Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The 1.0-litre MPI petrol engines that kick off the range are adequate around town, but you’ll find a very frustrating lack of power – particularly in the 59bhp version – on faster roads.
The 1.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrols are much better suited to B-roads and motorways. In fact, the 1.0 TSI 95 is so good that we’d pick it ahead of the range-topping version. That’s because, although the 1.0 TSI 110 is more than one second quicker in the 0-62mph sprint, the lower-powered option offers plenty of pull from low revs and feels nippy enough when you want to get a move on. It’s cheaper, too.
Suspension and ride comfort
Ride quality is a mixed bag. In town, on broken surfaces and potholes, the Fabia fails to ever completely settle down and jostles its occupants around a bit – particularly if you choose a model with big alloy wheels. It's never too uncomfortable, but the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza are noticeably smoother.
However, start to pick up speed and the Fabia's ride improves. On the motorway, it's actually fairly well composed, although it does take a while to recompose itself after encountering dips and crests.
The benchmark for handling in this class is the Fiesta and, like so many of its rivals, the Fabia can’t match it. The Ibiza handles quite a bit better, too. That said, the Fabia is far from boring; its steering is light but reasonably communicative, so you always know what the front tyres are up to.
There's also plenty of grip and, while the Fabia tends to lean a little when you start to press on, you can still corner quickly without worrying about sliding off the road. Sports suspension is an option on Monte Carlo models, but this is best avoided because it does little to improve the handling and makes the ride firmer.
The Fabia also impresses for low-speed manoeuvrability. Its light steering makes stationary, lock-to-lock turns a breeze, while the turning circle is tight enough to make it easy to squeeze into tight parking spaces.
Noise and vibration
The suspension has a habit of thudding noisily as you drive over ridges and potholes, particularly on versions with the bigger wheels. There's some road and wind noise at motorway speeds, too, although no more than in the majority of small cars.
Beyond that, the three-cylinder 1.0 petrols send some vibration through the pedals and steering wheel when worked hard.
Meanwhile, the Fabia's manual gearbox is ridiculously light, though not quite as precise as the shift in a Fiesta or Ibiza. The optional DSG automatic gearbox changes smoothly when you're on the move, although it can be a bit jerky in stop-start traffic and when parking.
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