28.1.2015Skoda Fabia 1.4TDI SE L review
The new Fabia is the car Skoda believes will take its annual UK sales to more than 100,000 a year, and while the value for money side of the equation isn't as strong as before, more technology, in-car connectivity and snazzier styling should help it appeal to younger buyers than Skoda's current 50+ age group.
Petrol versions are expected to remain the best sellers because of price and lower insurance groups despite CO2 emissions of more than 100 g/km. For those needing more space an estate car versions follows in March.
Review by Russell Bray
Skoda says its new engines in the new Fabia are up to 17% more economical than those they replace, with all the turbocharged diesels being three-cylinder units. The 89 bhp version is tested here though there is also a 104 bhp one.
There's plenty of torque, 148 lbs ft at 1,750 rpm, from the engine but it needs working quite hard to keep up with traffic when it becomes rather noisy and unrefined.
It was much quieter cruising at motorway speeds than around town. Maximum power arrives at 3,000 rpm. Acceleration was reasonably brisk with 0-62 mph in 11.1 seconds. Top speed is 113 mph so motorway cruising in the tall top (fifth) gear was unstressed.
Despite their once humble reputation, Skodas over the years have tended to be rather entertaining to drive on a twisty road and with its precise and quick enough steering the Fabia is a good drive. Body lean through bends is quite noticeable which is a surprise as the suspension is stiff for the class of car and the ride firm over poor surfaces.
Helping the agile handling noticeably is a 65 kgs overall weight reduction compared to the outgoing second generation models. Cars fitted with lighter, petrol engines were even sharper responding and tended to ride more smoothly too than the diesels.
There's plenty of grip which the car relinquished progressively on some very wet roads in the south east of England. An electronic differential lock maximises traction when cornering.
Skoda has given this third generation Fabia sharper, more edgy styling as well as a choice of roof and door mirrors in contrasting colours to the bodywork for Â£250 extra. The car looks particularly sporty and fashionable with black wheels and a black roof. Glass crystal like headlights go well with the Fabia's sharp lines and creases.
In a bid for greater distinction and a family identity the Fabia's radiator grille has 19 bars the same as the larger Superb model and the classic 1930s Skoda Monte Carlo. SE models and higher trim versions have alloy wheels as standard. The new model is 90 mm wider and 30 mm lower but 8 mm shorter which gives the Fabia a more purposeful presence on the road. Length 3992 mm. Width 1732 mm (1958 mm with mirrors).
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Light controls, a less-trouble normal handbrake, well shaped seats and communicative steering makes the Fabia alert and responsive to drive; especially out of town. Comfort features on the Fabia for the first time include keyless entry and engine start, rain sensing wipers and a mirror link system that allows smart phones to use certain approved apps via the car's touch screen.
Cabin space is immediately noticeable as greater with 21 mm more elbow room and increased headroom. The clutch and brake pedals require low effort. The car is an accomplished motorway cruiser (cruise control is standard on the SE L) but noisier on smaller road commuter routes which could tire.
The boot is a generous size and the rear seats fold 60:40 for larger loads. A storage pack adds a boot net and a phone holder and waste bin for the driver's door pocket.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
All six engines in the new Fabia pass the latest Euro Six anti-pollution regulations and are up to 17% more economical than the ones they replace. The range comprises a 1-litre three-cylinder petrol with 59 or 74 bhp, a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol with 89 or 110 hp and a 1.4-litre turbo diesel with 89 or 104 hp.
All have automatic engine start-stop as standard. Carbon dioxide emissions are low, from 110 g/km to 88 g/km. The coming 74 bhp GreenLine version will drop this to 82 g/km. The official fuel consumption for the 1.4TDI hatch on the European combined cycle is 83.1 mpg. Our test average was 57.4mpg.
Carbon dioxide emissions of 88 g/km puts the car into road tax band A where no tax is payable. The car is in insurance group 11E.
The new three-cylinder turbo diesel engines have optimised valve, crankshaft and oil pump drives to reduce internal engine friction, while a square bore/stroke ratio minimise frictional losses at the cylinder liners. Less friction means less fuel consumption.
Automatic engine stop-start to save fuel in traffic is standard. When decelerating, or braking, the alternator voltage is boosted to charge the car's battery. At constant speeds the alternator voltage can be reduced or even switched off entirely to reduce engine load and save fuel. According to our calculations, the new Skoda Fabia tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 26.
Most of the controls such as switches and steering column controls are standard VW Group fare so work easily and effectively. Automatic city braking is standard on SE specification and higher and will stop the car from sub 20mph speeds if the driver doesn't.
SE L trim, which replaces Elegance, includes alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, multi function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control air conditioning, cruise control, height adjustable driver and front passenger seats, rear parking sensors, DAB digital radio, six loudspeakers, electric front windows, tyre pressure monitoring system, speed limiter, remote control central locking.
Metallic paint is a Â£535 option and a steel space saver spare wheel is Â£85. A full length glass roof is optional and a white insert is available for the dashboard.
Model tested: Skoda Fabia 1.4TDI SE L
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine/CO2: 89bhp 1442cc three-cylinder turbo-diesel
Trim grades: S, SE, SE L
On-road price: From Â£10,600. Test car Â£17,790
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 STARS
Next Green Car Rating from 25