This fourth-generation Skoda Fabia marks the biggest change in the compact hatchback's history. By growing in all directions it loses the upright look of its predecessors and evolves into an attractive hatch that comfortably rivals the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Volkswagen Polo.
In the metal
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Fabia was something different as the new model has dropped the tall, slightly awkward styling of its precursors in favour of a design more typical of larger C-segment hatchbacks like the Ford Focus. The Fabia's broad grille and crisp lines add to the car's presence on the road, something not many others in the segment can command.
Tipping past four metres in length means that, even though the Fabia is Skoda's smallest car (the Citigo is no more), it's far from tiny. One benefit of this stretch is that there is now more passenger space inside, especially for those sitting in the rear. Skoda also can now boast one of the largest boot sizes in the segment; at 380 litres it matches the larger Volkswagen Golf and is an increase of 50 litres over the outgoing model.
Sit inside and (depending on specification) you're greeted by a layout that is an excellent blend of functionality, style and a lots of practical features. In this instance the car is fitted with a 10.25-inch digital instrument display that has five different configurable screens. As standard the car gets clean looking analogue dials with a smaller display in the centre to show relevant information like driving data. A trio of touchscreen displays for the infotainment system will be available, ranging from 6.5- to 9.2 inches, the latter including gesture control. Skoda equips the centre console with two USB-C charge ports and there is the option of a wireless charging pad, while two more USB-C ports are available for those sitting in the rear.
The switch to an all-petrol line-up does the Skoda Fabia no harm and, among the different engines we sampled, the 1.0-litre TSI Evo is the sweetest, when paired with the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. For the most part it operates smoothly and quietly, with ample performance on tap to pull the Fabia along with ease. The 110hp unit is the more powerful of the two versions of the TSI engine available. A 95hp variant is available but only has a five-speed manual gearbox, whereas this engine gets the DSG or a six-speed manual.
While its predecessor was a good car, this new Fabia feels that little bit more polished and is nice and solid on the road. The suspension isn't overly firm, and it deals with surface imperfections well. Our car was equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels (18-inch items are available) and didn't noticeably hinder ride comfort. The steering feel is light but not in a way that leaves it seeming disconnected from the front axle. Most people should like how responsive and manoeuvrable the Skoda is, and visibility all-round is good, especially at the rear.
In traffic we did find that the engine's stop-start system was a little slow to restart, a minor annoyance in an otherwise solid performance. The three-cylinder engine is responsive and suits the Fabia well. It's worth mentioning that this unit is also a little quieter than the naturally aspirated MPI engine, though both maintain a characterful three-cylinder engine thrum under heavier acceleration.
Away from town and out on the motorway the Fabia holds its own. At 120km/h it remains surefooted, while this 110hp engine makes motorway journeys that bit easier. There isn't too much in the way of road noise, either. We found the other engines to be slower at getting up to speed and the lack of a sixth gear is noticeable, too.
What you get for your money
The Skoda Fabia has a starting price of €19,150 and is available across three equipment grades called Active, Ambition and Style.
Standard equipment on the Fabia Active includes 15-inch steel wheels, LED headlights and body-coloured door handles and mirrors. The 'Swing' infotainment system has a 6.5-inch touchscreen display and includes Bluetooth. The steering wheel doesn't carry multifunction controls, and the instrument cluster features a small digital display between two analogue dials. Driver assistance systems include lane assist with active steering, hill hold control and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The mid-range Fabia Ambition costs €20,350 and gets 15-inch 'Rotare' alloy wheels. Cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers are joined by rear parking sensors and electrically adjustable heated door mirrors in the standard specification. The Swing 6.5-inch touchscreen gains Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Other features include an umbrella in the driver's door, a front centre armrest, multifunction steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats, a split-folding rear seat and grey anodised decorative inserts. Adding a reversing camera costs €317, and front parking sensors are €371. Heated front seats cost €274 and heated washer nozzles are included with that price, which can be helpful in winter. A heated windscreen is also available at a price of €236.
Topping the Fabia range is the Style model, costing €21,950. This version has 16-inch 'Proxima' alloy wheels and a keyless entry and start system. Chrome window surrounds, LED headlights and front fog lights add to the exterior. The interior gains 'Style' upholstery with comfort design front seats, chrome interior vent surrounds and LED reading lights. An upgraded eight-inch 'Bolero' touchscreen infotainment system is also included. An exterior option pack adds black door mirrors, A-pillars and roof for €278. The 9.2-inch 'Amundsen' infotainment system is available as an upgrade (also on the Ambition spec) for €1,099.
An optional 'Style Pack' costing €673 adds dual-zone air conditioning, a wireless charging pad, rear privacy glass, two USB-C charge ports in the rear and another behind the rear-view mirror for powering a dashcam. The Dynamic Pack includes sport seats with bespoke upholstery, aluminium pedals, leather sports steering wheel and grey metallic inserts, which gives the car a different feel and seems like good value at €450.
The virtual cockpit is a fully digital instrument display that can show multiple screens according to the driver's preference and is a €500 upgrade. Rear side and driver's knee airbags come as an upgrade costing €504. The Park Pilot, enabling automated parallel and perpendicular parking assistance, is a €756 option. A 'Simply Clever' pack costing €329 adds a variable boot floor, double-sided boot mat, cargo nets and additional storage compartments for the boot.
An increase in size is welcome for the new Skoda Fabia and it positions it in a way that could easily tempt some people to downsize from larger cars. It doesn't concede on practicality either and the interior quality has moved up a notch from its predecessor too. If you're in the market for a practical hatchback, the Fabia should be on your shortlist.