First DriveThe new Fabia, tested in pre-production form, is markedly improved – but the three-cylinder engine mars its appeal somewhat
First DrivePractical and well-priced, but the 1.6 TDI is a similarly priced and more usable option
What is it?
The estate version of Skoda's excellent new Fabia. The range includes three petrol engines at 1.2-, 1.4- and 1.6-litre, and diesel units are available as 70bhp or 80bhp 1.4-litre units, with a 1.9-litre oil burner topping the range.
Wheelbase and architecture are identical to the hatchback, with the body extended by 240mm. We drove the entry-level 1.2-litre, 70bhp three-cylinder petrol unit, in mid-range trim.
What's it like?
The Skoda Fabia estate is one of those lifestyle additions that could make life beforehand seem outrageously taxing thanks to a combination of a compact body and masses of passenger and load space.
From the front seats forward the estate is identical to the hatch, meaning that some cheaper materials are evident around the functional dashboard, but that’s easily forgiven on account of the sub-£10k starting price.
The similarities with the hatch don’t end there. As it’s only 20kg heavier, the dynamics feel almost identical, the biggest difference being a slightly stiffer chassis and more solid road manners at motorway speed.
Our test car's 1.2-litre engine offered impressive urge at low revs, and was fun to push around twisty roads thanks to the refined chassis and generally fine handling composure.
However, this is an estate fitted with a very low-powered engine, and despite its charm and around-town usability, this is not the engine for you if you regularly carry four people and the family pooch. Still, thanks to a generous payload of 550kg it’ll happily take those heavy loads – just slowly, that’s all.
While we’re on the subject of disadvantages, let’s address the one glaring problem with this car. As an estate, the rear seat should fold easily to allow full use of the impressive 1460 litres of maximum load space. It doesn’t.
The 60/40 split rear bench folds flat, but that involves flipping the base up, then forward to reveal uncovered foam mouldings that shouldn’t be on view.
Then you must remove all the headrests and wrestle with two awkward levers on the seat back, which will eventually fall forward and give you a flat load bay. You can even take out the seat base entirely, as you can the boot cover, but there is no provision anywhere to put either.
Apart from this unfortunate flaw, the Fabia estate is an exceptional car, offering big-car ability with the same agile dynamics, compact design and endearing looks that make the hatch one of our favourite superminis.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. Space is at a premium these days, so if you want lots of interior space without the hassle of a big car, this is definitely for you – especially with prices this low.