The New Year has started well for Skoda, the 119 year old Czech manufacturer now part of the Volkswagen Group.
Last week it was announced the brand had achieved an all time record year of global sales of 1.04million vehicles in 2014, an increase of 12.7%.
In the UK it was also another record year, their fifth consecutive one, with over 75,448 new car sales, an increase of 14.2% over 2013 and double their registrations of five years ago. The UK is now Skoda’s fourth largest global market.
To cap it all last week the all-new Fabia five door ‘supermini sized’ hatchback was announced at the annual What Car? magazine’s motoring Oscars as the best Small Car and overall their Car of the Year for 2015.
This is the third generation of the Fabia range which first went on sale in the year 2,000 and won the same What Car? award. To date over 250,000 Fabias have been sold in the UK out of a total of 3.5-million global sales.
The Fabia five door hatchback ‘supermini’ priced from £10,600 has just received its media launch this week and there will be launch events for customers in their network of 134 dealerships on Saturday 31 January and Sunday 1 February.
That is not the end of the good news for Skoda customers as the new Fabia Estate joins the line-up in early March with prices starting at £12,460 and in September their all-new executive sector Superb models will arrive.
The Fabia brings to market the new design face of Skoda with sharper more dynamic styling lines and these will be carried through to other new models introduced to the overall Skoda line-up. At the front are crystal style headlights flanking a new 19 vertical bar grille. The sculptured bonnet also has sharp and precise crease lines and the same theme is continued along the sides of the vehicle.
Built upon a shortened version of the highly rated Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB platform the new Fabia hatchback is 21mm lower and 8mm shorter than the outgoing range but it is 90mm wider which gives it a more purposeful appearance. It is roomier as well with more elbow room front and rear and the boot space has been increased to 330-litres and grows to 1,150-litres with the divided rear seat backs folded down.
Even with more space and increased specification the new Fabia is up to 65kg less in weight than its predecessor and this helps with the new hatchback’s agility and efficiency in terms of performance versus improved fuel economy and lower emissions. With their Euro 6 engine line-up the new range is claimed to be up to 17% more efficient Official fuel economy ranges from 58.9 to 83.1mpg, up to 15.8mpg better than the previous range of engines. The CO2 emissions range from 88 to 110g/km and power output from 60hp to 110hp.
The engine line-up consists of 1.0-litre, three cylinder petrol units of 60 and 75hp power outputs and 1.2 TSI four cylinder turbocharged petrol options of 90 and 110hp. Diesel customers can choose between 90 and 105hp versions of a 1.4-litre, three-cylinder TDI unit. To come is a Greenline version with a 1.4 TDI 75hp turbodiesel unit which is expected to return over 88mpg with CO2 emissions of just 82g/km.
Jonathan Harris, Skoda UK’s Product Manager said, “At this stage the best selling engine could be the 1.0-litre 75hp or the 1.2-litre 90hp, we think it will be an equal split.” He added that around 86% of UK customers will choose a petrol engine for the Fabia hatchback but when it comes to the Fabia estate they expect to see a 50-50 split of sales between petrol and diesel engines. As to the split between retail and fleet sales it will be 65% retail for the hatchback and 55% retail for the estate.
There are three levels of specification currently on offer depending on the engine chosen. These are S followed by the best selling SE and topping out the line-up is SE-L. All models are fitted with six airbags, Bluetooth and DAB radio but air conditioning and alloy wheels only come along on SE and SE-L levels of spec. A top of the range Monte Carlo spec level will be added to the line up in the future.
Jonathan Harris said that the S specification models of the new Fabia hatchback show a price increase over the outgoing range of between £655 and £755 depending on the engine choice but the added specification of the new models is £740. This added spec includes DAB radio, Bluetooth, 5-inch touchscreen, electrically adjustable/heated door mirrors and body coloured door mirrors/handles.
When it comes to the most popular SE spec level the price has gone up by £780 to £1,070 but the added value is £1,755. The extra spec includes rear parking sensors, 6.5-inch touchscreen, trip computer, front assist radar automatic emergency braking, surround sound speaker package and leather steering wheel.
The SE-L level prices have gone up by between £595 and £1,575 but the added value of upgraded specification Skoda say is £2,330. This is made up of LED daytime running lights, three spoke multifunction steering wheel, light assistant and keyless entry start/stop called KESSY Go.
