SKODA has raised the bar with its all-new fourth-generation Fabia hatchback with its dynamic styling, a wealth of new technology and a choice of more efficient petrol engines.
It's hard to believe the five-door Fabia supermini has been around for more than two decades now, but it still has global appeal and, to date, more than 4.5 million models have been sold.
Now the new car is here and customers have plenty of choices to make. With prices starting from £15,305 and rising to £19,380, there are well-equipped trim levels called S, SE Comfort, SE L and a special Colour Edition to select from.
A sportier Monte Carlo model will be joining the line-up later this year.
The engine choices are a little more limited for customers withfour three-cylinder 1.0-litre units with power outputs of 65ps, 80ps, 95ps and 110ps, along with a four-cylinder 1.5-litre option with 150ps.
However, there are no hybrid or electric versions.
We tried the Fabia in the Colour Edition trim driven by a three-cylinder turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI engine with 95ps of power, 175Nm of torque and mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Priced at £18,445 -increased to £22,320 with options - this car could complete the 0-62mph dash in 10.6 seconds, maxed out at 119mph and could deliver a combined 55.4mpg with carbon emissions of 116g/km.
There's no denying the fact that the new Fabia is a good looking car. It has grown in length and width which not only gives it more road presence but also improves space within the cabin - which is great news for all occupants.
Design cues include a more dynamic look with crisp lines, a sculpted bonnet, hexagonal grille, LED lights, privacy glass, black pillars and neat 16-inch alloys.
The Colour Edition version allows customers to spice up the styling with contrast shades for the roof, wing mirror caps and alloy wheels. Our car also featured a panoramic glass roof which let light flood into the cabin.
The interior is modern and clutter-free with smart grey fabric upholstered seats and contrast stitching. There is lots of leather trimming and, for the first time, a digital instrument display.
This 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit display, which is available on the higher grade Fabia models, can be personalised with four layouts called Classic, Modern, Reduced and Extended. It can also show maps, including close-up views of junctions, music album covers, radio stations and caller profile images.
Elsewhere there is a smaller eight-inch colour infotainment screen, a six-speaker Bolero sound system, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB radio, along with air conditioning that is controlled from a separate panel with physical buttons.
This is far less distracting than having to navigate drop-down touchscreen menus just to adjust the temperature. Everything is very driver-focused in the Fabia and the all-round visibility is also good.
When it comes to performance, the little three-pot engine delivers plenty of zip and the car fizzes through the country lanes. It will cruise at 70mph on motorways although the engine gets more vocal when pushed on and the Fabia, complete with light steering, is ideal for weaving through busier town centre congestion.
The car did get buffeted a little in stronger cross winds and occasionally I did go in search of that non-existent sixth gear, but they were my only real criticisms of an otherwise excellent all-round performance.
Special mention has to go to the highly effective suspension set-up that helps smooth out uneven road surfaces along the way.
With its larger dimensions, cabin space has increased. There is bundles of room up front and a couple of adults can sit comfortably in the back if the front seats are not pushed right back. Ideally though, the back is suited for children and there are all the necessary Isofix fittings to secure child seats.
The boot capacity, which was already the biggest in class, has increased by 50 litres to 380 litres. This limit grows to 1,190 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat and there are straps and hooks to secure shopping bags.
The cabin has additional storage options with a deep glovebox, narrow cup holders, door bins with a space for a bottle, seat back pockets and a secret compartment next to the driver's right knee.
The new Fabia was recently tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating and was awarded the maximum five stars with special mention to child safety which scored 81 per cent.
Systems include front assist with pedestrian and cyclist protection and manoeuvre assist, lane assist, side assist, a driver condition monitor, traffic sign recognition and up to nine airbags. The eCall system is standard across the range and will alert the emergency services in the event of an accident.
All in all, Skoda has been a key player in the supermini segment since the arrival of the Fabia back in 1999. Now the car has got even more appeal with its sporty new look, high-end technology, competitive pricing and efficient engines.