Skoda Fabia 2016 Quick Spin
The latest Fabia is reviewed here independently of our recent comparison, pitted against the all-new Suzuki Baleno Turbo and our long-term Peugeot 208 GT-Line .
How much will it cost?
At $20,290 (plus on-road costs) the Fabia 81TSI hatch is priced $4300 higher than the entry-level Fabia 66TSI, which positions the higher-tier model hard up against poverty-pack small cars, as well as premium-specification rivals in the light-car segment.
The wagon costs $1150 more again, and options for the Fabia 81TSI include metallic paint ($500), satellite navigation ($950), panoramic sunroof ($1000), a sports pack ($1200 for 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, fatigue detection and lowered suspension). This car came with all the available options, other than the satellite navigation.
A premium sports pack ($2600) is also offered, adding auto headlights, follow-me-home lighting, rain sensor, privacy glass, sports steering wheel, keyless entry/start, climate control and digital radio.
Why should I buy it?
A ripper little engine straddles the line between refinement and sporty power delivery, and is matched to a capable, dual-clutch transmission for smooth but instantaneous shifting.
The suspension is rock hard, but the Fabia corners flatly and hangs on for dear life in the bends. Its dynamic ability is enhanced by sophisticated stability and traction control systems.
Fabia's solid build quality, the unexpected roominess in such a small car, the infotainment tech and the practical packaging all add up to an ideal second car for young families who want something a bit different from the more mundane offerings.
When is it available in Australia?
The Fabia is a relative newcomer to the local scene, having been introduced here in July of last year.
In the first flush of a new model life cycle, the third-generation Fabia will be with us for several years, and Skoda will presumably tweak the car's design and equipment in coming years.
Who will it appeal to?
Rather like the Yeti SUV driven a week earlier, the Fabia is a car that elevates function far above form.
As already noted, it's an ideal second car for a young family (with two kids up to teenage years). Cars like the Fabia are often dismissed as 'shopping trolleys', but the Fabia is quite literally that: a quick, refined, comprehensively-equipped shopping trolley.
It has so many means of holding fast items in the luggage compartment that it's tempting to think the Fabia is a car that has been designed for obsessive/compulsive shoppers and curio collectors.
Where does it fit?
Measuring just under four metres long and boasting four doors and a shallow-raked tailgate, the Fabia is the very definition of a light-segment hatch.
Despite that, its extensive equipment list, clever drivetrain and roomy front-seat accommodation mount a convincing argument for cross-shopping against small cars at around the same price.
The Fabia is also comparable to cars in the next segment up, in respect of touring ability, pricing and crash safety. There's also fuel efficiency, ease of parking and driveability to consider.
Don't believe all that? How about the Fabia's 321-litre boot? That's larger than the Lancer Sportback's.
So, what do we think?
It's the firm ride that works against the Fabia. Prospective buyers should ponder whether the Skoda will suffice on roads regularly driven. If those roads consist of lumpy, potholed bitumen, forget it.
But the Fabia is a joy to drive on smoother surfaces – and practicality and fun get equal billing.
2016 Skoda Fabia 81TSI pricing and specifications:
Price: $22,990 (includes metallic paint, Sports Pack and sunroof, 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)