Skoda Fabia Kombi

Chris Knap­man is im­pressed with Skoda’s lat­est es­tate, which proves that small cars can be big on space

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Cover Story -

For the most part, Skoda’s “Sim­ply Clever” up­grades are quite neat. An ice scraper clipped into the fuel filler cap, for ex­am­ple, or an um­brella hid­den in the rear doors. In its noble quest to max­imise con­ve­nience for its cus­tomers, the Czech car-maker also now of­fers its new Fabia es­tate with a rub­bish bin that clips into the door pocket. This is not some swish Brabantia-es­que brushed alu­minium job, but a flimsy nappy sack dan­gling from a cheap plas­tic rim. Pre­sum­ably the forth­com­ing eco-friendly Green­line ver­sion will add di­viders to sep­a­rate card­board, plas­tics and com­post, thus re­ally giv­ing own­ers some­thing to talk about at din­ner par­ties. Still, it is partly be­cause of such de­tails that Skoda pre­dicts the new Fabia es­tate will be the best­selling model in its class. The other rea­son is that it ex­ists in a class of just three. In an in­dus­try where no niche is un­filled nor cow un­cashed, this sug­gests the ap­peal of a su­per­min­i­sized es­tate is limited. This is strange be­cause it’s ac­tu­ally a bril­liant idea, of­fer­ing the bootspace you’d ex­pect in an SUV in a car that is cheap to buy, has tiny run­ning costs and is small enough to be easy to drive. Com­pared with the old Fabia es­tate, the new one has an ex­tra 25 litres of lug­gage ca­pac­ity, as well as a boot open­ing that is both lower and wider. To­tal ca­pac­ity is 530 litres, which is 200 more than the Fabia hatch­back or, put another way, the same as the vastly more enor­mous Vaux­hall In­signia. And, what with it be­ing Sim­ply Clever, there’s all sorts of ac­ces­sories to boost your boot’s po­ten­tial, not all of which are rub­bish. The com­pro­mise comes for those in the back seats, who will soon no­tice that the Fabia es­tate hasn’t grown in width com­pared with the hatch­back. So while it’s fine for a su­per­mini, it’s still not what you’d call spa­cious. In the front Skoda has make a good fist at copying a few of the bits that make a VW Golf such a grown-up car. OK, some of the plas­tics are still a bit scratchy, but on the whole this is a nice place to be. As for en­gines, the range starts with a 1.0-litre, three- cylin­der petrol unit, but with no turbo to lend a hand, it strug­gled with two adults on board; with a full load I’m not sure it’d move at all. The tur­bocharged 1.2-litre petrol en­gine is in­fin­itely bet­ter, with a broad spread of pulling power that makes for easy progress. The ride, han­dling and im­age are not in any way dy­namic, but what did you ex­pect? The re­sult is that for all Skoda’s am­bi­tions of this be­ing a life­style state­ment for young fam­i­lies, moun­tain bik­ers and ca­noeists, the re­al­ity is that Fabia es­tate driv­ers will be slightly more ad­vanced in years. As such, they will also know a thing or two about not hav­ing the wool pulled over their eyes, and might thus con­sider the pre­mium of at least £1,000 that the Fabia es­tate car­ries over the hatch­back a bit fleece-like. Be­cause you’ve got to re­ally want that ex­tra space to pay £5 per ad­di­tional litre of it. If that sounds luke­warm it’s not sup­posed to. This is a pleas­ant lit­tle car that will no doubt win some loyal, not to men­tion tidy, fans. Skoda Fabia Kombi 1.2 TSI Price from: £14,535 Power: 89bhp 0-62 mph: 11sec Av­er­age mpg: 60.1 Rat­ing:

Se­ri­ously sen­si­ble: it might not be ex­cit­ing, but the Fabia es­tate is the best small car with a big boot

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