The ‘supermini B-segment sized Skoda Fabia five door hatchback range was launched in January this year with prices from £10,600
and immediately was voted What Car? magazines Car of the Year and other awards have followed.
Now the five door Fabia Estate range has joined the line-up priced from £12,460. With the same specification level options and a similar engine line-up the difference between the Fabia Hatchback and Estate models is all about size.
Whereas the 3,992mm long Fabia Hatchback offers 330 to 1,150-litres of load space the Estate with its longer body length at 4,257mm has a load capacity of 530 to 1,395-litres. The wheelbase is the same for both so the rear passenger legroom is the same between the two body styles. The headroom for the rear seat passengers in the Estate is marginally more and the load bed length with the seats in position is 958mm for the Estate and 716mm for the Hatchback. Both versions use a version of the VW Group’s highly praised modular MQB platform which also features in the VW Golf, SEAT Leon, Audi TT and at the other end of the scale the new VW Passat Estate.
The new generation Fabia range will return to the top of the Skoda sales charts in the UK with around 25,000 sales projected in a full year with the Estate expected to account for around 7,000 units. Whilst the Hatchback will attract 65% of its orders from retail customers and 35% from fleet users, the Estate will appeal to 55% private buyers with the business and fleet sectors accounting for 45% of UK sales.
The role difference between the new Estate and the Hatchback can be illustrated by the expected engine choice. The Fabia Estate is expected to see a 50-50 split between petrol and diesel units in line with its family transport and workhorse capabilities. But 86% of Fabia Hatchback customers will choose a petrol engine.
The engine line-up for the Estate more or less mirrors that of the Hatchback with only the lower powered 1.0-litre petrol 60hp unit not available for the Estate line-up. The engine choices are 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol 75hp, 1.2-litre four cylinder petrol 90 and 110hp plus the 1.4 TDI, three cylinder turbodiesel with 90hp and 105hp power outputs. Specification levels are S, SE and 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.
The third generation Fabia range 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 styling lines are continued along the sides of the vehicle. At the rear of the estate is a wide tailgate giving easy access to the load area.
I have just had my first driving experience in the new Fabia Estate, namely the 1.4-litre TDI 90hp turbodiesel manual gearbox with SE L specification priced at £17,385. A DSG automatic transmission version costs £18,385.
The SE L specification adds such items as 16-inch alloy wheels, black roof rails, front fog lights, LED daytime running lights, three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, front and rear floor mats, climate control air conditioning, cruise control and KESSY GO the keyless entry start/stop function. As with the Hatchback there is a comprehensive range of extra cost personalisation options available. These include a £180 bike carrier, high-vis Sprint Yellow special body paintwork for £535, heated front seats at £180 and unfortunately the must-have temporary spare wheel will costs an extra £85 but at least one is available and can be fitted in the Estate with only a minimum loss of that all important load space.
In the handling department we already know the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform is a ‘winner’ and the Fabia’s version of it is good. 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 it looks really good as well.
What wasn’t so good was the 1.4-litre TDI three cylinder 90hp engine. Its three cylinder design I found very course and noisy. Even with 230Nm of torque available from 1,750rpm it always sounded stressed and hard working even if it wasn’t being pushed along. Part of the problem is the very high gearing used to achieve good fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. It has a five speed manual gearbox with fifth and fourth overdrive ratios. Much of the time I needed to be driving in third or fourth gears on winding country roads and fifth was only really of use at speeds around 55mph and above. Not only was it frustrating to drive, it was tiring and noisy. Top speed is 114mph and zero to 62mph takes 11.3 seconds.
Officially this engine will return 83.1mpg in the Combined Cycle and during my week long driving covering in-town stop-start to motorway journeys the real-life figure was 60.1mpg. As always three cylinder engines need to be worked harder than four cylinder units and the actual fuel economy suffers and they lack refinement. However with CO2 emissions of just 89g/km the up-side is no VED road tax costs and Benefit-in-Kind company car tax is rated at 16% having recently gone up from 14% in the recent Budget.
Like the Fabia Hatchback I test drove at the media launch, personally unless I was a company car driver covering very high mileages or even as a retail customer, I would opt for the smoother and much quieter 1.2-litre TSI 90hp turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine. With SE L specification this version costs £2,000 less to buy. It will officially return 60.1mpg (47.7mpg on test with the Hatchback version), CO2 emissions are only 107g/km so VED road tax is £0 for the first year rate and only £20 for year two onwards and company car drivers only get hit with the same 16% BIK tax. Performance figures are virtually the same as the more expensive diesel unit. I think the petrol engine is the much nicer to drive and to live with option.
But whichever Fabia Estate version is chosen it is generally a competitive proposition in terms of the overall package it brings to the market at competitive prices. It uses all the best bits available from the Volkswagen Group’s vast range of components coupled with Skoda’s skill at putting together a distinctively styled, well priced, well equipped product with easy-on-the-pockets cost of ownership. The new Fabia is already an award winner and becoming a sales winner should be no problem even in today’s competitive market place.
MILESTONES: Skoda Fabia Estate 1.4 TDI 90hp, manual, SE L. Price: £17,385. Engine/transmission: 1.4-litre, 3-cylinder, turbodiesel, 90hp, 230Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 114mph, 0-62mph 11.3-seconds, 83.1mpg Combined Cycle (60.1mpg on test), CO2 89g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 16%. Insurance group: 11E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities:
L 4,257mm, W 1,732mm, H 1,488mm, boot/load space 530 to 1,395-litres, 5-doors/5-seats, braked towing weight 1,100kg. For: Attractive styling inside and out, roomy, well equipped, good specification, low running costs, fuel efficient engine, comfortable, easy to drive, 5-star safety rating. Against: Noisy and harsh engine, fidgety low speed handling at times, some items of hard cheap feel interior plastic trim, spare wheel should be a standard fit item. Miles Better News Agency