As always there is also a full range of extra cost options and paintwork and trim styling options. A £600 panoramic sunroof is available for the first time on the Fabia. One of the options I like is the £250 Colour Concept. Customers can choose the roof and 16-inch alloy wheels of the Fabia in either white, silver or black to match with a selection of exterior body colours. The white roof and wheels over the red or blue body paintwork looked particularly fetching and gave the sculptured and sharp lined hatchback body and even sportier look. For the interior there is also the option of a coloured decorative insert for the fascia which costs an extra £50. Not so appealing is the extra £85 for a temporary space-saver steel spare wheel or the £50 cost for a set of interior masts, both I think are necessities so should we be paying more for them given Skoda’s stance on adding more equipment to the new range?
When it comes to new Fabia sales numbers Jonathan Harris said, “This year we will sell 16,000 hatchbacks and around 4,000 estates but in a full year this will go up to 18,000 hatchbacks and 7,000 estates. Currently, because of the run-out of the old models, the Fabia is our second highest selling model range behind the Octavia but once the line-up is complete the new Fabia will be our top seller again.”
For the UK media launch I drove the 1.2 TSI 90hp turbocharged petrol engine hatchback with the best selling SE specification, this was in fact the version which received the What Car? Magazine’s 2015 Car of the Year title. This version is priced at £13,390 but if the lesser powered model with the 1.0-litre 75hp three cylinder normally aspirated petrol unit with the same SE specification is chosen the price drops to £12,195. The insurance rating is also lower at 3E instead of the 8E for the 1.2 unit. The CO2 emissions are virtually the same 108g/km for the triple and 107g/km for the 1.2-litre so VED road tax is the same at £0 First Year rate and then just £20 for Year Two onwards. The Combined Cycle fuel economy for the 1.2-litre unit is also better at 60.1mpg as opposed to 58.9mpg for the 1.0-litre engine.
Choosing the 1.0-litre engine could be the option if the Fabia hatchback is being used as a second car or just for short distance commuting or shopping trips although it would also be ideal for a young driver because of the lower insurance costs.
However in real-life driving conditions the larger 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine not only has more power it has a lot more torque, 160Nm as opposed to 95Nm for the 1.0-litre engine. In addition, because the 1.2-litre engine is turbocharged, the torque is delivered from just 1,400rpm which makes it extremely responsive for acceleration from low speed or in the mid range for overtaking slower traffic and it is less stressed for high speed motorway cruising.
In real-life driving conditions I mostly find four cylinder engines get closer to the official fuel economy figures than the small triples because they are not worked as hard. On test driving in busy traffic along the South Coast and around the country roads of the South Downs the Fabia 1.2-litre model returned a figure of 47.7mpg and remember this is a petrol engine not a diesel. Top speed 113mph and zero to 62mph takes 10.9 seconds. If a customer chooses the 1.0-litre 75hp version then top speed is a modest107mph but the acceleration time is a tardy 14.7 seconds.
Skoda might be undecided which of the two main engine options, 1.0 or 1.2 petrol, will be the most popular but for me it is a clear decision. For the 1.2 you pay a little more purchase price and insurance but you get much more in the way of better performance, a nicer driving experience and better fuel economy.
In the handling department we already know the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform is a ‘winner’, the Fabia’s version of it is first class. The handling is sharp, the ride comfort generally good although the low speed ride comfort over poorer road surfaces is a bit harsh. The steering is precise and there seemed to be plenty of cornering grip even on wet roads. It is easy to park with good visibility and finally the deciding factor – it looks really good as well.
What makes the Fabia such a good proposition is the overall package it brings to the market. It uses all the best bits available from the Volkswagen Group’s vast range of components with Skoda’s skill at putting together a distinctively styled, well priced, well equipped product with easy-on-the-pockets cost of ownership. It is already an award winner and becoming a sales winner should be no problem even in today’s competitive market place.
MILESTONES: Skoda Fabia 5-Door Hatchback 1.2 TSI 90hp (Likely best selling model). Price: £13,390. Engine/transmission: 1.2-litrte, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine 90hp, 160Nm of torque from 1,400rpm, 5-speed manual gearbox. Performance: 113mph, 0-62mph 10.9 seconds, 60.1mpg (47.7mpg on test), CO2 107g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £20 per annum thereafter, BIK company car tax 14%. Insurance group: 8E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,992mm, W 1,732mm, H 1,467, Boot/load area 330 to1,150-litres, 4/5 seats. Braked towing weight: 1,000kg. For: Attractive styling inside and out, roomy, well equipped, good specification, low running costs, lively engine, agile handling, easy and pleasing to drive, 5-star safety rating. Against: Some necessary options should be standard fit, harsh low speed ride at times, some items of hard cheap feel interior plastic trim. Miles Better News Agency