Skoda Fabia: Road Test

22 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Skoda Fabia: Road Test

Skoda Fabia

: Road Test

Skoda’s baby is much more than a cut-price Polo

Skoda Fabia 77 TSI

Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory delivery charges): $18,990

Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): White roof ($390); 15-inch alloy wheels ($990)

Crash rating: Four-star (Euro NCAP)

Fuel: 91/95 RON ULP

Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 5.5

CO2 emissions (g/km): 128

Skoda’s baby was the subject of one of car world’s great ad campaigns. Simple, delicious, fun, it imparted exactly the right tone for a light car that is, well, simple and fun (can’t tell you if it was delicious – I’m on the no-car diet…).

Introduced in Europe in 2007, the Fabia shares its platform with the last generation of parent company Volkswagen’s Polo. It comes in two specs. The base 77 TSI here starts at $18,990 plus ORCs, putting it a couple of $K above base Japanese and Korean competitors and the base Polo Trendline. But if that leaves you dismissing it and heading straight to the Volkswagen end of the dealership, wait up.

It’s well differentiated from the VW product.

Indoors, it’s light and airy, a relatively upright windscreen with a bit more curvature than most gives it a Saab-ish feel from the front seats. At the control end, it’s austere in a Volkswagen kind of way, but not as austere as a Volkswagen. Most of the controls are pure VW, right down to that (initially) confusing Bluetooth setup system they have, serving up instructions via the instrument binnacle rather than the centre-stack controls.

Computing functions work via a column stalk, on which it took this driver some considerable time to locate the Enter button. FYI, it’s on the bottom edge of the stalk. You can find it by, um, looking.

Beyond that, your money buys you 15-inch steel wheels (with a full-sized spare) and fog lights outside, while indoors you get cruise control, an eight-cone audio package with auxiliary inputs (Bluetooth audio streaming a $160 option), a multifunction leather-bound steering wheel with remote audio controls, plus a leather-wrapped handbrake and shifter. What you’d expect by current standards, with no obvious holes in the equipment list. Build quality pretty much matches Volkswagen – quality materials, well screwed and glued together.

Under Fabia’s bonnet you’ll find the same 1.2-litre turbo four you’d find in today’s Polo. It’s good for 77kW with a peak 175Nm available nice and early — and up through a broad band from 1500-4100rpm. In a package weighing 1120kg, that translates to a 0-100km/h time of 10.1 seconds.

The evidence of the superseded donor vehicle begins with the manual gearbox — the Fabia gets five speeds, the current Polo gets six. But when you’re using your fingers to shift gears rather than count them, the shortfall is no catastrophe. The shift is light and precise with well spaced ratios, meaning there’s no sense of hindrance by overly large gaps or pointlessly small ones.

An extra cog up high wouldn’t do any harm, but with the engine spinning in the early-mid 2Ks at 110km/h, there’s no desperation about it. More, it’s just that the engine has the torque to support it.

The seating is comfortable throughout, with more space than most in its class to accommodate height and breadth across the beam. The rear seat is sufficient for two adults or three littlies (although baby seats might make things a bit squeezy for whoever’s in the middle). Leg space is generous by class standards, helped further by reach-adjustable steering, allowing drivers to open up a little more.

A 315-litre cargo area is also decent for its class, with an added nice touch in a little playpen thing to secure shopping bags and the like. A 60:40 split-fold seat opens up more space, with the added convenience of the split extending to the parcel shelf when you only need half. Nic-nac storage is adequate if not ahead of the pack.

While the fold down armrest between the front seats opens to accommodate a phone, it would be nice if the airspace beneath it was enclosed by a proper storage box.

Visibility is excellent all round, more so thanks to wing mirrors of sufficient size and shape to eliminate blind spots.

The drive has typical VW engineering solidity to it. Powertrain, chassis and steering integration take it above and beyond the call of duty as a city runabout.

The engine is surprisingly muscular for one so small, with enough poke to prove an enjoyable late-night drive through one of our favourite testing grounds.

Skoda has done a nice job in calibrating the MacPherson strut front end and torsion beam rear suspension for a deft ride-handling balance, absorbing surface annoyances without fuss while keeping you nice and vertical through vigorous shifts in direction. The electro-mechanical rack and pinion steering sits around the top of its class for feel and directness.

It sits at the pointy end of the field for wind and road noise, too. A 0.30 Cd — near as good as things get for cars of this size — keeps the whoosh down, and it’s well enough insulated through the chassis and cabin to keep things nice down below, even on the kind of coarse surfaces that can be annoying in light hatches.

Stopping power is up to the rest of the package, with disc brakes all round (ventilated up front) giving it an on-paper advantage over most of its Asian (and even some Euro) competitors, which still use rear drums.

That clever ad campaign uses ‘full of lovely stuff’ as its strapline. But the Fabia isn’t so much full of lovely stuff as devoid of nasties. That’s an important selling point for a light urban car — ease of use, marked the absence of annoyances.

When the biggest bugbear you can report in a car is a hard-to-find trip computing button, it’s clear the maker has come up with a winner. As a city trolley, the Fabia fulfils its charter with aplomb. A peppy but frugal little engine and a well sorted chassis justifies whatever extra money it asks over many of its competitors — including the base Trendline-spec Polo.

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Published. Monday, 30 April 2012

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