A lot has happened to the Skoda Fabia since I drove the first model 22 years ago. For starters we stopped making jokes about the brand.
Not that the Czech company was too bothered, in the early years it encouraged them with some brilliantly funny mickey taking TV advertisements. It was all good publicity and got people into the showrooms.
That’s history, now Skoda sits on the top table and the car that has done most to grow the brand is Fabia. This year saw the launch of the fourth generation model and with it comes a new look. The old model was a fine car but the tall, boxy styling was a bit dull alongside the pretty Peugeot 208 or Ford Fiesta.
We have seen the smart new face of Skoda with the Kamiq and Karoq crossovers and that sleeker design can be seen in Fabia which along with a stack of top tech will appeal to a younger audience.
Skoda has gone to town with a slick infotainment system that features access to online data and wireless connections. If that doesn’t attract the young pack, nothing will.
There is a choice of five models, five petrol engines, ranging from 65 to 150bhp, five trims and a tempting starting price of just under £16k for the S. I have not been behind the wheel of the S with a 65bhp engine but looking at the figures this is for people who don’t care about performance because it takes around 16 seconds to get to sixty.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. The new model is the first Fabia to be built on Volkswagen’s modular platform which covers lots of models in the group, including the VW Polo, Audi A1 and Seat Ibiza. The ride comes in the firm to soft category, a bit like Honda Jazz, so not as comfortable as a Citroen C3 or Peugeot 208, and not as sporty as its Seat Ibiza cousin or the peerless Ford Fiesta.
If that was too much to take in be assured Fabia is pretty comfortable and handles well enough if pushed.
My test car was the Colour Edition which is near the top of the range. This gets the one-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine and pumps out a healthy 108bhp so it is pleasantly zippy but lacking any wow factor. For a bit of extra performance look to the range topping 150bhp Monte Carlo.
Should you want to fork out for the DSG gearbox you will enjoy lightening quick changes although it does suffer a small amount of lag from a standing start and when calling for full beans for overtaking. Using the manual change option does get things moving a little quicker should the need arise otherwise it is smooth and efficient.
Skoda figures suggest an average of around 50mpg which is achievable but there is more to be had on a long run because I averaged 60mpg on a 150 mile round trip.
As a family supermini Fabia is now hard to beat. This is a top to bottom makeover and the cabin is as stylish as the new shape. The top models get the all singing and dancing digital dashboard with a configurable 10.2in driver’s binnacle and eight or nine inch central display.
On board navigation is an expensive extra even at the top of the range but with smart phone connectivity it is more sensible to sync a mapping ap to the screen.
For a car this size cabin space is one of its strongest features although a chunky transmission tunnel will hinder an adult sitting in the middle of the back seat, but there is bags of room for three children.
The boot is brilliant, a small suitcase bigger than a Polo, and much bigger than a Fiesta. It has two levels and there is still space for a full size spare wheel.
Equipment level is on par with LED lights, rear parking sensors and a reasonable suite of safety features, and there is the umbrella that slots into the driver’s door panel and the ice scraper in the fuel cap flap. Nice touches.
Fabia has been a good car from the get go but this fourth generation is up there with the best and has to be a contender for anyone looking to buy at a family hatchback.
Fabia Colour Edition 7sp DSG
1.0 litre TSI 108bhp
0-62mph 9.9secs; 127mph
136g/km. 1st tax £230
Boot 380-1190 litres
Insurance group 13