The biggest technical upgrade for the Fabia 3 is the adoption of VW’s latest generation of engines and transmissions, all of which were designed for use in more upmarket models based on the MQB platform.
There are four petrol engines starting with a 59bhp 1.0-litre to a 108bhp 1.2-litre TSI and a three-cylinder 1.4 diesel in 89bhp or 108bhp forms. If you want an automatic Fabia, which uses the seven-speed DSG ‘box, your choice is either the 89bhp diesel or the 98bhp 1.2 petrol turbo.
The 89bhp 1.4-litre TDI tested here offers a good compromise between real-world pace and being the most frugal unit offered in the Fabia. The CO2 rating of 88g/km and official EU combined economy figure of 83.1mpg are the kind of numbers that will appeal to cost-conscious new car buyers.
You can buy this engine is the base Fabia ‘S’ mode, which is well equipped (its gets a DAB radio, Bluetooth, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors, remote locking, stop-start and electric front windows) but it lacks air-con.
Spend another £1300 on the SE model and you’ll get plenty of other kit, as well as air-con, including a smart leather three-spoke wheel, 15in alloys, a trip computer, ‘mirror link’ (which allows you smart phone screen to be duplicated on the radio’s colour screen), upgraded ‘surround sound’ audio and ‘front assist’ auto braking. The upshot is a well-specced car, but a showroom price of £15,390.
What's it like?
This Fabia does not behave like a basic supermini. Driving the car around Lisbon in Portugal on roads that varied between immaculate EU motorways and broken rural lanes, the Fabia demonstrated a remarkable ability to swallow and smother raucous surfaces before they troubled the occupants.
Whether it was sharp-edged traffic calming ridges or long-wave dips on the backroads, the Fabia’s chassis managed to handle the two extremes exceptionally well, thanks to extremely well judged damping and spring rates. Tyre noise was also impressively well controlled.
Better still the excellent body control is matched by fluid steering response making it possible to get this Fabia into a very satisfying quick-flowing rhythm on mountainous Portuguese roads. That it delivered such genuine ability and driving satisfaction was a most unexpected side to this urban car, but shows a significant return to form by Skoda’s chassis team, after the brittle and unforgiving performance of the Rapid and Octavia at their respective launches.
The Fabia was also impressive on the motorway, thanks to the low wind noise and generally refined gait. The diesel engine is not unpleasant to the ear under hard acceleration, with the distinctive thrum of a three-pot seemingly overriding the traditional diesel clatter.
Mind you, this engine proved exceptionally ‘tight’ even with a few thousand miles under the camshaft and was very easy to stall, though a more closely-spaced six-speed manual ‘box (with less of a jump between first and second) might have helped. As you might expect from a VW product, the shift and clutch action is smooth and the pedal weights well judged.
This particular version of the new Fabia is intriguing. Brisk enough and refined with a very well judged chassis that offers both ease and ability if you turn the wick up. It is usefully practical car, though Skoda’s much-touted ‘simply clever’ features are minor additions. The downside is that the Fabia is clearly no budget bargain and the styling – especially inside – arguably lacks the style and verve of, say, the new Vauxhall Corsa.