Skoda had unveiled the Fabia in front of the Indian audience at the Auto Expo'08. The Fabia was later on launched after a few months.The Skoda Fabia was launched with a 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol and 1.4-litre diesel engine.
It looks like the Swift in profile, mostly because of the blacked-out pillars and roofline that gets lower at the rear. The prominent waistline is another similarity to the Swift - but the similarities end there. The nose is true to the Skoda family, with the logo taking pride of place at the top of the grille. The projector lamps do give the 'face' a bit of a squint, but the conventional bulb headlamps look fine. The rear screen slopes at quite an angle, but it doesn't look tail-heavy. The wheels and tyres look just a little bit small for the wheelarches, but it's a very balanced design, with no bits that look unwieldy or out of place.
When you buy a base trim level car from any manufacturer you pretty much get just a bodyshell, powertrain, air con and wheels & tyres. But the cheapest Fabia you can buy is the Fabia Active 1.2. This is the only car to sport driver and front passenger airbags as standard, not to mention a proper 3-point seat belt for the rear center passenger. Then there's the rock solid build. Those well weighted doors shut with a thud and once you're cocooned inside the double door seals literally do shut out the outside world. This sets the tone for the interiors of the Fabia - fit and finish are top-notch, and the plastics and fabrics feel good to touch. Shutlines are small and consistent. The audio system has only front speakers, but they carry all frequencies well. They distort when you turn the volume up to ear-splitting volumes - if you're an audiophile, retain the head unit and change the speakers for better sound.
The twin-dial layout is clear and provides all the information you need at a glance. The driver will also feel at home once the adjustments to the seat and steering are made - the Fabia holds a massive advantage over many other cars in its price bracket here, what with a steering column that telescopes and tilts. This car is big on the inside, with a lot of room for all occupants, including those in the rear. The boot is surprisingly big - it certainly doesn't appear like that from the outside!
Engine, Transmission, Fuel Efficiency:
The Fabia has three engine variants, 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrols and a 1.4-litre diesel. The 1.4 TDI is a turbocharged three-pot engine which produces 68bhp and a maximum torque of 155Nm. The diesel motor is noisy, thanks to the Pumpe-Duse technology it possesses, a feature unique to the VW-Audi group. The idling is quiet and the engine responses a fraction late when the throttle is depressed. However, it still responds better than most other turbodiesel hatchbacks. The car redlines easily but the revs fall quickly too once your foot is off the gas pedal.
We didn't manage to drive the 1.4-litre petrol motor since it is currently made to order, but the 1.2-litre HTP impressed us with its drivability. Most manufacturers that duck beneath the 1.2-litre mark to make the best of the excise cut end up with underpowered cars, but the Fabia relishes a challenge. That low torque peak helps drivability immensely. The gear ratios for both engines are perfectly calculated. The well-designed 'box makes for effortless shifting.
The 1.2 HTP lived up to its name - all that low-down torque helped it return 9.5kpl under normal use. We did a calm, unruffled 80kph highway cruise in fifth gear, and received a pleasant surprise when we discovered that we were consuming fuel at a miserly 15kpl! The diesel was efficient as well, returning about 14kpl under normal driving conditions.
Most hatches are designed for city use, built to be driven in and around the suburbs, but the Fabia's German-engineered suspension design suits the city as well as it does highway driving. Apex a corner and the steering weighs up well, with a lot of accuracy. Cut through lanes and the steering's liveliness won't let you down. The steering lightens up at parking speeds, increasing comfort for the driver.
The Skoda Fabia's suspension includes McPherson suspension with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser at the front and a compound link crank-axle at the rear. The Fabia has comfortable ride at low speeds. The car gets a little bouncy at high speeds but this doesn't affect the driver's confidence.
The Fabia's price begins at a little less than Rs 5 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai and goes up to almost Rs 8 lakh. That is more than most other hatchback manufacturers are asking, and you will balk at the cost of some spares. However, if you consider that you get German build quality and small touches like the telescoping steering and ride and handling that can hold their own with much more expensive cars, it suddenly will seem worth it. The new Skoda Fabia facelift is expected to be launched in September 2010.