We admired the new Fabia right from the start for all its good properties, and it was rather sooner than later that the latest edition of this Fabia would be the subject of a test drive. And what a joyous occasion it proved to be. This 1,2 TSI Fabia truly delivers tons of driving pleasure, confirming the love affair we always had with Skoda's. Just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Indeed, my admiration and delight for Skodas goes a long way. It all started on the roads near Utrecht, where my Dutch uncle would drive me around when I was a young boy of five.
He was the proud and caring owner of a Skoda 1102, or Tudor, with a deep Bordeaux coloured two door bodywork and beige interior. It also included a large beige canvas sunroof. He drove it carefully, and hardly used, if ever, all the power of its 32 hp strong 1100 cc four cylinder engine.
With this car, driving in the open on the billiard smooth Dutch local roads, I learned very soon the joys of just, well, motoring. "This car will get you everywhere in the world" he said, with a proud smile on his face. Yes, I thought, and how, sitting next to him in the front on the comfortable seat, enjoying the Dutch sunlight and the slight, ever present, Nordic breeze.
Already then I was impressed by the clever engineering of Skoda's. This Tudor featured independent rear suspension, for instance, with a transverse leaf spring and floating half axles. Hmmm.
More was to come, with, amongst others, the formidable sounding Skoda 130 RS rally coupés, which I admired seeing them thundering through the special stages at the Boucles de Spa in the seventies. But more about this later...
As Skoda has a long love affair with motor sport and sporting cars, we looked forward to drive the well powered 1,2 litre 81 kW or 110 HP new Fabia. We were not disappointed: it came with a beautifully smooth and very alert 7 speed DSG box which, we found out to our pleasure and delight, is now honed to (almost) perfection, and this greatly enhanced our driving experience.
Sporting and cleverly practical
Stepping into the Fabia, we find ample space, even for the tallest among us. Our Fabia was full spec, with even a start stop knob where normally one has to put the starting key. Heated front seats, digital airco, superb sound system, you name it.
The cabin is quite roomy too, offering, in good Skoda tradition, a maximum of space in function of the wheelbase or rather the platform size. Also the boot is spacious enough with 330 litres storage space, increasing to 1150 litres with both rear seats folded down. Instrumentation is nice with two round dials for speed and revs, although, instrument buffs as we are, they could have been still a bit larger and more "dramatic" considering the performance of this Fabia.
The joy of driving a Skoda...
The leather rimmed steering wheel falls nicely in your hand, as does the knob of the DSG box. Just a slight pull backward to select the S mode, and then just let things happen. With a purposeful sounding staccato the revs go up to the 6300 rpm or so, and the Fabia just shoots away like a thoroughbred, reaching 100 km/h in merely 9,4 seconds.
The engine has a beautiful throb, and develops its maximum power over a rather broad rev range between 4600 and 5600 rpm. There is plenty of pulling power all throughout, and indeed, maximum torque of 175 Nm is developed between a mere 1400 rpm and a high 4000 rpm. This results in quite a formidable engine which feels equally at home when used sedately in the lower rev ranges, pottering around in city traffic, as when revved up, sportingly as a (almost) pure racing engine. That the engineers have succeeded in combining all this thoroughbred character with the frugality and cleanliness of a Euro 6 engine, is nothing short of a miracle. Because "our" Skoda is not only green, it is also quite frugal.
Skoda announces that the new Fabia is about 17 pct more economical than its predecessor, and after our test, we can believe them. Even when driving briskly, we reached a consumption well below 7 litres, rather around 6,3 to 6,5 litres. When driving with some moderation at constant speeds, a consumption around 5,5 litres was easily achieved. These are truly outstanding results for a powerful petrol engine of this sportiness. The manufacturer quotes a consumption of 4,7 litres on the mixed cycle, and CO2 emissions of 109 g/km.
The engine is indeed a state of the art unit, with double overhead camshafts, a compression ratio of 10,5 to 1, and of course the latest generation of electronically controlled direct injection.
When choosing the normal "D" driving mode, the DSG gearbox will use the good torque characteristics of the engine to the full, and will change up at around 2000 rpm, with the engine having ample pulling power in the range between 1400 and 2000 rpm. Of course, the slightest blip of the throttle will let the box change down a gear or two, and off you go...
The Skoda Fabia is quite well handling too, and takes all this power well into its stride. Indeed, even under full throttle, no steering reactions whatsoever are noticeable, and the Skoda handles with agility, remaining perfectly neutral until very high cornering speeds. It likes to be driven with spirit, and the firmish suspension then settles down nicely, delivering precise cornering.
The rather sporting suspension setting of this Fabia lets you feel the potholes and ridges of our Belgian roads, but this never gets uncomfortable at all. Stability on motorways is excellent, and even the very windy conditions during our test had no grip on our sporting Fabia. Needless to say that this Fabia is so endearing in its dynamic willingness, that it grows on you more every mile you drive it.
We found all the knobs and handles placed in the good spots, and everything was totally intuitive to use. One word of praise for the surprisingly good sound quality of the sound system in the car, which delivered crisp highs and deep basses, and seemed ideally suited to enjoy jazz music. Sound insulation is quite good, the engine is almost inaudible at constant speeds, and therefore this Fabia is an excellent long distance cruiser, and one can truly enjoy the music... literally!
If your are looking for a totally practical four door compact, which truly stands out as well in the city as on the motorway, which sports the latest state of the art technology of the VW concern, is quality built and offers pleasure every inch you drive it, then this Skoda Fabia is the car for you. It is also totally rational, when you consider value for money, durability, workmanship and last but not least, economy...
Hans Knol ten Bensel