+ Spacious interior
+ Large boot capacity
+ Relaxing to drive
- No diesel or hybrid options
- So-so styling
- Comfort before cornering ability
Verdict: The Skoda Fabia is bigger than ever which translates to superb passenger and boot space, yet it's still easy to drive everywhere. There are more stylish and fun-to-drive small cars to drive if that's your thing, though.
Rory White and Dave Humphreys
The Skoda Fabia has long been the sensible one in the small-car playground. While the Ford Fiesta has been the one sprinting about, the Volkswagen Polo showing off its designer clothes and the Peugeot 208 wooing with its French accent, the Fabia has been in the library getting the best grades.
Its five-door hatchback design continues the look seen in other Skoda models. A prominent grille, sharp lines and some vibrant colour options give the car a fresh look, although it's still less overtly stylish than the Fiesta or 208. The Fabia's Alloy wheels range from 16 to 18 inches and there’s scope to specify contrasting colours for the roof and door mirrors.
What may surprise some is the sense of quality inside the Fabia these days, especially when you move up to the higher specification grades where nicer materials and more colour inserts lift the cabin. No longer does a Polo feel a cut above.
And as soon as you sit into the Fabia, you can appreciate the increase in the car’s width as the cabin is surprisingly roomy. Plenty of adjustment for the driver’s seat and the steering wheel makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The Fabia's rear passenger space is good for the class, too. An increase in wheelbase length over its predecessor means there are improvements to legroom and headroom.
Even better, its boot is now the same capacity as a larger Volkswagen Golf, making the Skoda a genuinely practical family car in the small car class.
Unlike some of its competitors, there aren’t any electric or even hybrid engines choose from with the Fabia. Skoda has also moved away from selling the Fabia with a diesel engine, so it’s purely petrol power with this model. Two different 1.0-litre three-cylinder engines and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder make up the range.
When it comes to driving, the higher-powered 1.0-litre is the sweet spot and the Fabia puts in the best performance around towns and cities. Its light steering, comfy suspension and great visibility for the driver make it very pleasant to thread about urban streets – outside town on country roads it's confidence-inspiring with its steering precision and grip, but never feels as agile or ultimately fun as a Fiesta.
So, the Skoda Fabia is still less stylish or agile than some small cars, but if you prefer buying cars with your head rather than heart, the Fabia is a seriously well-rounded package that cannot be ignored if you're in the market.
The interior of the Skoda Fabia is spacious, with lots of practical features dotted throughout the cabin. It has a well-built look and feel complimented by higher quality materials than is typically found in small cars. Obviously, the higher the specification-grade the nicer it gets, but lower-spec versions don’t disappoint.
As standard, the Fabia comes with a set of analogue instrument dials with a 3.5-inch digital display in the middle. This small screen can show driving data and incoming call information. Skoda also offers a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with five different displays, including a full sat-nav map.
Skoda has three infotainment systems in the Fabia, starting with a basic 6.5-inch unit. The larger 8-inch touchscreen also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you’re a fan of larger screens, there is also a 9.2-inch unit that incorporates gesture control and can include Skoda’s digital voice assistant called Laura.
It isn’t entirely digital in the Fabia either, Skoda retains physical controls for the climate settings, so it’s easy to adjust when driving. At the base of the centre console is a useful storage area for your phone. The Fabia has USB-C charge ports as standard with the option of a wireless charging pad also.
The Skoda Fabia maximises every inch of its five-door, five-seat hatchback layout. It is also the largest Fabia model to date, extending to just over four metres in length for the first time.
Whether you’re short or tall, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position in the Fabia thanks to a fully adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that can be set for reach and rake. There’s a good amount of headroom, while the low centre console between the seats adds to the sense of space in the front.
Those in the rear seats won’t have much to complain about either, with the Skoda’s boxy shape benefitting headroom, and the optional panoramic glass roof floods the cabin with light. A longer wheelbase means there is more legroom for rear passengers too. However, as is often the case in this segment, the middle seat does have reduced space due to the floor design that takes away some foot room.
The Fabia scores well in the boot space category with 380 litres of volume — that’s an increase of 50 litres over the previous Fabia. For context, that’s the same amount of boot space that you get in a Volkswagen Golf, which is really a family car rather than a small one. The Fabia's rear seats can fold down if you need more carrying capacity, bringing the overall volume to 1,190 litres.
This time around, the Skoda Fabia comes exclusively with a petrol engine range with no hybrid or diesel options. All Fabias are front-wheel drive with the choice of manual or automatic gearboxes depending on the engine.
The Fabia range starts with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine similar to the motor that powered the Skoda Citigo. This power unit comes in two guises, starting with a 64hp entry-level version and another with 79bhp. The latter of those provides reasonably good performance if you stick to town speeds and urban driving, but getting it out onto the motorway can see it run out of breath. Both of these use a five-speed manual gearbox.
Two variants of the mid-range 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine benefit from a turbocharger for its three-cylinder layout, which helps improve performance. The 94bhp TSI comes with a five-speed manual, but the 108bhp version offers a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox.
A range-topping 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine is a turbocharged four-cylinder unit with an output of 148bhp and comes solely with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It has the highest top speed of the Fabia range and is the fastest accelerating model, with 0-62mph taking 8.0 seconds.
The Skoda Fabia comes into its own when tackling town and city driving, thanks to its excellent all-round visibility and range of engines. Its electrically assisted steering is nice and light, making the Fabia easily manoeuvrable and it remains easy to park despite growing in size.
Good side mirrors and a large back window make it easy to see out of when backing into a parking space, and higher-spec models will also feature a reversing camera.
The Fabia has a solid feel more like what you would expect from a larger car when driving around town. It does a decent job of absorbing speed bumps, but you may want to pass on the larger 18-inch wheels if you prioritise comfort over looks.
A light clutch pedal makes life a bit easier in slow-moving traffic. The seven-speed automatic gearbox does make life much easier when driving in traffic, but Skoda could improve the engine’s stop-start function.
On country roads, if you enjoy driving, the Fabia still feels less eager to change direction than a Ford Fiesta. However, its high grip levels and precise steering do bring plenty of confidence.
The motorway highlights the Fabia's ‘big car’ feel. Other than the 1.0 MPI engines, the Skoda gets up to speed reasonably quickly and cruises comfortably. The more powerful engines benefit from sixth or seventh gears (depending on the model), and this helps to settle the engine and contribute to a more relaxed drive. There isn’t a great deal of road and wind noise either.
Skoda does offer numerous driver assistance systems in the Fabia. Its lane-keep tech is good and isn’t too severe, unlike some other systems that feel like someone is tugging at the steering wheel. Adaptive cruise control is another feature worth having for motorway journeys, as is the Travel Assist that manages slow-moving traffic in car’s fitted with an automatic gearbox.