The Fabia is a much more colourful supermini proposition in new third-generation form – both literally and metaphorically. We take a look at the range.
Skoda New Zealand’s ambition to be a mainstream brand starts here, with its first model launch for 2015: the third-generation Fabia.
That’s not to say Skoda’s supermini will be a big seller in isolation. But the projected lift in sales from just 25 Fabias in 2014 to 150 with this year’s new model will go a long way towards taking the Czech brand to its goal of 1000 passenger-car sales for 2015. Last year it achieved 856.
The Fabia is now much newer than the current Polo (its equivalent in parent brand Volkswagen’s lineup), but not entirely new-generation. Most new small-medium models from the VW Group are based on a new platform called MQB, which allows the company to share a vast number of components between different models/brands. MQB will certainly provide the base for the next-generation Polo, which we’ll see in 2016.
Obviously the company pecking order doesn’t quite allow Fabia access to the complete toolbox. So while there are important elements of MQB employed in this new model, such as powertrains, electronics and a new information and entertainment system, other parts are derived from the previous model, including the floor, firewall and even the rear seats.
Will that matter to potential buyers of a $20k-bracket supermini? Probably not, especially when the new Fabia looks sharp and drives well.
All models have a 1.2-litre petrol-turbo engine. The entry $19,990 model gets a 66kW/160Nm version of the powerplant, but it’s more price-leader than volume-model because it’s only available with a five-speed manual transmission.
Mainstream appeal lies with the 81kW/175Nm version, which starts at $24,990. It comes as standard with a seven-speed automated dual-clutch (DSG) transmission. There’s certainly no fuel-economy penalty with the larger engine: it achieves the same Combined 4.7 litres per 100km as the smaller powerplant.
Aside from the extra power, the 81kW Fabia has a higher level of standard equipment. It gains automatic lights and wipers, heated/folding door mirrors, rear parking sensors and an alloy-wheel upgrade from 15 to 16 inches.
The 81kW engine also gives Fabia a lift over its most obvious rival, the Polo. The VW starts at $23,490 but only gets the 66kW version of the 1.2-litre powerplant, albeit with the option of the DSG transmission.
Skoda is offering a range of enhancement packages for both Fabia models. The 66kW Fabia can be ordered with the $1200 Tech package, which includes LED daytime running lights, automatic air conditioning, fog lights and upgraded audio with Mirrorlink. Skoda claims the combined value of these items is $2300.
The 81kW mode can be ordered with either the Dynamic or Colour Sport packages, both for $2000. The Dynamic brings everything from the Tech list plus sports suspension on 17-inch wheels, sports seats/steering wheel, and tinted windows.
Colour Sport matches Dynamic but adds a feature colour on the roof, side mirrors and A-pillars. Customers can mix-and-match 15 base body colours with another four for the roof/pillars/mirrors/wheels, including white, silver, black and red. The alloys on the Colour Sport step back to 16-inchers but are also finished in the feature colour – and yes, that includes the red option.
A brief launch drive confirmed the Fabia’s credentials as a cheap-and-cheerful supermini. The powertrain is well-proven and slick as ever, while the chassis is well up to current VW Group standards.
The cabin is typically Skoda-conservative and doesn’t benefit from as many soft-touch materials as the Polo, but it’s well-built and functional.
Fabia will be a small but important player in Skoda’s long-term ambitions to become a mainstream concern in New Zealand: the Octavia wagon is currently the brand’s best performer, accounting for 41 percent of sales. Both the Octavia liftback and Yeti account for 14 percent, while the Fabia will be around 12 percent.
Forthcoming models include a new Superb in October, an all-new Yeti in 2017 and a new larger SUV in about three years.
Skoda’s European-based sales manager for New Zealand, Petr Skutina, visited Auckland for the Fabia launch and told media he was confident the brand had the perfect product portfolio for New Zealand tastes: “There are three main points. Kiwis are family oriented and that’s a great match, because Skoda is about family. Kiwis like outdoor activities and just look at the success of the Octavia wagon.
“Kiwis also like speed, especially from 0-100km/h – that few seconds of passion. Look again at the success of Octavia RS: already in New Zealand we have one of the highest mixes of RS models in the world.”
Unfortunately, Skutina says there is still no firm plan to produce a successor to the highly acclaimed first and second-generation Fabia RS models. If it happens at all, it will likely be after the next-generation Polo GTI has made its debut.
Browse Autotrader's range of Skoda Fabia cars for sale in New Zealand.