What is it?
The Skoda Fabia is one of the Czech brand’s most popular cars, outsold in Europe only by its larger sister the Octavia. Perhaps that’s why this mid-life revamp, applied across both hatchback and estate versions of the supermini, is not exactly wide-ranging.
The updates centre on subtle exterior changes, some engine updates and more equipment. Underneath, however, the basic structure remains just as when the third-generation Fabia was launched in 2014.
How does it look?
Not that much different… The major exterior changes are a new design to the grille, which is wider with vertical slats, a redesigned shape of the head and tail lamps and the front and rear bumpers.
Skoda says the headlamp detail is intended to celebrate Czech expertise in crystal glass. Both head and tail lamps can also now be had with LED bulbs – but they are on the options list, as is an 18-inch variant in the new alloy wheel range.
What’s the spec like?
Skoda has added a reasonable amount of standard equipment to the Fabia, boosting specifications on all versions. All models now include LED daytime running lights and a trip computer, and all get a touchscreen entertainment system with Bluetooth connectivity.
On entry-level S models the screen is increased in size from five to six inches, but go for the second-level SE and the system includes Smartphone compatibility, allowing apps from your iPhone or similar to be accessed on the touchscreen.
SE-L and top-level Monte Carlo variants, meanwhile use an Admunsen system that also includes voice control, a second Bluetooth connection, plus various online services such as traffic and weather info.
A big safety plus is the inclusion of ‘Front Assist’ – basically autonomous emergency braking – as standard across the line-up. And extra aids including adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection are now on the options list.
What’s it like inside?
The Fabia has always been a roomy supermini – but it doesn’t lead the field these days, overtaken by newer rivals such as its sister Volkswagen Polo with modern, space-freeing modular platforms.
It’s still a comfortable environment, helped by a functional, sensible dash layout, and an upgrade to the interior style. Bolder fabrics, brushed aluminium surfacing and contrasting stitching make for a high quality impression.
And of course, being a Skoda, the Fabia still boasts those neat ‘Simply Clever’ touches such as an umbrella under the seat and an ice scraper in the fuel filler hatch, the latter now with a tyre pressure gauge incorporated.
What’s under the bonnet?
It’s a completely petrol line-up for the Fabia. The trio of choices are all three-cylinder units, all of 1.0-litre capacity and with either 75, 95 or 110hp.
Those familiar with the Fabia will say ‘but it had those before’. Yes it did, but Skoda insists they’ve all been breathed upon to improve their efficiency. The management system has been recalibrated and a second catalytic convertor added, as has a particulate filter, something more common to diesel engines.
Most efficient is the 95hp engine, with fuel economy cresting 61mpg and emissions of 106g/km. It and its 110hp sister are TSI direct injection units, the 75hp entry-level version an older MPI variant.
What’s it like to drive?
With no significant mechanical changes we did not expect the Fabia’s on-road dynamics to surprise us, and they didn’t. This is a car built for comfort, to be an easy-to-live-with companion.
We took the 95hp engine out for a spin. It is a refined unit, with not a lot of the characteristic audio note produced by many three-cylinder engines. Hitting 60mph in around 10 seconds will be enough for most typical Fabia buyers, which is a good thing as the engine doesn’t really respond to being overworked.
The Fabia won’t write any headlines for its handling – good or bad. It’s innocuous really, which again will perfectly suit most owners.
With this facelift to the Fabia Skoda is definitely following the line of “don’t fix what isn’t broke”. This is a very basic update which makes not a lot of difference to what has long been a thoroughly competent supermini.
Mind you the Fabia doesn’t have the advantages over its rivals – space and quality at a competitive price – that it used to. The all-new versions of its sisters the Polo and the SEAT Ibiza are every bit as good, in some areas better, as are other equally newer rivals.
As for price – the new Fabia range starts from £12,840 but the anticipated best-seller, the 95hp SE variant, is £14,845, only around £350 less than an equivalent Ibiza.
The Skoda Fabia remains a competitive buy in the small car market – but its rivals have caught up.