Did you hear the one about the Skoda? It was in 2000, when people told Skoda jokes and still thought them funny. Then along came the Fabia, built on an all-new platform, a platform so new it had yet to find its way into any VW-badged product.

The Fabia was good – so good that overnight those jokes seemed outdated. People stopped laughing and started listening; Skoda was suddenly a serious player. Now, the challenge facing Skoda is to keep that momentum going, to elevate the brand from challenger to conqueror.

It would be a major upset if the new Fabia wasn’t a thoroughly decent car. But is it good enough to challenge for top slot in a sector packed with competition as fresh and talented as the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo? If anything, the second-generation Fabia is less radical that the first, its platform an updated version of the previous generation's with the same MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. This tweaked platform is also found in the current Volkswagen Polo which, again, received it after the Skoda, and in the Seat Ibiza and Audi A1.

Body styles are five-door hatch or estate car, and the engine line-up is standard VW Group fare with power ranging from the 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine's 69bhp right up to the 178bhp of the turbo- and supercharged TSi unit of the 1.4-litre vRS hot hatchback. Other petrol and turbodiesel engines inhabit the space in between, including the 1.4-litre, naturally-aspirated, 85bhp unit of our test car.

Top 5 Superminis

  • Ford Fiesta
    Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

    Ford Fiesta

    1
  • Mini Cooper
    Its various improvements make the new Mini more desirable and practical than ever before

    Mini Cooper

    2
  • The Mazda 2
    The Mazda 2 name dates back to 2002. This latest version showcases the firm's Skyactiv technology and 'Kodo' styling

    Mazda 2

    3
  • Volkswagen Polo
    The Polo is a polished, mature-feeling, spacious supermini

    Volkswagen Polo

    4
  • Renault Clio
    Distinctive styling details are taken from the showstopping Renault Dezir concept car

    Renault Clio

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Skoda range

Driven this week

  • Lotus Elise Cup 250
    First Drive
    29 April 2016
    The fastest, most track-focused and most expensive Elise ever made. It's simple, raw and immersive
  • Porsche 911 Targa 4S
    First Drive
    27 April 2016
    Slick looks, open-top fun and 911 handling sound brilliant, but the Targa has historically trailed the Coupé. How does the new model fare on UK roads?
  • Jaguar F-Pace 2.0d
    First Drive
    26 April 2016
    Jaguar's debut SUV wowed us abroad, but does it still impress as much here on the UK's roads?
  • Car review
    26 April 2016
    Electric saloon is ramped up beyond ‘insane’ for yet more effect
  • Car review
    26 April 2016
    Is this a genuine supercar slayer for top-rank sports car money?