By painting the Fabia roof white and the body metallic blue, Skoda have succeeded in making people think, “Oooh, it looks like a Mini.”
Behind their eyes, all week, I could see people calculating, "But hang on, it’s Skoda so it’s probably cheaper than the over-priced Mini.”
Then, without confessing this, almost everyone moved to, “But would you buy a Skoda? I mean will the brand ever be accepted?”
Rebecca said yes. Rosie said no. Guy wasn’t sure. Will was against, but didn’t like to say. He agreed with me though, that it’s like when, as a kid, you wanted the cool trainers, and your Mum bought you the cheaper version that looked similar. And said so no one would notice, but they always did.
The big giveaway that the Skoda isn’t as cool as a Mini is the interior. It has a slightly fuddy-duddy feel in comparison to the alloy wheels and funky metallic paint choice. Of course the plus side to that is it wouldn’t have felt fuddy-duddy had it not been beautifully made. Every surface and button had a quality look and feel.
Although the weak Climatronic air system and 2-tone read outs did make me think of a supermarket ‘own-brand.’
The sense of being in the blue and white striped can of beans rather than the Heinz tin started to fade away, however, when we left town. With four fully-grown adults on board and a boot with luggage, the Fabia provided power all the way through it’s range and the cruised quietly on all but rough road surfaces. The DSG gearbox can have an annoying delay (as it will in all VW group cars) but it’s unfair to complain about it as it is no better or worse than say, Volvo.
Even though the Fabia lacks the ‘hippee vibe’ of a Beetle or a Mini, it is the kind of car that I can see owners giving a pet name to, because it does everything so well. After a long day of driving through all sorts of different conditions – town, country, fast moving dual carriageway – I felt like I had bonded with Fiona Fabia.
I just wish she wasn’t so anti-social about letting passengers in. The remote control only unlocks the driver’s door on first click. And even though another click should do the rest it always seemed to require two more. I bring this up in order to highlight how well made and easy to live with the Fabia is. There are no problems with visibility, or refinement, the handling and steering feel like they have come from a top quality sports car (which if you read the review on the estate is not a surprise). The Fabia is so proficient in each field, that my biggest gripes are the interior colours and central locking.
My Mum, who also commented on the similarity to the Mini, loved ‘Fab Fi,’ and really felt it was a car to consider. In particular because she found it very comfortable and spacious compared to her daughter-in-law’s Mini. It’s just like when I was 8 and wanted the more expensive trainers. Only this time I see her wisdom.
What’s the market like?
There are a tiny number of nearly new and used Fabias (post 07) model. So when you find one in great condition (and most are) you don’t have a lot of room to negotiate. Pay the asking price or someone else will.
What else can this budget buy?
The Skoda Fabia is slightly smaller, not in a cramped way, but in a nimble way, when compared to a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. Yet it is bigger and easier to access than a Vauxhall Corsa or Volkswagen Polo.
So the best comparisons are actually with the Kia Rio and Suzuki SX4. But, actually, when compared to those two – effective cars though they are- the Skoda has more credibility. The Suzuki, staggeringly, manages to maintain residual prices that mean a one year old version is about £600 than a similar Fabia.
But a comparable Rio is up to £2,000 less and that does make up for a lot of short comings when compared to the Fabia.
A capable all-rounder that increasingly turns heads in a positive way too. You are unlikely to regret buying a Skoda.
Words: Matthew Tumbridge