The highly anticipated Skoda Fabia has finally landed in local Skoda dealerships around Australia with a starting price of just $18,990.
The introduction of two Fabia variants to the Skoda range will now see the local arm of the Czech manufacturer target a far bigger slice of the overall passenger market.
Although a new model to Australian shores, the current Skoda Fabia has been around in Europe since 2007 and is based on the previous-generation Volkswagen Polo. That’s not to take anything away from this practical light car, because it’s a potential winner for Skoda Australia.
From the outside the Fabia shares a strong resemblance with the rest of the Skoda range, thanks in part to its grille, nose shape and wraparound windscreen. The rear is more reminiscent of the car it was based on.
In its standard form the Skoda Fabia is a good-looking design, which is not exactly a common trait for some Skoda models. It can even be (very cheaply) optioned out to have a different colour roof to the rest of the car – which gives it a very MINI-like look. But the real looker in the family is the Monte Carlo edition, where the design has really come to life.
From the top down a black roof combined with a piano black body trim, wing mirror covers and radiator grille is very much a perfect exaple of how you can take a relatively conservative design and give it flair.
The same proven 1.2-litre 77TSI engine found in the Volkswagen line-up will power all current Australian-delivered Skoda Fabias. Although a relatively small engine in capacity, the aid of a turbocharger and direct injection help output 77kW and 175Nm of torque. That may not sound like much but the Fabia is by no means a slouch, delivering more than adequate amounts of power and good levels of in-gear acceleration.
Transmission choice will initially be limited to a five-speed manual only, which helps the little Fabia accelerate from 0-100km/h in 10.1 seconds. On a combined city and highway cycle you can expect the tiny engine to sip 5.5 litres of fuel per 100km.
To review and test drive the new model, Skoda Australia brought us to Sydney where we drove both Fabia variants through a series of mountainous roads and highways.
Its manual-only configuration will no doubt have a negative impact on its initial sales (mainly to the automatic-loving female buyers), but if you can change gears and actually enjoy doing so, the five-speed gearbox is pretty easy to use. We found the clutch operation to be simple and changing gears a relative breeze. Given the small size of the engine, five gears seem good enough to extract the most out of the package. That’s not to say a sixth gear would go to waste.
The standard model rides on 15-inch steel wheels, providing sufficient grip for day to day driving and an ideal choice for a city run-about. Upgrade to the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo edition (+$3000) and you’ll find yourself riding on 16-inch black alloys that help set the little Fabia apart in the looks department, while providing high levels of cornering grip and a better overall driving experience.
Ride and handling are top-notch, thanks to the use of McPherson struts mounted to a three-part subframe (rear gets a semi-independent setup). Like the majority of cars out of the Volkswagen stable, handling and cornering ability are well and truly above the fold. Steering feel is much like the current-generation Polo, accurate and with good feedback.
Around the twisty roads out of Sydney (towards Bowral) we found the Fabia to be a rather capable drive. There are hints of understeer when pushed to its limit and at times the relatively hard suspension (which is a good thing in our books) tends to skip over poorly maintained roads. Even so, the spring and damper settings are soft enough to make for an easy city or highway drive. Body-roll is barely noticeable and for the price, it’s certainly the sort of car you can make the most of a good road in. You have to remember that Skoda has been involved in motorsports for 110 years, so designing fun and sporty-natured cars is nothing new.
Acceleration out of corners is comparable to its rivals and the electronic nanny controls tend to stay silent unless really needed. Much like the Golf 77TSI, if the need for a bit of enthusiastic driving ever eventuates, the Fabia needs to be driven in its torque delivery rev range (1500-4100rpm) to perform.
Sit inside and the very first thing you’ll notice is how similar its interior is to its larger siblings (Skoda Octavia and Skoda Superb). There is none of that cheap-feeling plastic that we’ve come to expect from the Japanese and Koreans (bar Kia, which does excellent interiors). Although not completely soft-touch, the dash and doors are pleasant to touch and feel as though they’ve been designed without an accountant in the room.
There is an ample amount of room in the boot too and with the rear seats in their upright position the Fabia hatch allows for 315 litres of space (outdoing some of its rivals in the next size up).
Bluetooth telephone connectivity and audio streaming plus cruise control and a leather steering wheel with audio controls is all standard kit on the base model. An extra $350 will get you a media interface device package that has native support for iPod/iPhone and USB. In fact most of the items on Skoda’s options list are very reasonably priced. $390 will get you rear-parking sensors and $990 will get you a sunroof – both cost less from your Skoda dealer than if you were to pay a third party to do it for you.
If you can stretch the budget an additional $3000, the Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo edition makes good sense. If its masculine and aggressive looks don’t sell it for you, then the bigger wheels, door-sill plates, sports seats and alloy pedals make for a compelling case.
The Fabia’s safety credentials are backed up by six airbags and ESC (Electronic Stability Control) including ABS, ASR, EBD and Brake Assist - all standard kit across both models. It hasn't been tested by ANCAP but you can find the Euro NCAP results here.
The Skoda Fabia’s low starting price does have some drawbacks, with a few features omitted from its standard equipment list. Both variants will set you back an additional $590 for an alarm system and even the Monte Carlo misses out on parking sensors and climate control air conditioning ($390). You’ll also end up paying $490 for metallic paint.
Overall, the Skoda Fabia is a welcome addition to the Skoda range and is certain to do good things for the brand. The light car sits well against its competition and is an absolute must drive if you’re in the market. The manual-only option will be rectified with the arrival of DSG (dual-clutch automatic) variants next year.
Skoda Australia is determined to be here for the long haul, having expanded its local dealership network from 21 to 33 in the past 12 months. Sales have also increased substantially during the same period. Soon the Skoda Yeti will arrive and next year will see the much anticipated Skoda Fabia RS and wagon. The Skoda Roomster will also make a comeback in conjunction with a facelift. With proven engineering credentials and very competitive pricing, there’s never been a better time to invest in a Skoda.