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Skoda Fabia softer but not flabbier

New and improved: The new-generation Skoda Fabia shares a lot with its VW Polo cousin but components and tuning of things such as suspension differ according to each brand's values.

New lighter Skoda Fabia zeroes in on comfort and refinement

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Skoda logo20 Oct 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

SKODA says its third-generation Fabia was engineered to be a leap forward in comfort and refinement over the outgoing model, but without going backwards in steering and handling finesse.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Fabia's global launch in Portugal last week, Skoda Auto head of chassis development Vratislav Kozub said the Volkswagen Group-owned brand wanted to “prioritise comfort and driver relaxation” for the new-gen city hatch.

Based on the heavily revised PQ26 platform that also underpins the facelifted Polo released in Australia in September, it uses many components from the upcoming MQB-AO modular transverse matrix architecture that will debut in the next-generation Polo and Seat Ibiza in 18 months time.

These include new electrical systems for driver-assisted and multimedia technologies, a new electro-mechanical rack and pinion steering system to replace the old electro-hydraulic unit and a range of fresh engines that can be shared with the smaller Volkswagen Up and Skoda Citigo.

Catching up with the latest Polo, the new Fabia has 30mm wider front and rear tracks to help fill out a body that is 90mm wider (as well as 31mm lower in roof line and 8mm shorter in length) than the previous version.

The wheelbase has also changed – stretched to the tune of 5mm to 2470mm. In contrast the Polo’s is 2456mm.

The Volkswagen and Skoda runabouts also share the same basic MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear end, although their components vary and their tuning is different according to each brand’s values.

Mr Kozub said that the Czech-made model’s springs, dampers and anti-roll bar were tuned for a softer ride, with only a small increase in body-roll and absolutely no trade off in safety, handling or stability.

While acknowledging that the two smallest wheel sizes on offer (14-inch and 15-inch) are the most comfortable, the Skoda engineering boss said that the chassis was developed and tuned on the optional 16-inch alloy wheels so that the company could ensure there would be no “rude shocks” if customers resorted to larger aftermarket items. The biggest alloys on offer are 17-inch items.

The new steering system is column-mounted rather than front axle mounted, for quicker responses and while it is essentially the same as that used in the Up/Citigo, it goes one better by offering telescopic as well as height adjustment.

On the brake front the new Fabia retains the old four-wheel disc arrangement, but adds an electronic differential locking device known as XDS+ to help aid traction.

Furthermore, the electronic stability and traction control systems have been tuned to be less intrusive than before.

A stronger and stiffer structure employing a greater degree of hot-formed high-strength steels not only bring a small body-in-white weight reduction, but also decrease noise/vibration/harshness pathways. Hot forming, allows for varying metal widths that in turn bring incremental weight savings.

Note that while some aluminium parts were used in the original Fabia of 1999, the last two generations have been all-steel in their body construction.

The new powertrains account for between 10kg and 25k of the total 65kg weight reduction, thanks to an increase in aluminium parts within the engines and transmissions on offer.

There will be no all-wheel drive Fabia in this generation.

Surprisingly, Mr Kozub said there were no comfort or ride benchmarks while the Fabia was being developed, saying that it was a case of constant trial and error, with his team honing in on the chassis tuning until it was agreed that the right formula had been struck.

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