Our manual cars, a green 2012 Mazda 2 Neo and red 2016 Toyota 86 GTS, were written off last year due to an extreme weather event. The Kia Carnival was the sole survivor. I spent some weeks browsing the used car market with no specific replacement car in mind. It just needed to be a manual so that our kids could learn in it to get manual licence.
Someone not far from home was selling a red 2017 Fabia wagon manual with Sports pack and 46000km on the odometer. After a test drive, I decided this car was acceptable and bought it. A recent experience in renting a VW Golf for a week might have skewed me towards the VAG product.
Despite the same colour, this little Skoda did not excite my family as much as when I brought home the 86. The kids questioned my decision to buy this stretched little hatchback from a lesser-known brand, which was quite understandable, as they had expected to drive the 86 with their L/Ps.
The Fabia's safety features met my expectation. There are enough airbags, a full size spare, a collision warning system, AEB, a reverse camera with beeper, tyre pressure sensors and a 5-star ANCAP rating when tested.
The Sports pack meant I got nice rims instead of steelies with hubcaps. They do get covered in brake dust too quickly, especially the front ones, which is a bit annoying. Maybe hubcaps are actually better at hiding such dust.
The flat bottom steering wheel feels nice. The ride is generally comfortable with acceptable body roll when cornering. Parking and tight area manoeuvres are an easy task.
Manual gear changes feel smooth, although I prefer Mazda 2’s gear lever position. It is not clunky when engaging first gear from stop, which is what happened often in the 86. Hand brake lever is best for a learner’s car in my opinion. The supervisor will also appreciate that the Fabia’s brake holds the car for about 2 seconds on hill start before rolling backward.
The interior is neat and tidy, however the lower part of dashboard looks cheap due to air con dials. Even the Fabia Monte Carlo still comes with the same arrangement. Air conditioning cooling capacity in its lowest setting is rather weak, while in higher positions you will hear more noise. Seat back adjustment is a slow process using a manual rotating knob, and would be faster with a lever system. The sound system is decent, and removing the stick antenna does not affect radio quality. There is no CD slot. Unfortunately Apple CarPlay/Android Auto glitches every now and then.
I still mix up the indicator and wiper when switching between our Skoda and Kia. The cruise control switch is part of the left side indicator stalk, which is a new position to get used to. Unlike in the manual Mazda 2 or 86, the non-adaptive cruise control stays on after gear changes. I usually expect engine brake after downshifting, but this one maintains speed at higher RPM instead and it disengages only upon braking or using the cancel button. It is fine on a hilly straight road, but I don’t use it on a twisty road.
Noise level is acceptable while cruising comfortably around 2000rpm; quieter than the previous Mazda 2 or 86. Despite having a turbo engine, overtaking can be thrilling. The 66kW motor and 5-speed manual encourage you to drive sensibly.
The automatic stop-start system is on by default, but I usually turn it off. Fuel usage at idle is around 0.9 litres per hour. I’d rather burn 5 cents of fuel for 2 minutes than doing an extra four stop-starts at the lights on regular 15 minutes trips. Not sure if it matters to extend battery and other component’s life.
Digital speedo shows 1-2km/h less than the analogue dial, but I usually set that display on fuel usage instead. My typical refueling cycle is 34L/500km, which is equivalent to 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres - which is higher than the factory claim. It costs more per litre due to the 95RON requirement, however when compared to previous Mazda 2 at 7.5L/100km with RON91 on similar routines, the difference in $/km is negligible.
This model does not have fog lights. The headlights are rather weak - no wonder the previous owner fitted additional spotlights. They are far more useful to see roos when it is dark.
Storage system is well designed. I assume the majority of CarAdvice readers already know about the wallet storage below driver's seat, umbrella holder, door pocket rubbish bin, mobile phone slot, hooks and nooks, etc. It is spacious enough to carry a bicycle or some furniture, and it is very handy for airport pick-up and moving house. If it is still not big enough, we bring the Carnival.
This car has part of its 5 year factory warranty left and so far, it has had no problems. The service intervals are normal at 15000km or every 12 months. Looking at the Skoda website, my next 60k service will cost $646, which is very expensive when compared to $180 spent on last service of the 86. If buying a new Skoda, the service package is worth considering.
What will I drive after this Fabia? Hopefully the next gen 86. I still miss that kind of car.