Of all the cars now sold by Skoda, it is the Fabia and its immediate forebears that best plot the manufacturer’s remarkable three-decade journey from nationalised crackpot to modernistic marvel.
The Favorit, a car that had been gestating in the communist industrial belly for almost a decade, may have been the butt of more than one joke in late-1980s Britain, but its front-engined, front-drive design was a technical breakthrough for the Czechs.
Similarly, its rehashed replacement, the Felicia, was the first Skoda to benefit from new owner Volkswagen’s input during its development – one reason why it began to top 1990s satisfaction surveys.
However, the Fabia, launched in 1999, was nothing short of revelatory. Using a platform so new that no other VW Group product had yet adopted it, the car showed not only what the new-millennium Skoda would be capable of but also the significance that its German parent was prepared to place on ensuring its progress.
If the second generation, with nearly a 50mm increase in height, was intended to excel in the sturdy Skoda standards of practicality and value, the third, launched late last year, is a carrier of fresh purpose. Style has become a significant part of the Fabia discussion as Skoda hopes to appeal to an audience slightly less mature than its retiree fan base.
Not that their concerns have been forgotten. The latest model is on average 17 per cent more efficient than the car it replaces. Frugality is even more crucial to selling superminis in 2015 than it was 10 years ago, as evidenced by an engine line-up dominated by three-pots and shorn of a warmed-up vRS powerplant. As is the way of car development the Skoda Fabia is rapidly approaching its facelift, with the 2018 model breaking cover and will include more of the safety and intelligent features found on the larger Octavia.
Five trim levels are available: S, SE, Colour Edition, Monte Carlo and, replacing Elegance as the range-topper, SE-L. Our test car came thus equipped, along with the 1.2 TSI engine that is expected to make up a healthy proportion of Fabia sales.