The Fabia represents Skoda's first foray into small hatchback territory. For those who don't know, Skoda is one of Volkswagen's offshoots and offers much the same technology but in a more affordable package. It has a long racing history in Europe where Skoda is viewed as a very sporty brand.
Priced from $18,990, the Fabia is a rather tall, boxy design that sits on the same platform as VW's better-looking Polo with which it shares the same 1.2-litre engine.
At the moment you can only get a 1.2-litre TSI turbocharged engine that produces 77kW of power. It may sound small but the 1.2-litre engine uses direct injection and turbocharging to deliver a surpringly smooth powerful driving experience.
Peak power is reached at 5000 revs and maximum torque of 175Nm is available between 1500 and 4100 revs. The Fabia is fitted as standard with a five-speed fully synchronised manual transmission. An arrow on the dashboard prompts the driver to change up a gear in order to save fuel.
Nothing of any special note. Bluetooth is standard and it comes with steering wheel phone and audio controls, but you only get an AUX socket for your iPod.
Multi function display provides a nice, big digital speedo among other features. All the usual stuff like airconditioning, power windows and mirrors and an eight speaker sound system.
Cruise control is also standard. For the environmentally aware it's also very green, scoring 4.5 out of 5 stars from the Green Guide (Prius scores five).
The trick is not to get caught with your revs down, especially coming off a corner. Below about 2500 revs there's not much oomph, not until the boost from the turbo kicks in when the thing takes off. Because it's a manual this translates to changing gears and changing gears often.
Claimed fuel consumption is 5.5 litres/100km but we were getting 8.1/100km (bit of a difference eh?) The ride is quite soft for a European car, but not bouncy soft which is a good thing when it comes to our roads.
Not as safe as we had anticipated. It's fitted with six airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and all the rest of the stuff that makes cars safe to drive. But Fabia still manages to get only four out of five stars for safety in crash testing. This could be a deal breaker for some buyers, with plenty of five star cars around.
WHAT ABOUT THE POLO?
The five-door Polo 1.2 TSI Comfortline costs another $860. From what we can see there's not much difference, apart from the fact Fabia is built on the "old" platform.
Polo looks better, gets alloy wheels and a full five stars for safety. I'd say that more than justifies the extra outlay. Skoda really needs to drop the price if it hopes to attract many customers.
SKODA FABIA 77TSI
Price: from $18,990
Warranty: 3 year/unlimited
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety: 4 star Euro NCAP
Engine: 1.2-litre 4-cyl turbo pertrol; 77kW/177Nm.
Body: 5-door, 5 stars
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Thirst: 5.5L/100km; 128g/km Co2