Skoda Fabia Hatchback (2015 -) Driving & Performance

Review by Graeme Lambert on
Last Updated: 05 Apr 2016
4.5
Bigger, loaded with more equipment and better to drive, the new Skoda Fabia is also a few kilos lighter. While that’s normally a statement more pertinent to Supercars than Superminis, it makes the baby Skoda even more efficient.

4.5 out of 5

Performance

At the moment Skoda Fabia performance is provided by four petrol engines and two diesel engines, although later in 2015 a new Greenline model will supplement that range, and two gearbox options.

Petrol engines

It’s these engines that will make up most Fabia hatchback sales, with the majority of those leaving the dealership with the 1.0MPi with 74bhp. There is a lower output model, with just 59bhp, but it’s painfully slow and only really worthy of consideration for those never leaving inner city limits or anyone hamstrung by high insurance costs due to age.

The 74bhp 1.0 MPi is no rocketship itself, but there’s a characteristic three-pot thrum from the engine and it feels willing to respond to your inputs. That said it’s the 1.2-litre TSI with 88bhp that’s the sweetspot of the range (and likely second-most popular seller) thanks to an extra cylinder and another 75Nm of torque available 1,600rpm lower in its rev range.

Make full use of its performance and the 0-62mph sprint takes an acceptable 10.9 seconds – the 59bhp MPi taking 15.7 and the 74bhp version just one second quicker than that – while the flexibility afforded by this mid-range urge makes it far more relaxing on the open road.

There is a more powerful 1.2 TSI with 108bhp, which is a sweet unit that is keen to rev, but in truth is probably more powerful than most will need in a car like the new Fabia, which is suited to shorter journeys and the urban crawl. You can choose the firm’s excellent seven speed DSG automatic gearbox with this engine though (and it comes with a six-speed manual rather than the other engines’ five-speed unit) so if you don’t want to exercise your left leg this is the only choice.

Diesel engines

Unless of course you want a diesel engine since the 1.4-litre TDI – available in 103bhp and 88bhp versions – also comes with the option of seven-speed automatic (88bhp only). Like the 1.0-litre petrol the 1.4-litre diesel is a three-cylinder block, so there’s more noise on the move than you might expect, but it’s actually an endearing thrum and vibration through the controls isn’t particularly intrusive.

The more powerful of the two does feel relatively urgent though, with plenty of low-down torque (250Nm at 1,750rpm) meaning acceleration is surprisingly sprightly. Top speed is 120mph, and the benchmark 0-62mph run takes just 10.1 seconds, making it the second fastest accelerating Fabia (after the 1.2 TSI 108bhp which takes 9.4 seconds for the same).

4 out of 5

Handling

The new Skoda Fabia uses what is called the MQB platform, which is an entirely customisable and modular chassis also found in the larger Octavia and VW Golf, Audi A3 and SEAT Leon. As such it handles with real confidence. Choose the most basic 1.0MPI with 59bhp and it weighs slightly less than a tonne as well (65Kg less than the previous model) so reactions are promisingly sharp – even if that particular model’s rate of acceleration isn’t.

A wider track (by 30mm) and longer wheelbase (5mm) add extra stability on the move, and this Skoda feels like a more mature model than its supermini status would have you believe. There’s very little bodyroll, and thanks to standard-fit XDS electronic differential the car resists washing wide at the front end very well – unless you’re driving like a lunatic where the laws of physics simply take over.

It does use a new electro-mechanical steering system, which saves weight (and lowers fuel consumption) but doesn’t offer a huge amount of feel and feedback. Unlike some of the other models in the MQB range there’s no driving mode selector to alter the car’s engine or steering responses to driver input.

All come with traction and electronic stability control as standard.