From £15,3159

Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Our test car had the 1.0-litre turbocharged triple with 94bhp – the version that was the most popular in the outgoing model – and it’s always coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox. If you want a sixth gear or the optional dual-clutch auto,you need to upgrade to the 108bhp model.

Those five gears are long to benefit economy, but that’s par for the course with today’s WLTP-dictated powertrains. Below 2000rpm, it grumbles unhappily as 129lb ft tries to persuade 1.1 tonnes to get moving, but it feels slightly less strained than the Volkswagen Polo with the same drivetrain.

Once above that, though, it’s hushed enough that you need to look at the tachometer to know when to change gear. To get any meaningful acceleration, the engine does need to be revved fairly hard, but it seems happy to be taken to 6000rpm, emitting a muted and not unappealing three-cylinder thrum as it does so, before the soft limiter starts to call time from 6200rpm.

You wouldn’t call this a quick car in the slightest, but the Fabia proved sprightlier than the Renault Clio TCe 100 (which has since been superseded by the less powerful TCe 90) and marginally quicker than the mechanically similar Polo and Seat Ibiza.

The gap with the Fabia’s VW Group cousins widened for the in-gear acceleration figures. We suspect that’s largely due to more appropriate gearing: the Fabia has a shorter final drive but a longer fourth and fifth gear than the other two to compensate. That means motorway RPM in fifth is roughly the same, but first to third are effectively shorter, making the Fabia slightly more tractable in everyday driving. The Hyundai i20 is a tad more elastic still, thanks to its mild-hybrid system providing some low-rev torque.

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The gearchange is typical for a VW Group car. The throw is neither short nor long, the gate is well defined and there’s just enough feedback to let the driver know the gear has engaged, but not enough to actually be engaging for the driver. The clutch, meanwhile, is feelsome enough for easy driving without being heavy.