To me, there’s a sense of happiness that comes with a compact car, they’re fun. Their sheer size alone makes them playful, they thrive in an urban environment, nipping here and there, they’re easy to park and on the whole are relatively uncomplicated. So when Skoda asked me to take a look at their new Fabia a smirk began to form that quickly matched the smile on the small hatchback’s new face.
With the addition of the Kodiaq, Karoq and very soon the Kamiq, plus the Octavia, Superb and Rapid, the Fabia is by far the baby of the Skoda family but in many ways, it’s quite grown up.
First hitting the streets around the turn of the century, the Fabia came as a 4 or 5-door saloon, hatch or estate. It took out a variety of awards, thanks in part to the VW/Audi group platform it had recently acquired. The second Generation arrived around seven years later, growing in size and popularity and losing the 4-door option along the way. New powertrains, greener options and added safety all helped the Fabia gain more traction.
It’s been four years since the third generation came into being, so quite rightly, Skoda has completely modernised their supermini and just as rightly handed me the keys.
My MY2019 Fabia Ambition 5-door hatch came in Corrida red. It’s very bright and in my mind, matches the vehicles cheery persona. Aside from the colour, the first thing I noticed was the new grille, its shape is unmistakably part of the Skoda family with vertical slats and boarded with chrome, it’s like one giant smile. LED DRL’s underscore the halogen headlights while jet black lower valance sits between the bumper and lower lip – there’s actually quite a lot going on when you look closely. Strong bonnet and shoulder lines give a sense of sportiness and its sub 4m length sits nicely on the road.
Under the bonnet is a 1.6L petrol engine strapped to a 6-speed auto gearbox that drives the front wheels. The combination produces 81kW and 155Nm, that gets you off the mark and up to 100km/h in a chirpy 11ish seconds but keeps you away from the pumps at a rate of 5.9L/100km (139g/km too for those that are interested).
The interior now boasts a 6.5-inch infotainment screen, modern instrument cluster, comfortable fabric furniture and although it has a fair share of plastic, for some reason it doesn’t feel cheap. Space wise, once you lift the centre console storage box out of the way, is fine and dandy. Shoulder room for two in the front, there’s room for a coffee cup and an espresso shot in the console, the rear seats have a 60/40 split (with plenty of headroom) and there’s 330L of room for shopping stuff in the rear. It does lack some of the ‘Simply Clever’ tricks that I’m getting used to with Skoda but it does have the magnifying ice scraper in the petrol cap.
On the road, the new Fabia drives like a city dweller should. It’s not ferocious in speed or laid back and lavish for long runs but it gets you around town with a nice sense of confidence. The suspension feels pliable and soft but not lollopy, cornering is just fine. The gearbox could engage a little more intelligently (something that becomes more apparent in sport and traffic) but on the whole the engine/transmission combo does its job well.
The new Fabia also comes with a sensor below the front bumper to detect impending disaster, among other things. For those tailgaters out there, distance imagery will appear in the centre of the instrument cluster (basically to tell you to back off) and also stays in close contact with the AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) system just in case.
I found the Fabia to be simply great. As stated in the beginning, it’s a cheerful compact car that comes really well appointed. It’s fun to drive and will happily let you push the revs up. Parking camera is really clear but it’s not a difficult car to navigate around even without as visibility is great. The MY19 may not have brought in any radical changes but it’s certainly modernised a compact car that’s already ahead of the curve.
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