From £9,3808
The new Fabia, tested in pre-production form, is markedly improved – but the three-cylinder engine mars its appeal somewhat

Our Verdict

Skoda Fabia 2007-2014
It would be a major upset if the new Fabia wasn’t a thoroughly decent car

Is the Skoda Fabia good enough to challenge for top slot in a sector packed with talented competition?

4 September 2014

What is it?

The all-new Skoda Fabia, in pre-production form, ahead of its debut in Paris later this month.

It’s been a long time coming, given that its predecessor has done the rounds for 7 years. The Skoda range has swollen considerably since then, but no one should doubt the continued importance of its supermini – in the UK alone, the brand expects it make up a quarter of sales next year.

Appropriate, then, that all the right noises have emerged from the company in the build-up to this preview. Stronger, stiffer and lighter have been the buzzwords. Bigger, too. And, mercifully, prettier. Skoda is keen to lower the age of the average Fabia buyer, and the redesign was considered necessary in order to do so.

Thus there are creases and crispness where there was none before, resulting in a much sharper look – something aided further by a 31mm lower ride height. But the real coup is the 90mm of lane-filling extra width the car receives.

There are further dimensional shifts; the wheelbase has been marginally lengthened and the front overhang slightly shrunk – although the car isn’t really any longer. Skoda is at some pains to stress the newness underneath, although it’s certainly true that the pick ‘n’ mix architecture owes as much to its predecessor’s platform as it does to the MQB’s modularity.

The result is impressive all the same; the judicious application of lightweight, high-strength steel in the construction delivering a starting kerb weight of just 980kg for car with the 1.0-litre petrol engine tested here – just 50kg more than the equivalent VW Up.

The three-pot, new to the Fabia, will likely be the best seller, although it’s flanked by a completely refreshed and attractive all-EU6 lineup. This includes the latest versions of the 1.2-litre TSI four-cylinder unit, and the ultra-efficient 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesel motor – already seen in the revised Polo. Next year, in Greenline format, it will deliver 82g/km of CO2, but Skoda claims an average drop of 17 percent even without its parsimony.

There’s a predictable flush of new equipment and safety features thanks to a raiding of the MQB parts bin, and the manufacturer has pimped the Fabia’s largest touchscreen with the option of its new Mirrorlink system that reproduces your smartphone’s display.

That means there's no need to opt for an additional sat-nav system or software pack, of which the customer take up was typically low. The bugs still need weeding out though; it’s currently Android-only, meaning that an iPhone foxes it completely.

What's it like?

Wonderfully persuasive. My faint memory of the outgoing model is of a bony, narrow-bodied old crate lacking refinement and with a billowy attitude to body control. The new Fabia barely needs the thunk of slammed driver’s door to dispel that recollection.

Inside, it’s a proper new Skoda; by which I mean that it’s cleanly designed, neatly laid out and bolted together like a bunker. Even in range-topping Elegance trim there’s no soft touch furnishings – but there doesn’t need to be when the detailing and functionality are this immaculate.

Beyond the dashboard’s redesign, it’s the space created by the extra girth that makes itself felt. No more sharing elbow room with the front passenger on an upright perch; you’re seated lower, more comfortably and in the kind of roominess that would once have passed for C-segment. Adults fit in the rear, although it’s the boot which has grown into class-leading status, now measured at 330 litres with the seats up - just 50 litres shy of a Golf.

VW’s most famous hatchback comes to mind when you’re underway, too. The conventional chassis may still be comprised of front MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam, but with its kerb weight given the tummy tuck treatment and what’s left obviously more rigid, the engineers have managed a thoroughly agreeable default tune, tautly grounded and yet quick to isolate the cabin above from intrusion.

With the track pushed out 30mm front and back, the Fabia feels better planted as well; and there’s no mistaking the handling advantage of both a lighter nose and a lower body.

The steering is electrical now, but keenly weighted and typically precise for a VW Group product. The change of direction is buoyant and grippy; not rife with feedback through the wheel or seat backs but appreciably well-balanced.

Its newfound dynamism is easily engaging enough to make the 74bhp petrol motor’s permanently winded delivery seem all the more disappointing. Skoda claims around 58mpg for the three-pot, but it’s hard to see how that’s ever possible with your foot forever welded to the bulkhead.

Unfortunately, while the other engine driven – the turbocharged 89bhp 1.2-litre TSI – goes someway (although not far) to fixing the problem, the subtle change in weight just takes the faintest edge off the Fabia’s gloss, its suspension registering ripples in the road that the other Fabia would likely have sailed over. Still, it’s mighty impressive.

