Skoda Fabia overview
The Skoda Fabia is an established member of the supermini class, having been a staple of the sector ever since the original arrived back in 1999. The fourth generation was launched at the end of 2021, and it's now available in Ireland.
In fact, it's now the smallest car that Skoda builds and the entry point to the manufacturer's line-up, following the demise of the Citigo in 2020. However, Skoda has tried hard to make the Fabia Mk4 feel like a more premium product than ever. To this end, it now uses the smallest version of the MQB platform from the Volkswagen Group, a set-up that's shared with other superminis such as the SEAT Ibiza, Volkswagen Polo and Audi A1.
All of these cars have unique attributes, be they sporty (Ibiza), understated (Polo) or premium (A1), while the Fabia puts a focus on being a clever and practical machine. However, while past generations of Fabia have been offered as an estate, there isn't one this time around.
Other rivals beyond the VW Group include the Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris, plus the Stellantis trio of the Citroen C3, Peugeot 208 and Opel Corsa, while other alternatives include the Honda Jazz, Suzuki Swift, the budget-minded Dacia Sandero, or even the premium MINI hatch.
The Skoda Fabia model range
Irish pricing for the Skoda Fabia starts from €19,150, which gets you behind the wheel of an Active model with a 65hp version of Skoda's 1.0-litre MPI petrol engine and a five-speed manual gearbox. Active trim is the entry point, but it's not entirely basic, and there are some handy pieces of kit on board. It gets LED headlights with auto activation for starters, while air conditioning, heated electric door mirrors, electric front windows, a trip computer, height adjustable front seats and a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB radio and twin USB-C sockets are all fitted.
Move up to Ambition trim, and you get the choice of the 65hp engine or a livelier turbocharged 95hp 1.0 TSI three-cylinder engine. Extra equipment here includes alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto wipers, a split-folding rear seat, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity and an umbrella in the driver's door - a traditional add-on that helps the Fabia live up to Skoda's practical billing.
Moving on to Style trim, and this version has the widest choice of engines, although there's still only three to choose from. There's an 80hp version of the 1.0 MPI unit, the 95hp 1.0 TSI or a 110hp version that features Skoda's seven-speed, twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox.
On the outside, Style trim adds funky looking 16-inch alloy wheels with odd-looking 'Black Aero' plastic inserts, while keyless entry and starting adds an upmarket touch. There are electric windows all round, white LED ambient lighting, higher-quality interior trim and an eight-inch full-colour touchscreen infotainment system.
At the top of the range, the Monte Carlo is as close as you'll get to an RS version of the Fabia, although it's more about style than substance, because it only comes with the 95hp and 110hp DSG versions of the 1.0 TSI petrol engine. The Monte Carlo additions include a panoramic glass roof, piano black trim inside and out, sports seats, perforated leather trim and white stitching.
Skoda is currently offering competitive 1.9 per cent APR finance rates if you take out PCP on the Fabia, but go to the Skoda Ireland website for the latest offers.
The Skoda Fabia interior
The latest Fabia is a smart-looking evolution of the previous generation model that incorporates styling cues from the larger Octavia. It's also pretty roomy for a supermini, with more space inside than you'll find in most rivals. This space doesn't come at the expense of quality, though, because the Fabia feels well built.
There are hard, scratchy plastics to be found in the cabin, but Skoda has been clever with the Fabia's interior design, because they're interspersed with slivers of tactile material, especially in the higher-spec Style model tested here. The usual touch points feature softer plastics, fabric or metal finishes, which is what you remember. The leather-trimmed steering wheel is especially satisfying to hold.
Other cabin highlights include the large 'FABIA' lettering running down either side of the instrument binnacle, while Skoda's focus on the practical includes a centre armrest cubby that's small, but usefully covered, a neat wireless phone charging pad ahead of the gear lever, cup holders that feature a grippy base that allows you to open bottles one-handed, an ice scraper with tread depth gauge in the fuel filler flap and of course the already-mentioned umbrella in the driver's door.
There's plenty of wheel and seat adjustment to get a comfortable driving position, although rear space can start to feel a little tight even if a driver of average height is sitting up front. The seats themselves are comfortable, though, while the Fabia features two sets of ISOFIX child seat mounts in the back, and another set on the front passenger seat.
That rear bench folds 60:40 on Ambition models and above, but they don't go completely flat. The strange thing is that the plastic trim surrounding the boot suggests that the boot floor can be mounted in different positions, but it's not possible. The floor isn't rigid enough to mount at a higher level, while there's no accessible space underneath, either. At least there's a space-saver spare wheel as standard.
The Skoda Fabia driving experience
The Fabia is a large vehicle in terms of the supermini class, but it's by no means an unwieldy car to drive. The large glass area means all-round visibility is good; although front and rear parking sensors come as standard on Style models, we're surprised that a reversing camera wasn't included as well.
Overall, the Fabia is geared towards comfort, but that doesn't mean all hope is lost if you're looking for a car that's fun to drive. While the Fabia can't match a Ford Fiesta for sharp handling in the supermini sector, there's still an accomplished chassis under the skin. Tackle a twisty road, and the Fabia feels planted and secure, with very little in the way of body lean in corners or nosedive under braking. The steering is a little slow to turn the car, but there's some feedback to let you know what's going on under the front wheels.
One downside is that the Fabia's three-cylinder engines feel a little gutless to do the chassis any justice. Even this 95hp 1.0 TSI unit takes its time getting the car up to speed. It's possibly made worse by the long gearing of the five-speed gearbox, though - we're certain a six-speed unit would improve matters. Once you're up to speed, the engine responds reasonably well, with a characterful three-cylinder thrum.
During our time with the Fabia 1.0 TSI, we averaged around 7.3 litres/100km in a big mix of driving conditions, with just one longer motorway run.
Our verdict on the Skoda Fabia
The Skoda Fabia is an accomplished small car that has the practical edge to be capable of conducting bigger-car duties when called upon - it's good enough to use on longer journeys, for example, even if it's not quite big enough to be able to pack everything you might need on a family holiday. It's one of the better superminis for sure, and while the model and engine line-up is limited when compared with some rivals, most people will be fine with the modest petrol powerplants that are on offer.