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Driven: Skoda ups the value with new Fabia

Absolutely fab: The Fabia is offered in hatch and wagon guise, with the load lugger attracting a $1150 premium over its smaller sibling.

New-gen Skoda Fabia brings tech and safety advancements to light-car brigade

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Skoda logo8 Jul 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

SKODA’S new Fabia light car has arrived in Australian showrooms, offering first-in-class connectivity and safety tech with the same $15,990 starting price as the outgoing model.

The Czech car-maker has upped the value on the third-generation Fabia – which will again be offered in five-door hatch and wagon guise – with a generous standard equipment list and a series of new options packs.

Skoda’s $15,990 (plus on-road costs) opening price is for the base 66TSI hatch, which is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox. Buyers looking for a self-shifting option have to pay $20,290 for the more powerful 88TSI, which drives the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission. No manual option is offered.

Switching body styles to the load-lugging wagon in either grade adds $1150 to the price.

The Fabia’s entry price undercuts that of sister brand Volkswagen’s mechanically related Polo hatch by $1000, the Renault Clio by $800, and the Kia Rio by $1000, costs more than the Honda Jazz ($14,990), Mazda2 ($14,990) and Ford Fiesta ($15,825), while matching the kick-off price of the Suzuki Swift.

Skoda has introduced driveaway pricing of $15,990 and $20,290 for the 66TSI and 81TSI respectively until the end of the year.

Speaking with GoAuto at the media launch in New South Wales this week, Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer said Fabia sales this year could be impacted by the production schedule at the Czech factory, but added that he anticipated the new car would top its predecessor.

“I don’t even know how much you can do more and above the previous generation, but what I know is that we can do more than that,” he said.

Since its launch in late 2011, the Fabia has attracted an average of 45 to 60 sales per month in Australia, peaking in 2012 with a year-end total of 722.

Sales are up in the first six months of this year by 5.7 per cent to 240 for the runout model.

Mr Irmer said there were currently no issues with supply, but added that could change if demand was greater than expected.

“It depends if the demand is going to be higher than what we had anticipated, there might be a shortage. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a car, you will get a car, it just means that you might end up with a longer wait. But at this point there is no shortage.”

The third-gen model misses out on a warmed-over RS variant, as there are currently no plans to introduce one in any market. Mr Irmer said he is not concerned, given it represented about 10 per cent of overall sales in previous-generation guise.

“At this point, there is no RS version planned,” he said. “It can always be reconsidered, but at this point not.

“It is certainly a nice and emotional thing to have, but having said that when it comes down to sales numbers, it does not impact us much.”

Among the firsts for the new Fabia is the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking, or Front Assist with City Emergency Brake function in Skoda speak, which brings the car to a stop in an effort to avoid rear-end crashes. A Multi-Collision Brake System clamps the car’s brakes on automatically after an accident to prevent further collisions.

Skoda says this technology is usually reserved for higher grade models, but it can be found in the light-car class (albeit as an option only) on the Mazda2, Mini hatch and Volkswagen Polo, while it is standard on the smaller Fiat Panda micro car and the discontinued VW Up.

The Fabia was awarded a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating earlier this week, after achieving a best-in-class five-star rating from Euro NCAP last year.

Another first for the segment is the inclusion of Skoda's SmartLink connectivity system with Apple Car Play and Android Auto as standard across the range. This is connected to a 6.5-inch TFT touchscreen as a part of a Bolero infotainment system that mirrors the user's smartphone menu, including text messages.

This time around, the Fabia is built on a combination of the PQ26 platform that underpins the current Polo and the MQB architecture used to produce the Golf, Octavia and Audi A3.

Powertrains mimic the Polo's with the EA211 1.2-litre four cylinder turbo-petrol in two states of tune, kicking off with the 66TSI offering 66kW between 4400 and 5400rpm and 160Nm between 1400 to 3500rpm.

As its name suggests, higher-spec 81TSI versions increase power to 81kW from 4500 to 5600rpm and 175Nm from 1400 to 4000rpm. The superseded model's 1.2-litre unit produced 77kW/175Nm in all but the RS versions.

Zero to 100km/h acceleration ranges from 9.4 seconds for the 81TSI hatch with the DSG, up to 11s for the 66TSi manual wagon.

According to Skoda, the Euro 6-compliant engine, which features idle-stop, delivers official combined fuel use of 4.8 litres per 100 kilometres across the board, while CO2 emissions are 109-111g/km. The fuel use is down from 5.3-5.5L/100km of the old version.

Fabia Mk3 is 8mm shorter, 90 wider and has a 5mm longer wheelbase and 30mm wider front and rear track than the old model, and it is up to 112kg lighter from 1042kg thanks to the use of high-tensile steel, which has also helped increase torsional stiffness.

Despite the shorter external length, the Fabia's interior length has grown by 8mm, while elbow-room has increased in the front and rear by 21mm and2mm respectively.

In hatch guise, the Fabia's cargo capacity is up by five litres to 305 litres, while the wagon – the only body style of its kind on the light-car class – offers 25 more litres than before at 505 litres.

The hatch carries more than a number of competitors, including the Mazda2 (250L) and the Polo (280L), but it can't match the 350-litre capacity of the flexible Honda Jazz.

Skoda has given the Fabia a number of storage compartments, including room for up to seven bottles, and a parking ticket holder.

Some of the technology from the MQB platform includes the electro-mechanical steering, the powertrains, and most of the electrics.

Up front the Fabia has MacPherson strut with triangular links and a torsion stabiliser, while at the back it uses a torsion beam. Skoda says the suspension set up has been tweaked to improved ride comfort and stability.

On top of the Front Assist, other standard safety gear includes an electronic differential lock, six airbags, hill hold assist, a speed limiter as part of a Travel Pack for 66TSI but is standard on 81TSI, a tyre-pressure monitor, rear parking sensors, Isofix child seat anchors and rear fog-lights.

Standard comfort and convenience features include a three-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel, sunglasses holder, 60/40 split fold rear seats, roof rails on wagon, six-speaker surround sound, air-conditioning, heated door mirrors, electric windows, leather gear knob and park brake lever, and a Chrome Package that adds chrome touches throughout the cabin.

The 66TSI has 15-inch steel wheels, which are upgraded to 15-inch alloys on the 81TSI, which also adds cruise control with a speed limiter, and a front armrest with storage.

Options include a sat nav system for $950, a panoramic sunroof from $1000 and metallic paint from $500.

A $1300 Travel Pack adds cruise control with a speed limiter, 16-inch alloys, fatigue detection and LED daytime running lights to the 66TSI.

81TSI buyers can choose a $1200 Sports Pack that adds sports suspension lowered by 15mm, fatigue detection, front fog-lights, LED DRLs and 17-inch alloys, while the $2600 Premium Sports Pack gains everything from the Sports Pack as well as a flat-bottomed steering wheel, keyless entry and start, DAB+ digital radio, rain-sensing wipers, Light Assist, privacy glass and Climatronic air-conditioning with a humidity sensor.

Each pack can be optioned with a Colour Concept which alternates body, roof and wheel colours. On top of the six colours available, there are two Colour Concept-only hues – Sprint Yellow and Rally Green Metallic.

2015 Skoda Fabia pricing*
ModelPrice
66TSI Hatch$15,990
66TSI Wagon$17,140
81TSI Hatch (a)$20,290
81TSI Wagon (a)$21,440
*Excluding on-road-costs

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