Should I buy one?

It’s too early for a definitive answer, but the signs are obviously positive. This is a Fabia far improved; more mature, yes, but also confidently and consummately better in every significant way.

We need a longer go on British roads, of course, preferably alongside some tricky rivals – although Skoda has every reason to feel confident about the prospect, mostly because the car feels well-finished and accomplished in a way that very superminis do.

Crucially, there are also some notable trip hazards still left between here and the finish line. We don’t, as yet, know how much the Fabia will cost nor how well equipped it will be.

We’ve pinned our hopes on the more powerful 109bhp 1.2-litre TSI fixing the shortage of performance, but can’t be sure it won’t sour the entry-level car’s sweetness. Ifs and buts. A half star either way hangs in the balance.

Skoda Fabia 1.0-litre MPI Elegance

Price £TBC; 0-62mph 14.7sec; Top speed 107mph; Economy 59mpg; CO2 108g/km; Kerb weight 1055kg (est); Engine 3cyls, 999cc, petrol; Power 74bhp at 6200rpm; Torque 70lb ft between 3000-4300rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual

4 September 2014
Err no, it's really really not!

4 September 2014
owenmahamilton wrote:
Err no, it's really really not!
There are some undisguised photos of a silver one on autoforum.cz and it actually looks really nice and a lot like the first design sketch which was released.

4 September 2014
RSkoda wrote:
owenmahamilton wrote:
Err no, it's really really not!
There are some undisguised photos of a silver one on autoforum.cz and it actually looks really nice and a lot like the first design sketch which was released.
It looks ok from the front, although I'm not sure what those blue strips covering the headlights are for but from the back it looks like something from the 1980s to me but that's just my opinion.

4 September 2014
owenmahamilton wrote:
RSkoda wrote:
owenmahamilton wrote:
Err no, it's really really not!
There are some undisguised photos of a silver one on autoforum.cz and it actually looks really nice and a lot like the first design sketch which was released.
It looks ok from the front, although I'm not sure what those blue strips covering the headlights are for but from the back it looks like something from the 1980s to me but that's just my opinion.
Did you take the trouble to look at autoforum.cz? This site won't let me post a direct link, but there you can see it without the strips on the headlights e.t.c.

4 September 2014
RSkoda wrote:
owenmahamilton wrote:
RSkoda wrote:
owenmahamilton wrote:
Err no, it's really really not!
There are some undisguised photos of a silver one on autoforum.cz and it actually looks really nice and a lot like the first design sketch which was released.
It looks ok from the front, although I'm not sure what those blue strips covering the headlights are for but from the back it looks like something from the 1980s to me but that's just my opinion.
Did you take the trouble to look at autoforum.cz? This site won't let me post a direct link, but there you can see it without the strips on the headlights e.t.c.
Yes I did but as I said my main issue is with the rear which in my opinion looks like something from the 1980s.

4 September 2014
owenmahamilton wrote:
It looks ok from the front, although I'm not sure what those blue strips covering the headlights are for but from the back it looks like something from the 1980s to me but that's just my opinion.
If you look closely all the badges have been covered to hide the car's identity. Given that Skoda put their name on their headlights (I'm guessing the rear light cluster also have the name) those light covers suggest they're covering up the name. I guess their press office must have forgotten to tick the 'de-badge' option when they order it.

4 September 2014
I'm sure this car is the spiritual successor to an early Golf, the perfect size for the average small family and beautifully built. But why oh why does it have to be 90mm wider than the outgoing model? Surely the ability to negotiate narrow lanes, thread through gaps in the traffic and fit into an average size garage should be prioritised over styling and lap times around the 'ring?

4 September 2014
'Sharper' ! Every re-style Autocar describes as 'sharp' or 'sharper', my English teacher told us not to use the word 'nice' because it had lost its meaning............... Also you say 'all new' but isn't it on the previous model's platform? By the way, I'm a Skoda fan - having had the previous model Fabia for over 4 years. It was a good reliable, comfortable, roomy car and I look forward to the new one further enhancing Skoda's reputation.

Dolphinman

4 September 2014
I feared that the new Fabia would be little more than a Rapid with the back end cut off. That it is a much more appealing car to look at, sit in and drive is good to hear. I'd be quite happy with that little three pot if it's as sweet as it is in the Up! and contributes to an engaging drive. The eager way it delivers the power means that you rarely feel short changed on performance. If I was in the market for a supermini I would place this firmly on my shortlist and, having seen some unappealing spy shots over previous months, I didn't think that I would say that.

4 September 2014
Looks like a Kia thats been in a crash.

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