Road test: Škoda Fabia 1.2 TSI SE L
The Škoda Fabia model has been around for over a decade and this robust runabout is now in its third generation. On test is the more powerful 1.2 TSI petrol-engine version, delivering a healthy 110 PS.
The most obvious change with the latest Fabia is its appearance. Evolved from the previous version’s gawky-but-funky profile, it has certainly grown up and adopts tauter shoulder lines and latest clean-cut Škoda face. Where the styling has improved most is with the gentler rake of the screen and the clean chevron shape of the C-pillar. Remaining easily identifiable as a Škoda, it has certainly advanced. It is also built to exacting standards at the Mladá Boleslav factory in the Czech Republic: panel fit and material finishes are excellent.
The interior continues this grown-up theme and the dashboard – containing the latest 6.5 inch VW touch screen – is simple, elegant and allows very easy access to the technology. The rest of the cabin is well thought-out too and the clever storage compartments, liberally distributed throughout, put many other brands’ efforts to shame. The car’s almost flat roof means head room right to the rear is good and it manages a sensible balance of passenger and luggage accommodation.
Mated to the ubiquitous (and rather good) seven-speed DSG dual clutch automatic gearbox, the Fabia is transformed into a go-kart. It is incredibly easy to pilot and while there is the option of selecting the ratios manually, it’s rarely worth the effort. Sport mode is useful to drop a gear before an enthusiastic corner and for a little extra control on descents but otherwise, it makes a fine job of being in the right gear at the right time. Changes are so fast, the rev counter needle has to work extremely hard to catch up. The only downside to this ‘box is when crawling along at a snail’s pace in heavy traffic; there’s a slight judder with the on-off drive engagement.
With a history of rally cars and sports-oriented road models, Škoda knows a thing or two about handling. Ride is a little firm with the optional (and unnecessary) sports suspension and 17” wheels fitted to this car but it simply loves bends. Motorway runs aren’t too bad either; there’s a moderate amount of road noise but the revs remain low enough for easy distance driving.
Škoda’s accomplished new Fabia is definitely an all-round winner when it comes to design and execution. It is the little things which make the difference, from the ice scraper attached to the filler cap to the slick Bluetooth® ‘phone interface. It really is hard to fault but of course this comes at a price. Even without the bright Sprint Yellow paint, black roof, sports seats and sports suspension (and a couple of other options) fitted to our test car, the highly specified SE L model comes in at £15,890. That’s just £370 less than an almost identically-specified VW Polo. Tough choice but given the clean, fresh looks, we’d take the Škoda.
Škoda Fabia 1.2 TSI SE L, from £15,890 (range starts at £10,600; vehicle as tested: £17,660)
Power: 110 PS (@ 4,600-5,600 rpm), torque: 175 Nm (@ 1,400-4,000 rpm), emissions: 109 g/km CO2 (band B), 0-62 mph: 9.4 secs.
Motor Writer rating: ●●●●●