Skoda Fabia 2015 Review
Like a swimmer whose latent ability was always there as a youth, but needed the mental confidence of adulthood to get results, the new Skoda Fabia compact car makes small improvements that have a big bearing on performance. Priced from $15,990 (plus on-road costs), the new Fabia has matured beautifully and comes loaded with features, from autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to a gorgeous touchscreen infotainment system that features native Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
Skoda is starting to hit its straps in Australia with some very high quality vehicles. First it was the new Octavia that tickled our fancy. Now it's the next-generation Fabia's time to shine.
The Fabia has huge promise and is the sort of car that could capture the imagination of Aussies. Yep, it's that good.
After spending a week in the (admittedly garish) bright yellow runabout, I'm convinced it'll win a lot of comparisons and find favour with savvy buyers. It drives well, it's comfortable, spacious, smart, and represents good value for money at $20,290 (plus ORCs) for the automatic turbo-petrol model.
As an inner-city dwelling mid-30s bloke with a young family, looking to downsize my car, reduce my fuel bill and carbon footprint – while increasing safety – the Fabia ticks all the boxes.
Let's start with the engine: The 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo unit delivers impressive fuel efficiency thanks to a modern direct-injection system and idle-stop functionality. In a light car (1087kg) with an effective seven-speed dual-clutch (automatic) transmission the results are noticeable, Skoda claiming a combined cycle figure of just 4.8L/100km.
On test, and in mostly city running, we managed 5.7L/100km. It's a figure managed without using any of our fuel-saving tips, either, which I think is pretty impressive.
Aside from being efficient, the Fabia is also a fun car to drive. There's a sense of effortlessness about the way it moves. It feels light on its feet. It's easy to control. And it's easy to turn in and guide along narrow laneway.
It's confident, even eager on the open road too. There's a tenacity to its cornering abilities many in this class simply don't have. But it doesn't come at the cost of ride comfort – the Fabia even managing the century-old bluestone laneways around motoring HQ with relative ease.
The throttle is responsive and easy to modulate, ditto for the brakes. The 81kW on offer is accessible, but quite refined.. More importantly the 175Nm of torque is very accessible, arriving from just 1400rpm it's sustained through to 4000rpm, giving the Fabia a lot of flexibility in-gear, and heaps of pep for overtaking.
Skoda's dual-clutch transmission is also sharper than we recall. It's response to initial throttle application is much quicker than many of its rivals, and upshifts are smooth and brisk. In short, it's a vast improvement over the first DSG Volkswagen introduced back in 2004.
It's worth keeping in mind, however, that the Fabia requires a diet of more expensive premium unleaded (95-98 RON). There's also no reversing camera, though reversing sensors help-out in tight spots.
As good as this Europe import is dynamically, it's the interior that really knocked my socks off. Plopping into the comfy driver's seat, there's a good sense of room, despite the Fabia's tiny exterior dimensions. It looks neat and tidy, too. The design cues resolve ergonomic and aesthetic requirements, but somehow also manage to maintain the Skoda's individuality.
All Fabia models come with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 6.5-inch colour touchscreen. The infotainment system has native support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.Put simply, it mirrors (with graphical improvements) your smartphone on the car's screen once plugged in via USB cable.
With my iPhone 6 I just hit the navigation app on the car's screen and up it pops, one of the best, clearest and most concise navigation systems I've used in a car.
Even Siri works. So you can dictate text messages to send out plus loads more. I used TuneIn radio for instance. I'm really going to struggle using cars without CarPlay from now on… It's just so intuitive.
Other aspects of the Fabia's cabin impress, such as the roomy back seat. The back seat cushion is angled upward to offer good thigh support for adult passengers. It's also roomy enough to accommodate a child-seat alongside an adult passenger, and features both top-tether and ISOFIX child-seat anchors.
The Fabia's clever use of space continues in the boot. There's a class-leading 305 litres of space, and nifty shopping bag hooks and cargo dividers to stop your shopping ending up all over the place. The rear seat splits 60:40 for even more space, though if you're truly chasing room, it's worth noting that the Fabia is also available as a wagon.
Lots of thought has gone into the Fabia's design and you really appreciate the little touches. There's a tiny bin in the driver's door pocket, for example, while every square inch of unused space has a cubby hole or tray for all your little knick knacks.
Lump in plenty of safety gear as standard, like six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – as well as a five-star ANCAP safety rating – and the Fabia seems like a great deal for its list price. That said, it's worth noting the Skoda offers only a three-year warranty where some rivals now extend to seven.
On balance, I still think the Fabia has the potential to truly resonate with new small-car buyers. In the same way that top athletes often need to mature emotionally before finding success, the Fabia is ready to flourish.
2015 Skoda Fabia 81TSI pricing and specifications:
Price: $20,290 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Fuel: 4.8L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 111g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP
What we liked:
>> Ride and handling
>> Smart phone integration
>> Thoughtful storage solutions
Not so much:
>> No reversing camera
>> Needs longer warranty
>> Requires high-octane fuel