REVIEW DATE: 25 Jun 2010
Skoda's Fabia TDI range offers cutting edge diesel technology at a tempting price. Steve Walker reports.
It has been said that car buyers torn between a series of similar Volkswagen Group products should just buy the cheapest. That will suit Skoda down to the ground as it invariably represents the most affordable way to get your hands on the latest VW technology. In case you weren't aware, Skoda is part of the Volkswagen Group, a position it shares with the likes of SEAT, Audi and, obviously, Volkswagen itself. There are others too but these are the volume selling brands and to keep development costs under control, they have a habit of sharing technology.
So you can see where the old 'buy the cheapest' idea comes from. If the cars are the same, logically, the cheapest one is the best deal. Skoda's Fabia TDI diesel models are packed with VW components but are they a better bet than the equivalent SEAT Ibiza, VW Polo or Audi A1? And for that matter, how do they stand up against the other diesel supermini choices?
The 1.6-litre TDI CR engine crops up all over the VW Group empire, mainly fitted in small to mid-sized models. In the Skoda Fabia, there are three versions with different power outputs presenting the choice of 74, 89 or 104bhp. One further TDI diesel option is the diminutive 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit in the super-efficient Greenline model. It has 74bhp and turns in similar performance to the least powerful 1.6-litre unit with better fuel economy.
The CR in 'TDI CR' stands for common-rail or common-rail fuel injection. Volkswagen lagged a little behind other manufacturers in the implementation of this advanced diesel engine technology but it's fully embracing it now and the latest Skoda Fabias benefit. Basically, fuel is squirted into the cylinders from a single pipe that can deliver it at extremely high pressure. This pressure and the high-tech fuel injectors themselves atomise the fuel so when it's compressed, it goes up like a barbeque with rather too much lighter fluid applied. The fuel is also injected in minutely controlled quantities and at precise timings to get the combustion process and minimise waste. Ingenious isn't the half of it but with most of the leading superminis employing similar diesel engine technology, is the Fabia good enough to leverage an advantage?
".the engines are first class modern diesels"
The 89bhp version of the Fabia 1.6-litre TDI CR has 230Nm or torque available between 1,500 and 2,500rpm and can spirit itself to 60mph in 12.6s. Step up to the 104bhp version and there's 250Nm at the same engine speeds with an 11s 0-60mph time. Compared to other leading lights in the supermini segment, the 89bhp Fabia surpasses the equivalent Citroen C3, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio on torque but only the Renault is slower over the 0-60mph sprint.
The Fabia's simple lines aren't going to win many beauty contests against the shapelier superminis but it does have that 'floating roof' effect courtesy of the blacked-out pillars. The latest facelifted models also feature a reworked grille and larger headlights that work to widen the car visually for a more dynamic stance.
There's a good amount of space inside the Fabia, particularly for rear seat passengers. The materials aren't quite up to the standards set in Volkswagen products but the similarities in the design to the Polo are easy to spot and the same robust build quality can be seen throughout. Inside and out, the Fabia keeps it simple which is a big part of the car's appeal.
Boot capacity stands at an impressive 300 litres with the seats in place or a massive 1,163 litres when they're folded. In the Estate, the extended dimensions have helped Skoda engineers achieve a 480-litre boot capacity with the seats up. Fold the 60/40 split rear seats flat (a less than straightforward operation that involves removing the headrests) and there's an Albert Hall-esque 1,460 litres.
Despite the success of the Fabia, Skoda still recognises the limits of its badge equity and has a clearly defined role to play in the VW Group heirachy. The Fabia is, therefore, priced realistically while recognising the need to nudge the brand incrementally upmarket. The trim level range runs from S to Elegance with SE sandwitched in-between . There's also the Greenline model with efficiency modifications and, if you choose the estate bodystyle, a Scout variant with 4x4 styling acoutrements.
The basic S grade gets you front and side airbags, remote central locking and a CD stereo. Go for the SE and there's alloy wheels, heated mirrors, air-conditioning and a trip computer. The Elegance has rear parking sensors, climate control, cruise control, front fog lights and curtain airbags. On value for money grounds, the Fabia TDI does shape up well against the other VW Group models that share its engine and componentry.
It might lag behind other equivalently-engined superminis on outright pace but the 1.6-litre TDI Fabias are right up with the class leaders in terms of fuel economy. These days, it's routine for mainstream diesel superminis to achieve over 60mpg on the combined cycle but the Fabia gets 67.3mpg with 109g/km CO2 emissions, regardless of the power output chosen. For really stunning fuel frugality, the 1.2 TDI Greenline can come up with 83mpg and 89g/km emissions, which isn't significantly bettered by any conventional car.
The best of the Fabia petrol engines, the 1.2 TSI unit, has 54mpg economy and comes at an £800 premium. That means the diesel Fabias are likely to prove more cost-effective to run for the majority of customers.
It's common knowledge that Skoda is part of the VW Group these days and that it represent s a slightly more affordable way to get your hands on the latest Volkswagen technology. The Skoda Fabia TDI range looks particularly attractive from this point of view. The badge might not fill you with the same sense of pride as a VW roundel would and the last few degrees of polish might be missing but the underlying quality is definitely there and the engines are first class modern diesels.
The Fabia doesn't enjoy the same profile as some of its supermini rivals, partially due to its lower key approach. The styling isn't particularly dramatic but it's right up with the class leaders in most other areas. The 1.6 TDI CR engines are amongst the best diesel units available in a supermini today.
The results below show the top FABIA deals on buyacar
|Skoda Fabia 1.2 TDI CR GreenLine II 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £13,609||Save £881|
|Skoda Fabia 1.6 TDI CR S 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £10,100||Save £1,820|
|Skoda Fabia 1.6 TDI CR S 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £10,603||Save £1,932|
|Skoda Fabia 1.6 TDI CR SE 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £10,865||Save £1,990|
|Skoda Fabia 1.2 12V S 5dr estate|
|Price £9,433||Save £1,672|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT FABIA DEALS|
|For FABIA TDI RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.9 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||9|
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