A murky grey afternoon greets us as we arrive to Portugal’s capital Lisbon but thankfully we are not here to sunbathe. For the 5 weeks previous to our arrival motoring journalists were here to test Škoda’s much anticipated third generation Fabia. Now as the regular daily test schedules end, our near 2000-kilometer trip of returning to Ireland with the new Fabia was about to begin.
Tuesday November 3rd a group of Irish motoring hacks gathered for a first look at the new Fabia and a presentation delivered by Škoda Ireland’s Hugh Delaney. The contents of the presentation highlighted a few note worthy points which signified the importance of this supermini for the Czech brand. Whilst Škoda has doubled their sales volume over the last ten years and are on track to sell a million cars in 2014, just 499 Fabia’s have been registered in Ireland to date this year. Of course this is to be expected as any vehicle reaches the end of its life cycle but selling just 499 units does leave challenges in a sector that’s already very competitive. Knowing this Škoda has put in a target of 900 units for 2015, but before I asked if that was an ambitious figure, I thought best to get behind the wheel.
After keys were issued we approached the 2015 Fabia to load up our luggage and my initial impressions were definitely led by the proportions of the new model. It looks lower, sharper and altogether more balanced all round. Gone are the slab sided looks thanks to a drop of 30mm and the width has increased a further 35mm resulting in a much more planted supermini. The overall length has somehow shrunk 8mm but more remarkable Škoda has shaved 65kg of weight from the old model, which will no doubt add to performance and economy. Using the key fob I popped the boot to reveal 330 litres of boot space making this the largest in its sector some 30 litres more than its closest rival the Citroen C3. Needless to say our cases were swallowed up with ease, leaving room for some wine should we get the urge to shop along the way.
Inside, the new Fabia looks smart and sophisticated. The dash is clean looking with everything within easy reach. The driving position is great and after a few minor seat adjustments I felt comfortable and ready for the road ahead. My test vehicle was the 1.2 90hp Style option, which features a touch screen with MirrorLink to allow you to see your phone apps on screen. After a bit of fiddling we got the navigation to accept Burgos, Northern Spain as our overnight destination. Moments later I had to revert back to my Tom Tom device after discovering I couldn’t play the radio and the Nav through MirrorLink simultaneously. With a 7-hour drive ahead music would be welcome on this trip! Leaving Lisbon we quickly became acquainted with our Fabia’s as we negotiated the city traffic and then filtered out onto the motorway. The peppy 1.2 litre engine gets to 100km/h in 10.9 seconds and with the cruise control set to 120km/h we watched the mileage go by. The drive once out of the city was predominately motorway and we averaged 6.5 litres per hundred kilometres but in everyday easy driving conditions Škoda are confident it will use just 4.7 litres per hundred. Overall the drive on day one was pretty pain free and as the sun dropped we reached our destination for night one having used a little over a tank’s worth of fuel.
November 4th would see us back in the cars with La Rochelle on the west coast of France set as our destination. This 6-hour trek took us through the Pyrenees negotiating heavy thunderstorms as we crossed the border into France. In one sense it slowed us right down but in another, it allowed time to truly test the Fabia’s road holding capabilities and thankfully we were not disappointed. With winter tyres fitted the water was dispersed with ease and the impressive chassis inspired confidence through the corners as we made headway. Two hours in and the sun was back out and our pace began to gather again. Later that evening we were joined by Head of Marketing & Product for Škoda Ireland Raymond Leddy. Over dinner Ray was quick to point out that “The Fabia was initially planned for launch in Ireland early 2015 similar to the UK however, we are launching early in December to meet the demands of customers who want to place orders for delivery in January.” The very cars we were driving are now in showrooms around the country for those interested in seeing the Fabia before 2015.
November 5th marked the final day of driving before we would board the ferry in Cherbourg for an overnight sailing to Rosslare. It was another five-hour trek that the Fabia negotiated with ease. Again a lot of motorway was used to stay on schedule and it gave us some more time to reflect on the Fabia and what a great little car it is. The first thing you have to do is remind yourself this is a supermini because it certainly doesn’t feel that way when driving. The next thing is the price point and this is where Škoda has really done well. The entry price to the Fabia range is €13,895 for the 1.0-litre, 60bhp Active and prices climb to €20,495 for the all-singing, all dancing 1.4 90hp diesel with DSG transmission. For me, I would gather a budget around 16k and let Škoda tailor a model to suit my needs. All the test cars we tested used petrol power plants and whilst diesel options are super frugal returning up to 3.4 litres per hundred it’s hard to ignore how good these new 3 and 4-cylinder petrol’s are.
As I arrived into Cherbourg and entered the mouth of the Oscar Wilde Ship from Irish Ferries a hint of disappointment came over me. Some 2000 kilometers had just been completed effortlessly and my time with the 2015 Škoda Fabia had come to a conclusion. Few superminis leave me wanting to drive them again in a hurry but the Fabia is different, very different. It could be the game changer in this sector!
[table “208” not found /]