Overall rating: 4/5
Doing what it often does so well, Skoda adds an estate variant to the Fabia range giving increased meaning to the definition of practical.
In the Metal:
Turning out an estate version of most cars can be difficult due to the loss of silhouette, but Skoda's already somewhat boxy design of the new Fabia does lend itself well to adopting an estate body. I say boxy in the best way, as the new model, launched in late 2014, took on a far more attractive shape than the previous iteration, which was rather ungainly in appearance from most angles. The last Fabia Combi was every bit the estate, in form as well as function, but this time around the designers at Skoda have made a car that looks noticeably sleeker than before. It is lower by some 31mm, while a width increase of 90mm and an extra 10mm in length gives the car a more refined stance than previously.
Inside it does feel slightly more spacious. There is a good amount of legroom for rear passengers, helped by a slight increase in the length of the passenger compartment, while width has also been increased, if only by 2mm. The quality of the finish has been improved and although there are still some elements of hard plastic in the cabin overall it feels very well put together.
The new Fabia chassis borrows from the MQB platform technology that now underpins numerous models within the Volkswagen Group. The car is surprisingly light for an estate at just 1,058kg in the case of the 1.2-litre TSI model we tested. Despite only putting out a modest 90hp, the four-cylinder engine is well suited to the car especially in urban driving environments. In fact, it is only likely to struggle when the car is heavily laden down - then the mere 160Nm of torque could expose any performance weakness. You do need to work the five-speed manual gearbox a bit to keep the engine on song, but otherwise it is a package that's very much up to the job.
Should you plan on transporting heavier cargo on a more frequent basis Skoda also offers a 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesel engine, one that replaces the 1.6 TDI CR of old. This also delivers 90hp, but a meatier 230Nm of torque means that it has noticeably more pulling power out of the corners and when fully laden. The downside to this is the unrefined nature of the engine, highlighted further by the general lack of sufficient sound insulation, which means there is quite a distinct diesel din in the cabin.
To the credit of both engines, during our test drives both returned fuel economy figures that were well into the 40mpg territory and could no doubt be improved upon with more frugal driving and more bedded-in engines. Dynamically, the Fabia Combi isn't going to be the most exciting car you will ever drive, but, that said, even with the inclusion of an electromechanical setup the power steering is nicely weighted for a car of its size, and whilst the suspension is closer to the firmer side of things it is a car that is enjoyable to drive. Push the Fabia a bit too hard and there is a safe amount of understeer built in, but in day-to-day driving, even in poorer conditions like those we experienced during our test drive, there is sufficient grip.
What you get for your Money:
Space comes in abundance with the Fabia Combi, especially when you consider the size of its overall footprint. The rear cargo area has a standard capacity of 530 litres that increases to 1,395 litres when the 60:40 split rear seats are lowered. There are also many neat little touches such as hooks for shopping bags and additional storage compartments throughout the cabin.
Skoda is offering three trim levels in the Fabia Combi: Active, Ambition and Style. The standard specification on even the entry-level Active is reasonably good and Skoda has made the price-walk up to the next level affordable enough at €1,100 to Ambition and a further €1,500 to the range-topping Style car.
With cleverly executed styling and a healthy degree of space optimisation the Skoda Fabia Combi comfortably rises to the top spot in what is, granted, a sparsely populated market segment. If you are looking for a practical small car, which is also unlikely to cost a great deal to run, the Fabia Combi is as safe a bet as you can currently make.