, with the Seat Ibiza a close second, and while the Fabia can’t match either, it's far from boring through corners. Light and predictable steering always lets you know what the front tyres are up to, and there's also plenty of grip. Yes, the Fabia does lean a little when you start to press on, but you can still corner quickly without worrying about sliding off the road.
The Fabia also impresses for low-speed nimbleness. Its light steering makes parking manoeuvres a breeze, while its tight turning circle is ideal for hasty U-turns.
Sports suspension is an option on SE L and standard on the Monte Carlo trim. It is best avoided because it does little to improve the handling and just makes the ride firmer.
Noise and vibration
The suspension has a habit of thudding noisily as you drive over ridges and potholes, particularly on versions with bigger wheels. There's some road and wind noise at motorway speeds compared with the Polo, too, although the Fabia's no noisier at 70mph than the majority of small cars. Beyond that, the three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engines send some vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel when worked hard, but again, this is similar to most of its rivals.
Then there's the Fabia's clutch and manual gearbox. It has a predictable clutch and a light gearshift action but isn't as precise as the shifts in the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza. You get a five-speed manual gearbox on the 1.0 MPI 60 and 1.0 TSI 95, while a six-speed manual comes with the 1.0 TSI 110 – that extra gear is useful for keeping the revs lower on motorways. The dual-clutch auto 'box can be a little jerky when you're parking but is otherwise smooth. All versions have progressive-feeling brakes.
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