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Skoda Fabia SE L: long-term test review

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Skoda Fabia SE L: long-term test review - first report header

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12 May, 2019 10:00am James Brodie

First report: Skoda Fabia supermini mixes old and new tech – but does that limit its appeal?

Mileage: 904
Economy: 38.8mpg

We’ve welcomed a fresh supermini to our fleet. Say hello to our very new and very blue Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI SE L, which we’ll be taking to task over the next six months on test.

Why the Fabia? Here and now in 2019, it occupies an interesting space in the Volkswagen Group empire. It was on the receiving end of a very mild facelift in 2018, but this is a car that sticks out in the group’s vast small car spread. While its main siblings, the Volkswagen Polo and SEAT Ibiza, have moved on to the latest group supermini platform – known internally as MQB A0 – the sensible Skoda sticks with the older PQ architecture.

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We’ve already run an Ibiza, and we still have a Polo on the books. As such, we’re going to find out just how far things have moved on. Is the small Skoda and its previous-generation underpinnings still worth the cash, or is it becoming obsolete tech – like the CD-Roms I’m holding above?

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Skoda Fabia SE L: long-term test review - first report front action

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Ultimately, and despite the older mechanicals, this isn’t a car on its way out. In fact, a new Fabia won’t appear until 2021 at the earliest. The current car isn’t quite old enough to boast a CD player, but on first impressions there are some small aspects that make the Skoda feel like a cassette tape in an increasingly digital world, especially compared with its updated siblings.

For instance, our SE L model occupies a lofty spot in the Fabia line-up. However, venture into the back seats and you’ll find old-school window winders; even the most basic Polo has electric operation all round. True, this is a cheaper car than a Polo, but at £17,160, it’s still a big investment for many.

It’s not lacking in other kit, though. As standard the Fabia SE L features 16-inch wheels (although we’ve added the optional 17-inch alloys), body-coloured door mirrors and handles, and LED daytime running lights. Away from cosmetic upgrades, it gets a whole heap of tech. By default it comes with a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The SE L also comes with cruise control and rear parking sensors, while our model features front and rear parking sensors for an extra £295. In a car of this size, it’s probably a box we’d recommend that most buyers leave unticked; they’re more for peace of mind than of much practical use.

Look at the Fabia from the outside, and it strikes you as being small, even for a supermini. In fact, with a length sneaking in at just under four metres, there are few big-selling B-segment cars that are smaller. It’s not short of space, though – Skoda’s cars are known for being practical, and the Fabia is no exception. It’s spacious inside and rear-seat passengers won’t have much to complain about. Still, we’ll be putting that to the test over the coming months; perhaps some of my pickier friends might complain about legroom, but we’ll see.

Skoda hasn’t opted to fully push the boat out with the Fabia’s mid-life refresh. As such, stick our updated car alongside an older one, and all you’ll pick out from the outside is a new grille and headlights.

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Skoda Fabia SE L: long-term test review - first report in-car

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On the road, it feels a little less grown up to drive than its group stablemates, and there’s certainly a bit of age to be felt in the PQ platform. The ride isn’t quite as settled as more modern superminis’, and the optional 17-inch wheels on our car don’t help in this regard. We’d recommend sticking with the standard 16-inch wheels if you’re more interested in cruising comfort than style.

Everything else about the way the Fabia goes down the road is pretty neat and tidy, though. The controls are noticeably light and easy-going, particularly the steering and the gearshift. Driving the Fabia around London and being stuck in the capital’s traffic is a doddle, and the central touchscreen, while now a generation old, is still bright and slick to use.

On first impressions, the Fabia is a mix and match of elements that are up to date and those that are becoming outdated. So it will be interesting to see what ages most during our time with it.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

3.5 On first impressions the Fabia is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s clear that this is a car Skoda doesn’t feel is in need of flashy new trinkets to find buyers. We’ll see if it holds up over the coming months.

  • Model: Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 110 SE L
  • On fleet since: March 2019
  • Price new: £17,160
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo petrol, 108bhp
  • CO2/tax: 107g/km/£140
  • Options: 17-inch alloy wheels (£360), Leather steering wheel pack (£155), Front and rear parking sensors (£295), Auto wipers and auto-dimming main mirror (£130), Simply Clever pack (£125), Winter pack (£250)
  • Insurance*: Group: 12/Quote: £363
  • Mileage: 904
  • Economy: 38.8mpg
  • On sale: Now

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