Steve Sharpe drives Skoda’s new Fabia model
Skoda’s new Fabia Estate comes on the heels of the new hatchback version of the model, a car which has been picking up awards across the board.
The small estate choice is a limited one in this country, with really only the SEAT Ibiza ST, and Dacia Logan MCV, as direct rivals.
Strange, really, as many people might be attracted to a car with the dimensions and handling of a hatchback but with the extra loadspace when its needed.
The prospects for the success of the Fabia estate were always promising.
The hatchback version picked up What Car?’s 2015 Car of the Year, praised for its roomy, interior, extensive list of standard equipment, good value and good driving manners.
So this third generation of the estate model can only really add to that.
The Fabia was never a car to swivel heads, and the previous estate version’s looks leaned towards the unexciting end of the scale.
The 2015 version isn’t going to leave onlookers swooning on the roadside, but it’s well-balanced with some nice little touches.
The new-design grille features vertical slats, which work well and look stylish, with the Skoda badge positioned just above on the bonnet.
The overall outline has been smoothed off, with the side indicators relocated to the door mirrors to smooth off the flanks, which have distinctive lines running along to lessen the expanse of metal.
The hatchback model itself can look estate-like from some angles, and the estate version just builds on that.
It’s an all-new design at the back and the longer rear overhang, extra expanse of roof and the extra side windows have been nicely integrated.
Higher trims have roof rails as standard, and you can choose from a range of vibrant colours like Sprint Yellow, Corrida Red and Rally Green.
Inside the Fabia is equally smartly designed, and extremely straightforward in layout.
It looks durable and well-put together, as much as parent company VW’s own-badged cars, but the materials are pretty hard to the touch.
The silver strip dominates the dashboard somewhat but it looks tidy, and the seats are comfortable and supportive. There’s smart, soft leather covering the steering wheel and gearstick, though, which adds to the feel of quality.
The dials are clear to read, illuminated in VW’s simple black and white, while the touchscreen media screen is surrounded by well-marked switches which are easy to use.
The heating knobs are straightforward blower types, too, so it’s simple to heat or cool.
Where the Fabia scores highly is in the levels of room.
For a small car there’s more than enough headroom and legroom for normal-sized passengers.
Behind the rear seats you’ll find 530 litres of luggage space - 200 litres more than the already roomy hatchabck – and 1,395 litres with the rear seats folded. That’s a lot of room.
There are also a lot of nifty little touches like a mid-level floor in the boot,which raises to be level with the sill for easier loading, plus storage nets and hooks.
There’s also a host of practical items inside the cabin such as pockets, a phone/ ipod holder, a waste basket – nice idea, with a small plastic bag in the sidepocket – and a decent size glove compartment.
Skoda have certainly gone the extra mile in terms of practicality.
The Fabia is powered with a choice of engines, from a 1-litre petrol through two turbocharged 1.2 TSI models and a pair of 1.4-litre TDI diesels.
While the 1-litre version I drove performed decently, you would really want to look at the more powerful engines for any performance.
With the 1-litre version you need to be right on the button when driving, as if you get caught in the wrong gear you will need to do some pretty swift changing up. The five-speed manual gearbox is crisp and precise, though.
With 0-60 figures of a shade under 15 seconds the Fabia won’t be burning rubber when the lights go green, either.
But it’s a supremely drivable car around town, with light steering, good all-round visibility and a tight turning circle. With its hatchback handling, you never really feel like you’re in charge of an estate,
Take the Fabia out on long runs and it will cruise at motorway speeds comfortably... once you get there. The ride is a good all rounder and not too choppy, while cabin noise is at decent levels, rising in noise if you have to pile on the power.
Take it out on twisty B roads and the Fabia handles those surprisingly well.
While its deficiencies in the power department limit it’s performance, the little estate handles well, cornering with impressive levels of grip and with well-controlled body roll.
With few direct competitors in the small estate market, and with its illustrious hatchback sibling gaining plaudits, the Fabia Estate should make a tempting proposition for those looking for hatchback handling with the bonus of estate levels of room.
The range starts at £12,460 on the road for the 1-litre version, rising to nearly £18,000 for the 1.4 TDI.
Basic versions include comprehensive safety equipment, plus digitsl radio, Bluetooth stuff, stop-start systems and central locking.
Move up to SE level, though, and you get alloy wheels, six speakers, parking sensors and Skoda’s Mirror Link system, which allows you pair your phone up with a display on the media screen.
Skoda has gradually built up its reputation for reliability until it’s on a par with the best, so running costs should be good, while the 1-litre version I drove turned out nearly 60mpg,
Well-specced, loads of room and incredibly to easy drive, the Fabia Estate is well worth considering for a practical, well-priced alternative to a traditional hatchback, With those levels of space it may even poach a few drivers from the larger estate market.
Skoda Fabia Estate SE
Engine: 1 litre petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
0-62mph: 14.9 seconds
Top speed: 109mph
Fuel economy: 58.9 mpg avg
Price: £14,740 OTR