Our latest road test candidate is the Skoda Fabia 1.2 MPi petrol which recently got a new engine and lower price tag.
When Skoda introduced the Fabia in India in 2008, it was packed with features not many hatchbacks could boast of at that time. It had classy European looks, premium interiors, sedan-like space and a solid build quality. But at around Rs 8.66 lakhs for the top-end Elegance model, the Fabia’s pricing just didn’t cut it for most buyers. Related: Skoda cars in India
Almost three years down the line, the Czech brand is back with a refreshed Fabia—one that’s not only more powerful but affordable as well. The hatchback comes with three new engine variants—1.2-litre, 75 bhp petrol and diesel avatars and a 1.6-litre, 105 bhp petrol mill—sourced from its parent, Volkswagen. On offer are three trim levels namely Classic, Ambiente and Elegance. Here is our story on the launch of the new variants: Skoda Fabia prices now start at Rs 4.19 lakh
The petrol 1.2 Fabia Elegance, which we drove, is priced at Rs. 6.30 lakhs (on-road, Delhi) with features such as fog lamps, driver’s side airbag and rear AC vents, but the base version is available for just Rs. 4.85 lakhs on road. Skoda has achieved this feat thanks to a 40 percent localization of parts. Of course, at these prices you’re also getting one airbag less, and the absence of powered mirrors, steering-mounted controls, a rear defogger and rear wash wipe even in the top-end model is a let down.
The upgraded Fabia doesn’t look very different from its predecessor. In fact, it’s so similar to the outgoing model that you’d be hard-pressed to spot any differences. The front now has a large and wide bumper that’s set lower to lend the Fabia an athletic stance. Other changes include a Laura-like grille, elongated halogen headlamps (Skoda has done away with the projector unit on the earlier model though that hasn’t compromised night-time visibility), fog lamps and a newly contoured bonnet. The rear has new taillights though that’s pretty much all there is to it. The car also features daytime running lights, built into the fog-lamp unit.
Inside, the dual-tone beige-black treatment with chrome highlights lends the car a lavish feel. The multi-textured seat fabric adds a touch of flair to the interiors. A multifunction display gives details on the distance travelled, average speed, immediate fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, distance to empty, service interval, outside temperature, etc.
Also read: Skoda Yeti launched in India
Head and legroom is generous all-round and the Fabia can seat the occasional fifth passenger without significant discomfort as we found during the road test. Small storage areas are logically placed within the cabin; however, we did find the long-term durability of the plastics to be a bit suspect with the plastic panel housing the power-window switches on the driver-side door coming loose on this particular test, which had about 14,000 km on the odometer already.
Skoda said there were rear AC vents present, but we couldn’t see them at first glance. However, when one looked under the front seats, there they were. Another neat touch is the aux-in connector for an iPod located near the handbrake, along with a 12-volt power point.
At 315 litres, the Fabia’s boot space is among the largest in its class (only the Honda Jazz scores better with a 384-litre trunk). The best part is that the rear seats can be folded down completely to open up a massive 1,180 litres of cargo space! On the Elegance version, the boot can be opened using the key remote as well.
The biggest change in the Fabia is, of course, under the hood. It has a new 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol engine (the same as in the Volkswagen Polo) with a slightly bumped up power output—75 bhp from the earlier 68 bhp. While this may not be a significant step up, the extra 7 bhp on tap does resolve some of the sluggishness reported in the older Fabia.
One would expect a certain level of refinement from the new block, but turn on the ignition and the engine cranks up with a bit of a clatter. For a split-second, we wondered if Skoda had inadvertently handed us the older Fabia with the raucous Pumpe Deuse diesel motor. But once it warms up a bit, the engine settles down. Throw the car into gear, hit the accelerator and the engine emits the reassuring hum of a petrol mill.
The petrol Fabia delivers a healthy throttle response across the power band, but it’s the mid-range that truly impresses. City driving is a breeze and involves very few gear changes even at low speeds. In 4th gear, the engine runs up to 2,000 rpm with the car cruising effortlessly around 60 kmph. Increase throttle and the car speeds to 120 kmph effortlessly with the tachometer needle hovering around a comfortable 3,500 rpm in fifth. The engine does tend to take on a raspy edge as it nears 5,500 rpm. But in regular city driving the car feels adequately damped.
On the flip side, the switch to a peppier petrol engine has somewhat reduced the Fabia’s fuel efficiency (mileage for us Indians). During our road test, in city, it gave us close to 11 kmpl (the figure comes down a bit with the AC on). On the highway, the hatchback petrol car does slightly better delivering around 15 kmpl. Occasional glances at the instant consumption reading on the display can quickly curb any throttle-happy tendencies.
Based on Volkswagen’s PQ25 platform, the new Skoda Fabia has a chassis with a sophisticated front McPherson strut suspension along with a strong lower A-arm and non-independent rear suspension. The Czech manufacturer has kept Indian concerns in mind before launching the new model by introducing a raised suspension and retuned springs and dampers—all together called the “rough road” package.
The steering of the Fabia feels nice to hold, can be adjusted according to the height and reach of the driver and offers precise feedback. The gearbox is as smooth as silk and is a pleasure to operate with the gears slotting into place easily. What really makes the petrol Fabia a great car to drive is its assured handling. Throw it into corners or show it some twisties, the Fabia never feels unsettled. Straight line stability is superb and it soaks up all the bumps and ruts with aplomb. For a car its size, that’s exceptional!
What to expect…
The original Skoda Fabia was a good hatchback in its own right, but its premium pricing never really managed to convince prospective buyers of its merits—of being a compact, spacious hatch with creature comforts seen only on luxury sedans. But Skoda is back in the game with a slightly refreshed look and a pared-down price tag in a bid to spur volume growth. All that’s left for the Czech company to do now is to increase and improve its dealer and service network. After all, a fab car like this does need fab service.
Engine: 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol
Max power: 75 bhp @ 5,400 rpm
Max torque: 11.2 Kgm @ 2,000 rpm
Length/Width/Height: 4,000mm x 1,642mm x 1,522mm
Wheelbase: 2,465 mm
Boot space: 315 litres
Fuel tank: 45 litres
Fuel efficiency: 15 kmpl (highway); 11 kmpl (city)
Price: Rs. 6.30 lakhs (on-road, Delhi for the 1.2 MPi Elegance)