8 March 2019

Skoda Fabia 2019 Car Review

Anyone still tempted to make Skoda jokes based on a long outdated unfavourable preconception has clearly come somewhat late to the Skoda party.

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Skoda Fabia 2019
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Skoda Fabia 2019
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Skoda Fabia 2019
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Skoda Fabia 2019
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Skoda Fabia 2019

Now an entry marque to the Volkswagen brand, its models are closely related, share an enormous number of under-the-skin parts, and even a fairly restrained design ethos. The main difference – as far as the buyer is concerned – is that whichever Skoda you’re looking at likely undercuts the equivalent Volkswagen in price.

Take this Fabia, a Polo-lite which therefore could be considered the entry to the entire Volkswagen group portfolio, hence the ‘Ambition’ variant name, perhaps.

The entry car is powered by a one-litre three-cylinder engine which introduces the two-car line-up for frugal buyers looking to save fuel, and give up a few features in exchange for a 20K price tag.

We tested the 1.5-litre instead, figuring that those Kiwis looking for more than a city runabout would likely appreciate the increased urge on our open roads, not to mention some of the extra fruit – all obtained without an unreasonable jump in price.

Look at the cost of this car and you might expect a lightweight, but it feels nicely solid. Ride and handling are confident on B roads, and though it doesn’t pretend to be sporty, it’s happy to cling to bends if you’re the sort of driver who sees momentum conservation as a fun challenge.

Get to the highway and it cruises capably and quietly at the open road limit, while round town it’s compact enough to slot into small parks, or easily dispatch a U-turn. Although all-round view out is pretty good, this spec gets the reversing camera and rear park sensors that’ll cost an extra $750 and $550 in the base car, worth having when reversing down family driveways or among bollards and bins.

That base car costs $4500 less, but also gives away 500cc, 26kW and 60Nm to this auto. And it loses out on the front collision warning, the driver fatigue alert and the central armrest (which folds up out of the way). Want a USB port for the rear? That’s $600 in the base car – including the required armrest – or $200 in this one.

A panoramic sunroof is optional in either variant, for $1500, as are rear tint windows and a few techie extras, like Android Auto/Apple Carplay and a satnav-equipped entertainment system.

Either version gets 15-inch wheels as standard, part of the reasonable ride-comfort equation for the bracket. We’d not be tempted to upsize those alloys – the 16-inch and -17inch options may be handsome, but the increased rim size reduces tyre sidewall height, and thus the ability of the tyre to help cushion occupants from bumps and jiggles.

Practical touches added to Fabia’s boot include shopping bag hooks, and a small bin atop the left-rear wheel arch plus another behind it, while the right carries an elastic strap to hold a bottle in place.

Back-seat passengers have adequate knee room, though no frills, while the fronts have enough side bolster shaping to keep most happy, and a typically ‘Volkswagen family’ design restraint for the dash which comes with a simple, intuitive layout made simpler by accessing some features via the touch screen.

The Fabia is certainly smart –if understated – in terms of its exterior and interior design, but then that’s almost a given for the lower ends of the Volkswagen family tree, and is offset by the quality feel, despite the hard plastics used where some might prefer soft-touch.

It also feels spacious for the bracket, assisted by a high-ish roofline, and there’s enough storage to satisfy most who live with it every day.

The boot is more useful than it might look, thanks partly to its square profile and wide opening – we carried a bulky package during our test which onlookers laid bets would not fit – though we’d prefer the row-two seats to fold flat.

Skoda claims a 5.9l/100km overall thirst. We averaged in the high sixes after over 300km of pretty varied driving, with a higher proportion of hills and urban going than flat and highway.

Not surprisingly, the Fabia is priced under Volkswagen’s slightly better speced and sharper-looking Polo – not significantly, but at this end of the market, where an extra thousand or two may be hard to obtain, that’s likely to be all it takes to get those seeking a more affordable Volkswagen to join the family.

At a glance


Skoda Fabia Ambition


1598cc multi-point injection petrol



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

81kW at 5800rpm, 155Nm at 3800-4000rpm


Six-speed auto

Fuel economy


Towing capacity



2WD front

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

330 litres seats up, 1150 litres seats down

Safety systems

  • Bluetooth hands-free
  • ESP with traction control
  • Cruise control with speed limiter
  • Reversing camera
  • Front assist collision alert
  • Driver fatigue monitor
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Six airbags
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