Published: 22:54, 11 May 2017
The supermini arena is, perhaps, one of the most fiercely contested in the automotive world.
The list of contenders is a long and worthy one: The best-selling Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, VW Polo, Seat Ibiza, Kia Rio and Citroen C3 to name a few.
The Fabia, now in its third generation, is Skoda’s competitor and, while it isn’t quite the bargain it once was, it’s still keenly priced and remains among the front-runners in this segment.
It may not be immediately obvious but some very welcome changes to the Fabia’s dimensions. Most notably a 31mm reduction in height and a 90mm increase in width so driving one no longer feels like being on a postal round in Greendale with a certain black and white cat for company.
Elsewhere the changes are less significant with an wheelbase that’s grown by 5mm while shorter overhangs mean that the Fabia is 8mm shorter overall.
The face is a familiar one, with the geometric grille, badge mounted on the sloping leading edge of the bonnet and crystalline design of the headlights all reflecting the core elements of Skoda’s design language.
The rear embraces those same elements with sharp lines and strong curves, the crystal-shaped number plate recess and the trademark C-shaped rear lights.
At the side the bold featureline runs from the front light clusters to the rear and pronounced wheel arches give the supermini’s profile a little gravitas.
Climb inside and you’re presented with a well-finished, well-organised and beautifully conceived. The plastics might not be soft-touch but, make no mistake, this is a high-grade environment.
There’s little in the way of flair or flourishes of creativity but what you’re presented with is an ergonomic delight. It may not be eye candy but that doesn’t make the experience any less sweet. There’s an understated class – yes, I did say class – that would seem at odds with the badge adorning the front of the car had Skoda not been enjoying a slow and steady drive – pun intended – upmarket.
Equipment on the Colour Edition test includes 16in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth handsfree calls and audio streaming, a 6.5in touchscreen, DAB radio with Arkamys surround sound package, cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning and leather-bound steering wheel, geark lever and handbrake.
What you don’t get is sat nav. The optional Amundsen touchscreen navigation system will set you back an additional £500 of your hard-earned, unless you opt for the base S model, then it isn’t available at all.
While there may not be a great deal of visual flair to excite the senses there are some remarkably clever touches such as the ice scraper in the fuel filler cap, a bin in the passenger’s door, large bottle holders and a holder in the boot to stop your shopper sliding around.
There’s ample room for four adults to travel in reasonable comfort. Only those forced to spend a large amount of time in the back, or that poor, unfortunate third rear-seat passenger, might have cause for complaint about a shortage of legroom, but despite the reduced height, hairstyles should remain intact.
Skoda claims that the Fabia has the largest boot in its class – 300 litres – and it’s impossible to doubt the truth of that statement. It’s a very useful shape, too, with a nice wide opening that makes loading bulky items a doddle.
Beneath the bonnet of my test car was a 1.2-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine producing 90PS and, while that might appear on paper to be a little light on power in the real world it proved to be a more than capable companion.
It picks up the pace from low speeds willingly enough and the generous spread of torque means that you don’t spend an awful lot of energy worrying about which gear you’re ambling around in, which makes for a very relaxed cabin in what can often be the most stressful of environments, namely the city centre.
Hit the open road and the peppy little engine still more than pulls its weight. A down change is required for overtaking – it’s a slick gearbox and the pedals have a nice weight so swapping cogs is a fuss-free operation – but at motorway speeds it’s surprisingly relaxed and refined.
You only get five cogs to select from but there’s enough torque, most of the time at least, to mask any gaps in power delivery but steep inclines can leave you pining for closer knit ratios.
While the engine in my test car proved willing enough the chassis shies away from lending it the support it needs to deliver much in the way of fun. Instead it encourages a more relaxed style of driving.
Any desire to throw the Fabia into a corner quickly dissipates thanks to its leisurely responses to changes of direction and laid-back character. The grip is there, but you’ll have scant opportunity, or incentive, to exploit it.
The steering is consistent and nicely judged. It doesn’t generate a huge amount of feedback but given that the odds against you attacking corners will grow with every mile you cover the lack of feel will do little to either slow progress or spoil your enjoyment.
What pleasure there is to be had can be found in the way the Fabia makes driving uncomplicated. It doesn’t pose too many questions – not difficult ones anyway – and instead sets about delivering you to your destination with the very minimum of fuss.
It does a reasonable job of putting some distance between occupants and uneven surfaces – this is a car that unashamedly errs towards comfort after all – and although more challenging surfaces can introduce greater body movement than in some of its more precise-handling rivals the suspension rarely struggles to cope with British roads at their most destructive.
The Fabia is a rare beast in the Skoda range in that it fails to stand out in a crowded and competitive segment but that doesn’t stop it being a worthy consideration if you’re in the market for a supermini.
It’s not the most dynamic nor, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, the most stylish car but it is good value, comfortable, well put together and very practical.
Skoda Fabia Colour Edition 1.2 TSI 90PS
As tested: £15,600
Engine: 1.2-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Max power: 90PS
Max speed: 113mph
Acceleration (0-62mph): 10.9sec
Emissions (CO2): 107g/km
For more information visit www.skoda,co.uk