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Facelifted Skoda Fabia refreshing change with new engines, technology and safety features

PUBLISHED: 17:49 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:49 15 October 2018

Facelifted Skoda Fabia gets a revised front grille, new headlights and bumper. Picture: Skoda

Facelifted Skoda Fabia gets a revised front grille, new headlights and bumper. Picture: Skoda

Skoda

Ahead of its 20th anniversary, the Skoda Fabia hatchback and estate have a fresh face and new technology and equipment. Motoring editor Andy Russell drives the talented, no-nonsense small car.

Sporty Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo has contrasting coloured roof and alloy wheels. Picture: SkodaSporty Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo has contrasting coloured roof and alloy wheels. Picture: Skoda

The Fabia has been at the heart of Skoda’s sales growth and transformation for nearly 20 years, seeing the brand go from butt of jokes to genuine contender in all main sectors of the UK market.

Now in its third generation, with 4.2 million sales worldwide since 1999, the Fabia hatchback supermini and estate have been facelifted and given new equipment, technology and driver safety aids while retaining its value status.

Looks and image

The subtle makeover sees a revised front grille, new headlights and bumper for a sleeker, more youthful look. At the back are new light clusters and an updated bumper. Alloy wheels also feature new designs with an 18in option a first on sporty Monte Carlo hatch.

Sculpted front seat backs create extra kneeroom for adults. Picture: SkodaSculpted front seat backs create extra kneeroom for adults. Picture: Skoda

Interior changes are limited to new fabrics, trims and a tweaked instrument cluster.

Under the bonnet

The Fabia is the latest small car to dispense with diesel power – down to just 2pc of sales – along with four-cylinder engines. Now there are three 1.0-litre, three-cylinder units – 75PS and turbo 95 and 110PS, the first two five-speed manual, the latter six-speed with a seven-speed DSG automatic option.

The 75PS is fine for city driving but needs working on the open road – thankfully the manual shift is light and slick – but cruises happily at 70mph.

The fascia features a revised instrument cluster and new materials. Picture: SkodaThe fascia features a revised instrument cluster and new materials. Picture: Skoda

The 95PS will be the big seller and, while not quite as peppy as the 110PS unit, gives little away in real-world driving, returning 51mpg. The 110PS unit costs £650 more, the automatic gearbox another £1,000, so, unless you want an auto, I’d use the money for new options including LED headlights and, for the first time, systems to warn of objects in the blind spot and approaching the car when reversing out of a space.

How it drives

I’d forgotten how good the Fabia’s all-round driving talents are, whether on super smooth A-roads or patched, pockmarked country lanes.

With suspension geared for comfort, and 15in wheels on S and SE and 16in on SE L, Monte Carlo and Colour Edition, it soaks up bumps and lumps, cushioning passengers from jarring feedback.

Estate's class-leading 530-litre boot rises to 1,395 litres with the rear seats folded. Picture: SkodaEstate's class-leading 530-litre boot rises to 1,395 litres with the rear seats folded. Picture: Skoda

Handling is composed and competent and, after the initial body lean into corners, the Fabia feels settled and well planted.

Space and comfort

The roomy Fabia can carry adults front and back, with sculpted front seat backs creating extra kneeroom and shapely outer rear seats, but three in the back would be tight.

The 330-litre hatchback boot is one of the largest in the class, growing to 1,150 litres but you have to flip the 60/40 split rear cushions up before the backs fold flat and there’s a step up from the boot floor without a raised, removable panel and a raised sill.

Skoda Fabia estates accounts for one in four sales in the UK. Picture: SkodaSkoda Fabia estates accounts for one in four sales in the UK. Picture: Skoda

The estate, which accounts for one in four Fabia sales, has a class-leading 530-litre boot, as good as some models in the sector above, and grows to 1,395 litres, but also does not have a long, flat load deck.

Build quality is good but all the plastics are hard.

At the wheel

The driver’s seat and wheel have good adjustment, instruments are large and clear and all models now have a new 6.5in touchscreen compatible with smartphone apps on all but entry model.

The SE L’s infotainment system also has sat-nav and Skoda Connect mobile online services including traffic, weather and parking information, contacting customer care to book servicing and calling emergency assistance after a serious accident.

Equipment

SE and Colour Edition will be the big sellers. The former includes alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, air-con, electric heated door mirrors, LED daytime running lights, trip computer, front fog lights, DAB radio and speed limiter.

Colour Edition adds 16in alloys, roof, door mirrors and wheels in black, white or silver and cruise control.

Skoda’s Simply Clever features include an umbrella under the front passenger seat and the ice scraper behind the fuel filler flap now has a tyre tread depth gauge.

Final say

Skoda’s refreshed Fabia brings it up to date in the small car stakes, adding new equipment and relevant technology, that buyers look for, while retaining the features that attract those looking for no-nonsense, spacious supermini.

SPEC AND TECH

Price: Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95PS SE hatchback £14,845 (hatchback range £12,840 to £18,435; estate range £13,860 to £18,750)

Engine: 999cc, 95PS, three-cylinder turbo petrol with five-speed manual gearbox

Performance: 0-62mph 10.8 seconds; top speed 114mph

MPG: Urban 51.4; extra urban 68.9; combined 61.4

CO2 emissions: 106g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 22pc

Insurance group: Nine (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Hatch: L 3,997mm; W (including door mirrors) 1,958mm; H 1,467mm

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