In the traditional hierarchy within the Volkswagen Group, for any given segment, the Seat will be the sporty one and the Skoda the comfortable choice. The new Fabia isn’t here to challenge that.

The engineers have opted for a remarkably supple set-up, one that makes the Fabia one of the best-riding cars in its class. Of course, that does mean the handling suffers, but not excessively so.

Handling is quite vanilla but that’ll prove a popular flavour for many supermini buyers, who’ll appreciate its undemanding competence in corners and value its ride comfort.

The Fabia exhibits a fair bit of body roll in corners and lacks the precision that characterises a driver’s car. Because of the 185-section ContiEcoContact 6 tyres, ultimate adhesion is also limited.

At 2.7 turns lock to lock, the steering is neither particularly quick nor particularly slow. It offers a touch more weight for the driver to push against than some of the over-assisted racks found in small cars and it further weights up a little in corners, too. However, to say there’s genuine feedback would be an exaggeration.

When pushed on the Millbrook Hill Route, the stability control turned out to be quite clever in some ways and a little crude in others. Traction control can be disabled, but the stability systems always remain on and they deal with the beginnings of lift-off oversteer in a slightly heavy- handed manner, with brusque brake applications. It gets the job done, but it’s not as refined as some.

The computers are more adept at dealing with understeer. From the moment the front axle starts to wash wide, the system very gradually limits power to bring the nose back into line. In other words, even if the driver misjudges a tight, slippery corner, the Fabia will try its hardest to round the corner with as little drama as possible.

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That behaviour typifies the Fabia’s viceless but bland handling. There won’t be a vRS version of this generation of the Fabia and that makes sense. Not because the MQB bones preclude it, but making the Fabia engaging down a B-road would have to be such a change of character that the family connection between the vRS and the cooking model would become rather tenuous.

Assisted driving notes

Other than the government-mandated automatic emergency braking, active safety features are still by no means commonplace in small cars, so the Fabia distinguishes itself by making most of them available. It gets autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and lane keeping assistance as standard. We didn’t experience any false activations of the emergency braking, and the lane keeping assistance wasn’t particularly intrusive. Both can easily be disabled using the buttons on the steering wheel.

A full semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control, with lane following and speed limit recognition systems, is optional, but at a not inconsiderable cost. Adaptive cruise is available on TSI engines in SE Comfort spec and above for £470, while Travel Assist, which includes adaptive cruise control and adds in lane following and digital gauges, is £785 but it’s available on only upper-level SE-L trim cars.

Comfort and isolation

The Fabia may not entertain in the corners, but that end of the market is well covered by the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza. The other upshot of the Fabia’s soft suspension is that it rides particularly serenely. Especially with the 15in wheels and 65-profile tyres, it takes some truly nasty bumps for harshness to filter through to the cabin. Longer-wave bumps are simply shrugged off.

The seats contribute to the high level of comfort in the Fabia. They’re largely standard-issue VW items, but that’s no bad thing. They’re quite soft yet supportive, and the driver’s seat adjusts for height as standard. SE Comfort trim and above even gets manually adjustable lumbar support.

It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position and long drives are not an issue. If we’re nitpicking, a bit more adjustment in the steering column would benefit tall drivers.

So in terms of comfort, the Fabia feels similar to a Volkswagen Polo, except that it has an even smoother ride than the already compliant VW. The only area where the Polo still has a major advantage over the Fabia is in noise insulation. Whereas the Polo’s levels of road noise are more akin to a car from the class above, the Fabia is one of the noisier superminis at motorway speeds. It’s on a par with rivals at speeds of up to 50mph, but at 70mph most are a few decibels quieter.

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