Can a new small turbo petrol engine keep the magic going?
We like the Skoda Fabia. Particularly with the 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It had 89bhp or 109bhp and in its lower output had some punchy performance mixed with serious economy. And now Skoda has dropped that engine, to replace it with a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit. Will the new engine – one we’ve seen across the VW Group’s range – prove as popular?
The car we’re trying here has that engine with an output of 94bhp although there is a 109bhp version. The figures tell a good story as, at least officially, it uses less fuel than the 1.2-litre unit while accelerating slightly faster to a slightly higher top end.
It makes peak power at 5,000rpm but that’s not a hardship as it doesn’t mind being revved at all and rewards with a fairly smooth and quiet, and characterful three-pot response. But it’s not just a screamer as peak torque starts at just 1,500rpm, so you can lug it around more like a diesel if you want to, with the proviso that in reality you’re better using a broader range of revs to maintain progress.
Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 Monte Carlo
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 115mph
Official economy: 64.2mpg
CO2, tax band: 101g/km, 19%
The Monte Carlo model comes with 16-inch wheels and they do seem to let a certain amount of bumps and thumps through into the cabin on rougher roads. This seems to be mainly at lower speeds, such as in cities. Out on the open roads at higher speeds it settles down more and is really very comfy.
The handling is sweet, not quite up to Ford Fiesta levels, but not far off. There’s a bit of body lean in corners but otherwise it’s a tenacious gripper with sharp steering. The Fabia is definitely a pleasure to drive.
The cabin is a fine place to be with remarkable amounts of space for all occupants given the exterior dimensions. The infotainment system and other equipment is really sound and very good value for the money. But nothing stands still and we’d have to say the new Seat Ibiza – again, part of the VW Group – has moved the game on yet further with more interior space and even better feeling materials than the Skoda. So it’s not quite the top player now, but the Skoda is far from being an also-ran.
That comparison in the cabin really sums up the situation here. The Skoda Fabia is still a fabulous small hatch, for really sensible money. This new 1.0-litre engine really does do a better job than the old and previously favourite 1.2-litre unit, so that is indeed progress as you’ll gain performance and save on expenditure.
However, we’re not quite so sold on the Monte Carlo trim, particularly those larger wheels which seem to exacerbate any pothole problems. The basic SE trim is really all you need in a Fabia and you’ll save some decent money in the process.
The Fabia has been a five-star car for years now, but the latest Seat Ibiza shows how cruel time can be. Still, the Fabia is a very strong performer, and we’re sure it’ll will be favourite for years to come.