From £12,3058
New third-gen Fabia proves a comfortable and capable car in 1.4 TDI SE specification, albeit one that could stand to be less costly and more interesting
14 October 2014

What is it?

This is the third generation of Skoda’s Fabia supermini, arriving 15 years and 3.5 million sales after the first-generation version of the model.

Although Europe’s supermini segment – the second biggest market after the Golf class – continues to grow, it remains highly competitive. Low monthly purchase costs and running costs are all vitally important factors. The Fabia also arrives to face direct competition not only from its VW Polo sister car, but also from a cleverly revamped Vauxhall Corsa.

The new Fabia is a hybrid creation, mixing an updated version if the previous Fabia’s PQ26 platform and ‘elements’ of the new MQB architecture, which is used for the new Golf family. The base structure gets a redesigned engine bay and front subframe, and updated front and rear axles and suspension – which also give the car a wider track.

The result is a car that is 8mm than its predecessor, at just under 4m long, but a significant 90mm wider and 31mm lower. The wheelbase is also a marginal 5mm longer. Overall, the Mk3 Fabia is an average 65kg lighter than second-generation car.

Elbow room for the front passengers is up by a useful 21mm (though up by just 2mm in the rear) and the boot space is up to 330 litres, which Skoda claims to be ‘significantly more’ than competing models. With the rear seats down, there’s a handy 1150 litres of load space.

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.

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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.

Should I buy one?

The new Skoda Fabia is undeniably impressively fluid, comfortable and refined, with excellent potential economy and decent pace. It is also well-specced in SE form, but no bargain.

Significant upsides include the ride and ride refinement, which is impressive for a supermini; the three-cylinder diesel engine is also punchy and civilised and the car is unexpectedly enjoyable to drive on back roads.

On the downside, the Fabia lacks the outright design flair of rivals, especially inside, and it is not significantly cheaper than Polo sister car – though it has some advantage in the kit list.

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If air-con is a requirement, the £13,390 1.2 TSI SE model might be the best value Fabia, even if it can't match the real-world performance of this 1.4 TDI model.

Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI 90PS SE

Price £15,390; 0-62mph 11.1sec; Top speed 113mph; Economy: 83.1 (combined); CO2 88g/km; Kerb weight 1156kg; Engine 4cyls, 1422cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 89bhp between 3000-3200rpm; Torque 169lbft between 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox Five-speed manual

Add a comment…
Shrub 18 October 2014

Pleasing to read...

"This Fabia does not behave like a basic supermini...the Fabia demonstrated a remarkable ability to swallow and smother raucous surfaces before they troubled the occupants...The Fabia was also impressive on the motorway, thanks to the low wind noise and generally refined gait. " That alone would put this at the top of my supermini shortlist. So many of them fall short on refinement and prove tiring on long journeys and poor roads. Well done Skoda, stuff like this matters, to me at least.
HappyJack 15 October 2014

Rather misleading facts and figures

Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI 90PS SE

Price £15,390; 0-62mph 11.1sec; Top speed 113mph; Economy: 83.1 (combined); CO2 88g/km; Kerb weight 1156kg; Engine 4cyls, 1422cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 89bhp between 3000-3200rpm; Torque 169lbft between 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox Five-speed manual

Yet the article clearly says the engine has 3 cylinders, not 4; and that the gearbox has 6 speeds , not 5. I am also very suspicious of the powerfigures .... 89 between 3000 - 3200rm ..... definitely not .... VAG engineer friends state that max power arrives at 4000 rpm. In fact so numerous are the errors in the above ending paragraph, that I would advise all Autocar readers to completely ignore it.
Come on Autocar, please improve the factual content of these car reviews.

catnip 15 October 2014

This looks like a decent

This looks like a decent improvement all round over the current model, and hopefully it will be held in the same regard as the Mark1 Fabia. I was looking at one of the facelift Polos the other day and was totally underwhelmed: It was certainly no more exciting than this car, and although you might only pay a bit less than for the VW, customer satisfaction surveys suggest that the Skoda ownership experience may be superior.

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