Small Change: 2018 Skoda Fabia Driven

Engineering, value and practicality: those are the qualities Skoda believes to be behind its success. Successful it is too, with recent record sales driven by the launch of its pair of SUVs, the Kodiaq and smaller Karoq. A full electrification strategy is around the corner too, with four plug-in hybrid and six fully electric cars due to join the range between 2020 and 2025. However, none of that is to say Skoda has forgotten the role that’s to be played by its smaller, more conventional cars – which is precisely how we find ourselves behind the wheel of the freshly revised Fabia.

THE COMPETITION
Those familiar with the VW Group’s recent activity in the supermini sector might expect this new Fabia to be based on the same underpinnings as the recently launched Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo. That, however, is not the case, because what this new Fabia actually represents is a facelift of the outgoing model, making it more of a midlife refresh than an all-new car.

It’s no longer Skoda’s smallest offering (the Citigo takes that honour), but the Fabia is still easily compact enough for city driving. This is helped by excellent visibility and light, predictable controls. It also feels roomy inside, particularly when it comes to boot space where the Skoda isn’t terribly far behind some cars from the class above. And if you’re still not satisfied there’s an estate version that, while perhaps not the coolest car around, is amazingly practical and has a solid following, accounting for 25 per cent of Fabia sales.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2018?
By the standards of mid-life facelifts the Fabia’s new and very big grille actually represents a fairly significant change. It gives this otherwise conventional looking supermini added presence, although it’s probably still not the kind of car where a purchase could ever be justified by heart ruling head.

Among the improvements, all models now come with a touchscreen infotainment system and autonomous emergency braking, while new additions to the options list include LED headlights (impressive both for their performance and the fact they are even available on a car of this size), 18-inch wheels and blind spot monitors.

It’s not just the things that you can now have, however, but also what you can’t. For with this facelift comes the news that Skoda is no longer offering the Fabia with a diesel engine. Instead there’s a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol unit with three possible power outputs.

In its cheapest, non-turbocharged form you get a modest 74bhp, which is fine for town driving. However, most will no doubt benefit from having one of the turbocharged engines with either 94bhp or 109bhp, particularly if any motorway driving is on the agenda. Those needing an automatic gearbox are restricted to the most powerful engine too, although that’s pretty standard practice with cars of this size.

THE DRIVE
The turbocharged engine is certainly eager; even in the lower-powered 94bhp form it pulls well and is happy to be revved, allowing you to travel four-up and not be left wanting for performance. Admittedly, the 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds isn’t anything to write home about, but on the road the Fabia feels quicker than the numbers suggest. It’s also extremely smooth and quiet, and can return an easy 45-50mpg on a run. That’s an awful lot of boxes ticked in its favour.

For a car with such a forgiving ride (comfort levels are excellent by small car standards) the Fabia also handles well, with a connected feel to the steering that makes it easy to place. Yes, the body leans in corners and no, it doesn’t change direction as keenly as a Ford Fiesta, but nor does the Skoda disgrace itself. If you want a more dynamic version the Monte Carlo with its optional sport suspension might appeal, but bear in mind Skoda no longer offers the Fabia in full vRS hot hatch guise.

THE VERDICT
As you can probably tell, the latest updates have resulted in marginal gains rather than a step change in the Fabia’s performance. If it wasn’t so good in the first place that might be a problem, but in reality all Skoda has done is to build upon the appeal of a car that was already near the top of its class. If you too covet engineering, value and practicality, this latest – or indeed any age of – Fabia is well worth a look.
Price: Skoda Fabia range from £12,840, car as tested from £15,935 (1.0 TSI 95PS)
Power: 94bhp @ 5,000rpm
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Top speed: 114mph
Fuel economy: 61.4mpg (on test 51mpg)

SKODA FABIA HISTORY
Skoda Fabia Mk1

Launched in 1999, the original Skoda Fabia set the template for things to come by being so much better than anybody could have reasonably expected. Indeed, so spacious was its interior and so good was the build quality that it was instantly a genuine rival to long-established players such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta. A vRS model (pictured above) followed in 2003, and unusually for a small hot hatch was powered by a diesel engine.
Search for used examples of the first-generation Skoda Fabia on CarGurus

Skoda Fabia Mk2
The second-generation of Fabia, launched in 2007, featured a vastly improved interior as Skoda continued its mission to move into the heart of the mainstream car market. Equipment levels and quality took a step up, and there was more space than before too. Throw in a wide range of engines and trim levels and this generation of Fabia still makes a solid used buy today.
Search for used examples of the second-generation Skoda Fabia on CarGurus

Skoda Fabia Mk3
When Skoda moved on to the third-generation Fabia in 2014 it had a car that not only ran the established competition close, but in many ways beat them. For not only was Skoda’s supermini offering significantly more spacious than others, it was also genuinely good to drive, incredibly refined and packed with equipment.
Search for used examples of the third-generation Skoda Fabia on CarGurus

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