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.