Skoda Fabia road test by Steve Rogers


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THE last time I drove a bright green Skoda Fabia I stood out like a sore thumb.

It was 2011 and I was road testing a special edition Fabia vRS with an outrageous paint job – bright green with a white bonnet and white rear end emblazoned with red lightening streaks. Skoda built 300 to celebrate its exploits on the rally circuits and we got 30 but I haven’t seen another since although they must be out there somewhere because it was a hell of a car.

Almost 180bhp from a 1.4 litre gave the vRS rip roaring performance knocking off 60mph in seven seconds. So can we expect more of the same from the latest Fabia?

Afraid not, a hot Fabia does not figure in the line up, and nor does a diesel. The oily stuff has been ditched and it will not be missed because the petrol engines are so economic, and they give more than decent performance.

So what of my bright green one litre TSI? Thanks to engine technology from parent company Volkswagen the 95bhp tiddler is a real belter. Three cylinder engines get you off the mark quickly no matter where you are in the rev band and give excellent economy.

The dashboard computer showed 47mpg on the long range readout which covered nearly 2000 miles; my best return over an easy going 40 mile trip was 71mpg and over a week’s driving I averaged 53mpg. Can’t argue with that.

For all that I just can’t get excited about Fabia. It is the least interesting of the Skoda range devoid of any design flair inside and out. This new model is nothing more than a mild facelift – a little tweak to the shape of the grille and new light signature.

Take a look at what Citroen has achieved with the striking C3 and you will see how ordinary the Fabia has become. Spanish cousin Seat has done a super job with Ibiza so may be Skoda should take a leaf out of its book.

Yet I thoroughly enjoyed driving Fabia and have to applaud everything it offers in a small car. The boxy shape does have its benefits. The space for people and luggage is tremendous. Rear legroom, often tight on superminis, is generous as is headroom, another area to suffer on many rivals, and all round vision is good because there is plenty of glass.

The roomy boot is nearly the biggest in its class, and is spoilt only by a sizeable step into the well because the back seats do not fold flat. A false floor to vary the height would help but isn’t offered on Fabia.

From behind the wheel you could be sitting in a Volkswagen Polo. Skoda has raided the VW storeroom and come away with switches and the excellent touchscreen which on top models houses navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth with SmartLink+ and general info on the car. Response is virtually instant and working the sat nav (a £570 option here) is a doddle.

Thankfully the heating controls are separate so there is none of the annoying delving into the touchscreen just to change the temperature or adjust the fan.

Fabia does not sit on VWs latest platform which might have something to do with it undercutting Polo and Ibiza both of which enjoy the benefit of the new running gear. It doesn’t feel as comfortable as Polo over poor road surfaces but there is little to complain about.

Equipment levels are on the average side and grow as you pay more. My Colour Edition test car is based on SE with a few extras like cruise control, and while I was glad of the rear parking sensors I would have expected a rear camera.

It is worth forking out £250 for the winter package which adds heated washer nozzles and the fastest warming heated seats I have ever come across.

We can all remember the Skoda jokes which were both ridiculous and unfair, but the models have turned into heroes and Fabia has certainly earned its stripes as a top five supermini.

It is good value for money but I would prefer Seat’s pretty little Ibiza… or a Fabia with the adventurous styling of the Citroen C3.

Fast facts

Fabia Colour Edition

£15,395 (tested £17,040)

1-litre TSI 95bhp

0-62mph 10.8secs; 114mph

61.4mpg combined

106g/km. Road tax £140

Insurance group 9

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