Why excitement is low on Fabia's demands

THERE is a myth that cars have to be exciting. Well, in car magazines and programmes such as Top Gear, that may well be so, but to the average punter choosing a set of wheels, nothing could be further from the truth.

Skoda Fabia Estate
Skoda Fabia Estate

While excitable road-testers might find sexy styling and burbling engines a good thing, everyday road users - and especially Skoda drivers - are more concerned about mundane matters such as price, reliability, economy and the like.

And real-life car buyers are positively turned off by fancy designs and for a good reason: they don’t have make a car look old quickly.

The most successful cars - Golfs, BMW 3 Series and the like - evolve slowly so that a 10 year old model will still bear a strong resemblance to a modern version.

Now, the Skoda Fabia falls into this category. Some say it is boring, but they miss the point. Fabia, more than any other car, is responsible for creating the Skoda we know today - a company which has seen its image transformed from cheap and nasty to sensible and affordable.

Fabia first came here in 1999 a few years after Skoda joined the Volkswagen family and it quickly established itself as a trusty model.

Today’s Fabia looks similar to the original but is a much more refined car. It is still affordable costing from just over £10,000, but it also comes with well-equipped versions like the test model which started at £17,985 and with a few more bells and whistles cost just under £20,000.

Now that sounds like a lot of money for a Skoda but believe me, it is good value when you consider the features and the quality on offer.

This is the Fabia SE L, which is the flagship of the range. Not that you would believe it was a flagship for its looks are modest.

It comes packed to the hilt, though, with features such as alloy wheels, leather steering wheel with radio and phone controls, parking sensors, Bluetooth, cruise control, DAB digital radio, LED daytime running lights, stop-start system, keyless ignition and a radio system with USB and SD card links.

The test version had extras such as satellite navigation (£500), heated front seats (£180), metallic paint (£535) and a Jeans Blue interior with fabric upholstery and white decorative panels (£50).

For me, the best feature is the engine: a 1.4 litre turbo-diesel unit which delivers admirable performance (60mph in 10.2 seconds), low emissions (97g/km) and terrific economy (76.4mpg).

The engine is a little noisy for a modern diesel but there is no questioning the flexible power and high economy.

There is no doubt that it is a good value car but it is possibly just a little too tame. Skoda talk about it being emotional, sporty and sharply designed, but just a touch more character would have been welcomed.

The warranty (three years and 60,000 miles) is a little on the mean side compared to some bargain basement rivals.

It is a neat car which is easy to manoeuvre and the boot is fabulous, holding 530 litres rising to 1,395 litres with the seats down.

* Skoda has celebrated the 25th anniversary of joining the Volkswagen group.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller marked the occasion with a celebration at the company headquarters.

Meanwhile, Skoda has announced plans for a new SUV called Kodiak, due for launch in 2017. The name refers to the Kodiak bear that lives on a remote island near Alaska.

Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI Estate SE L

PRICE: £17,985 on the road. Fabia starts at £10,750.

ENGINE: A 1.4 litre unit generating 105PS via five-speed gearbox

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 122mph and 0 to 60mph in 10.2 seconds

COSTS: 72.4mpg on a combined route



WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles