By Patrick James on 2017-11-18 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Skoda Fabia Estate
1.4 SE L
THE first Fabia estate I drove a few years ago quickly became one of my favourite cars - an estate version of a supermini that seemed so much bigger, as well as being cheap to buy, tax and insure.
It was also one of the first estates which was just as stylish as the saloon version, perhaps even more so.
Nothing has changed with the latest version, apart from being more expensive. Of course the styling carries the corporate image of its stablemates, with angular corners, smart alloys and ever more recognisable grille, but it is still almost a one-off.
Being larger and stronger than its predecessor yet it tips the scales at up to 65kg less, a reduction which makes it up to 17 per cent more efficient.
Stowage space is huge for the kind of car. The 530 litres with the seats in position and 1,395 litres with them folded is class leading and for extra practicality there are the integrated roof bars.
Add to that a range of clean and economical petrol and diesel engines and its quite a combination for the price tag.
Skoda has never been short of clever little innovations - remember the under-seat brolly, which is retained here - and the ‘Simply Clever' features include a handy ice scraper in the fuel filler cap and a new multimedia device cradle in the centre console, high-viz vest and storage nets on the inside edges of the doors, plus bottle-holders integrated into the front seats.
The VW-owned Czech firm has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 10-15 years, with models to suit most pockets and driving choice, competing strongly with its own parent firm's offering.
That is because of the quality inherent throughout the VW group and Skoda has taken full advantage of this.
A functional car, there is nothing really flashy and fancy dan about the interior, with a workmanlike dash and console housing well placed legible controls.
The dark trim is offset by bright chrome inserts to doors, steering wheel and gear lever, but although plain it does feel well put together.
The centrepiece on the Fabia Estate is the central touchscreen which unlike some is intuitive and easy to use, controlling features like app/phone connectivity, sound system, climate control and satellite navigation.
It offers smartphone connection via Bluetooth, USB and via a new optional SmartLink system that allows owners to seamlessly connect their Apple or Android smartphones via MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
It also comes with a SmartGate function that enables display, storage and use of selected vehicle data on Apple iOS and Android smartphone devices. Skoda's own Drive app can show a driver how efficient their driving has been on any given trip.
The Fabia Estate issurprisingly roomy, seating four adults in real comfort, with the fifth not quite so comfortably Headroom and legroom is good with plenty of room for a small family.
All models are well equipped with four trim levels: S, SE, SE L and Monte Carlo.
Entry-level S models include six airbags, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, stop/start and electric front windows as standard, while SE models add manual air conditioning, alloy wheels, Arkamys surround sound package and Bolero radio with telephone control, SmartLink, USB and SD card connections, while the SE L models add even more features including, 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control air-conditioning, cruise control and keyless entry system.
Performance is also good. This model is powered by a 105ps 1.4-litre diesel engine. Not the quietest, certainly at start up, it hits 60mph in just over 10 seconds.
Mated to a slick five-speed gearbox, it is nippy enough for most situations while returning an official 70.6mpg, and CO2 emissions of 106g/km. Real driving conditions deliver a figures nearer the mid-50s mpg, but it is economical and cheap to run.
The diesel clatter virtually disappears when under way and the ride is firm, but comfortable. and handles well enough for the type of car.
Skoda Fabia Estate 1.4 SE L
Mechanical: 105ps, 1,422cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 70.6
Insurance Group: 12
C02 emissions: 106g/km
Bik rating: 24%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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