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First drive: Skoda Fabia 2019MY. Image by Skoda.

First drive: Skoda Fabia 2019MY
Skoda mildly updates its third-gen Fabia supermini with fresh looks and additional tech.

 



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Skoda Fabia 2019MY

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Skoda's midlife facelift for the third-generation Fabia is a typically reserved suite of updates, but then this likeable B-segment supermini didn't really need radical remodelling. Here, we try the revised Monte Carlo version with the 95hp 1.0 TSI engine.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 Monte Carlo manual 2019MY
Pricing: Fabia starts at 12,840; car as tested from 17,435
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 104g/km (VED Band 101-110: 145 in year one, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 61.4mpg
Top speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 10.8 seconds
Power: 95hp at 5,000-5,500rpm
Torque: 160Nm at 1,800-3,500rpm
Boot space: 330-1,150 litres

What's this?

Probably the most practical and no-nonsense of superminis, in its third incarnation and revised for the 2019 model year. Yes, it's update time for the Skoda Fabia and the news is that there are no absolutely huge amendments to what has always been an unassuming character in the B-segment marketplace. This is no bad thing, because we've always liked the understated way the Fabia Mk3 goes about its business, and at least it hasn't gone and had one of those facelifts that brings in (*shudder*) quad headlights, as with the firm's bigger Octavia hatch.

Essentially, on Fabia v3.5 (or whatever you want to call it), you're looking at remodelled bumpers (easier to spot at the rear than the front, as the moulding on the Skoda's rump now houses integrated reflectors that were located in the light clusters previously), a radiator grille that's a different shape (got pictures of the pre-facelift and post-facelift Fabia Mk3 up on your screen? Then look closely at the grille's top line, as it used to culminate in two 'wing' points before, but now has a 'chamfered' edge next to the headlight cluster), headlights and taillights that can be optionally LED and which have designs that are crystalline to evoke the Czech Republic's long history of glass-making and the ability to have 18-inch alloys on the hatchback Fabia; these being the largest wheels the Fabia has yet worn.

Mention of the hatchback is apposite, as the Fabia Estate continues as one of the last B-segment load-luggers you can still buy (faddish crossovers killing off most of its rivals) - but the 1.4-litre TDI turbodiesel triple, which powered the last version of Skoda's smallest wagon that we test-drove, has gone. The facelifted line-up is entirely propelled by three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engines, in two main specifications that provide four power outputs. The normally-aspirated MPI can be had with either 60- or 75hp, while the turbocharged TSI delivers either 95- or 110hp. In the UK, Skoda won't be offering the 60hp MPI, but there's enough of a spread of the others, across the two body styles, for a 28-model Fabia line-up.

Trim grades start with S, then run SE, Colour Edition (an SE with funky two-tone colour schemes and bigger alloys, plus some other sundry items, for an extra 550... oh, and it's only available on the hatchback, not the Estate), SE L and finally Monte Carlo. All models send drive through the front wheels and a five-speed manual gearbox, save the 110hp TSI, which gets a six-speed manual as standard and the option of a seven-speed DSG auto for a nice, round grand of your money. Fabia hatchback prices start at a very reasonable 12,840 for a 1.0 MPI 75 S and rise to 18,435 for a Monte Carlo 110 DSG, while the Estate (+1,020 on an equivalent hatch) kicks off at 13,860 for the MPI S and tops out at 18,750 for an SE L TSI 110 DSG.

Good, competitive prices, then, especially as every Fabia comes with at least LED daytime running lights, Front Assist forward warning and a multifunction trip computer. That's for base S cars, but SE is worth the 1,275 price walk as it chucks in front fog lights, 15-inch Cygnus alloys, the new Swing Plus radio system and 'one-shot' electric windows. SE L models feature Amundsen satnav, 16-inch Evora alloys and mood lighting in the centre console, while the Monte Carlo is a sporty little number, with black finishing for the front spoiler, roof and floor mats, plus carbon-effect dashboard trim, red-tinged seat upholstery, electric windows all round, LED rear lights and climate control. There are additional 'Simply Clever' touches on all cars, too, like USB ports and a tablet holder in the rear passenger area, a removable LED torch in the boot of the Estate and a double-sided cargo bay liner. All facelifted Fabias also have a revised instrument cluster, although we really did struggle to tell how it had changed, to be honest...

How does it drive?

Like the Skoda Fabia Mk3 always has: proficiently, smoothly, appealingly... but it's not hugely exciting. The car's main forte is refinement, because - while wind and tyre noise are evident - they're at a low enough level to place the Czech machine near the top of the class for unruffled interior calm. The ride quality is excellent, even on Monte Carlo models with their bigger alloys (it's the Monte Carlo hatch that can be fitted with the optional 18s), and in general the lightness of the major controls on the Skoda makes it a very easy car to pilot in a wide variety of motoring scenarios.

In the corners, its chassis is by no means bad, offering up clean, neutral grip and a standard of body control that is more than adequate for some spirited back-road driving, but it's never really fun doing such a thing in the Fabia. Its steering will always keep the driver one step removed from the action and the engines are decently willing, rather than surprisingly punchy. The 95hp TSI's modest performance is also not helped by a five-speed manual gearbox that, while nice enough of throw, is fairly long-legged in its ratios, making acceleration seem even more leisurely than the on-paper stats suggest. Despite its figures being broadly the same as the Fabia, the SEAT Ibiza with the same motor feels quicker, possibly because it turns out an extra 15Nm in the Spanish car - although we must concede the TSI in the Skoda is smooth from idle to redline and blessed with that cheeky little three-cylinder thrum, so it's not without merit.

In short, the 95hp Monte Carlo hatch drives admirably, but not thrillingly. A run later in the day in a 110hp Monte Carlo Estate did suggest the extra 650 quid needed to step up to it from the 95hp model would be well worthwhile, mainly because of the 110's additional 40Nm of torque and the closer spacing of its six gearbox ratios, and we'd also say the Estate has a marginally superior ride - its wheelbase is the same as the hatchback's, at 2,470mm, but it's 265mm longer overall and 20 kilos heavier, plus the rear suspension has been retuned to cope with loads in its almighty 530-litre boot; the hatch, by the way, retains its 330 litres of load space, making it one of the bigger B-segment haulers in any guise. Overall, the facelifted Fabia remains as pleasingly genial all round as it ever has, which is... nice.

Verdict

There are more exciting cars to drive in this segment than the Skoda Fabia, like the aforementioned Ibiza and, of course, Ford's wonderful Fiesta, while its distant cousin - the Volkswagen Polo - has the quality game in this segment comfortably sewn up. And you can probably get the same sort of value-for-money from the Koreans, or an even more budget-conscious run-around in the form of the cheap-as-chips Dacia Sandero, if money is your key car-purchasing driver.

But while we wouldn't put the facelifted Fabia on the supermini class podium, occupied as it is by the Ibiza, Fiesta and Polo, we would say the Skoda is almost the Volkswagen's match as an all-rounder and it's considerably less money to boot - and if what you're after is a solid, dependable and easy-going B-segment hatch that has a shedload of space on board and an intelligently thought-out (if slightly plain) cabin, then the Mk3 Fabia facelift might very well be the first car you're going to consider.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 16 Aug 2018









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