I had been looking forward to testing the Fabia Wagon for a while. The Fabia hatch was Drive Life’s $20k Challenge winner as well as our 2015 Car of the Year. The hatch is a great little car and excellent value. Would adding a bigger boot change that?

This is the third generation of Fabia since Volkswagen Group took over Skoda in the 90’s. Like the previous ones, this Fabia is based on the same chassis and engines as the VW Polo. The Fabia Wagon is 265mm longer than the hatch, enabling the boot to be expanded from an already generous 305l to 505l, and 1370l with the seats down. Weight is up by 150kg, but there’s a more powerful 81 kW/175 Nm version of the 1.2 TSI engine to offset that.

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First Impressions

At first glance I thought the Fabia looked a little out of proportion. It has a tall-but-thin look to it, but the more time I spent with it, the more I liked it. The Mk3 design is a lot more modern and angular than the previous generations, and from some angles it’s very Audi-ish. I like the bold creases and the sharp line that goes down the sides. Of course it has the Skoda corporate face, looking similar to the Rapid, Octavia etc.

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It’s a nice looking interior, with two-tone cloth seats and a dash to match, with a big slab of brushed-metal running across it. It integrates well and looks good. It does feel like they’ve saved money on some of the plastics on the doors and the dash, which let down the interior a little. That’s not to say it feels cheap. Everything feels well screwed together, and the parts that you touch – steering wheel, gear shifter and handles for example – are all good quality materials and feel great to use.

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The Fabia has a 1.2 litre four-cylinder turbo engine. This may seem small, but that turbo makes quite a difference, giving a power figure of 81kW, but more importantly, 175Nm of torque. Maximum torque is made from 1400-4000rpm, which is a surprisingly large range. What this translates to in real life, is the Fabia pulls really well, whenever you ask it to. My only criticism of the engine is that it can be a bit noisy, especially when cold, and the stop/start function makes this more obvious as it re-starts each time you lift off the brake. The advantage of a small turbo engine is efficiency when off boost. Skoda claim 4.8l/100km combined fuel economy. Over the week I had the Fabia I managed 5.8l/100km but a lot of my driving was around town and short journeys, so that’s pretty impressive.

The instruments light up in a pleasant white, with a rev counter and speedo each side of a large digital display. The display can be configured to show car information such as road speed, MPG etc. or it can be used as a menu to scroll through phone contacts or music tracks. It’s all very clearly laid out, easy to use and simple to operate.

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Pairing my phone to the car was completed quickly and easily, my contacts were imported, and music started to play. I immediately noticed the sound quality – it’s very impressive, especially for a car in this price bracket. There are six speakers, and some clever trickery to create what Skoda call a virtual subwoofer. There are volume and track changing controls on one side of the steering wheel, and on the other side, buttons and a thumb wheel to operate the central information display.

What’s it like to live with?

My first hour with the Fabia was in stop/start traffic and it gave me a chance to have a poke around the interior. There’s a large glove box, with has a cleverly shaped bottom section to house the car’s manual, and Skoda claim it’ll also fit a 1.5 litre drink bottle, still leaving room to put other stuff in there and close the lid. There are bottle pockets in the doors, and some curiously small cup holders in the centre console. Good for a coffee but nothing bigger. Also in the centre are a power socket, and USB and aux inputs for the stereo. Our test car had manual air conditioning, which worked very well. Climate control is available as an option. Something I haven’t seen in another car is the little pouches on the shoulders of the front seats for your phone. The car even pops up a reminder on the central display after you remove the key, saying “Don’t forget your mobile phone”

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In the centre of the dash is a colour information screen, which can show stereo track, settings, or various information screens about the car including a green meter which scores your driving on an eco scale. I left it on the fuel usage screen most of the time, as the screen between the dials in front of me told me everything I needed to know. The central screen can also integrate with apps on your phone, such as Sygic Car Navigation, parking and weather apps. It can work in the other direction too, with Skoda’s Smartgate app showing you things like service information, economy or performance data on your phone screen.

Interior space is decent, particularly in the front. Rear legroom is a little tight compared to some of the competition. But that boot is huge! There’s a pretty massive space with the seats up, covered by a pull-out roller cover. Drop the rear seats down and there’s a second set of clips at the bottom for the roller cover so it’s out of the way. I thought at first that the rear seats didn’t go completely flat, but I’ve been informed that you can lift the seat base up towards the front seats, then the back does go flat. The loading area is pretty huge either way. There are metal loops at each corner of the boot for your luggage net or tie down straps, and at each side there’s a useful cubby with a hook just above it. Great for securing a single shopping or takeaway bag. There’s even an extra power socket at one side.

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Other than the bag hooks there are some really neat touches on this car. For example there’s a storage bin under each of the front seats, a plastic hook on the side of the windscreen to hold parking tickets, and an ice scraper inside the petrol filler cap. These are all nice little extras that Skoda have taken time to include.

What’s it like to drive? Pretty good actually. As mentioned, apart from being a little noisy, the 1.2TSI engine is excellent. It feels really peppy, and goes better than you’d expect. You can certainly have a bit of fun with it, and the handling matches the performance. Obviously it’s no sports car, and being fairly high there’s some body roll, but it feels nimble and tight. There’s something about the way European cars handle that just feels good to me, and the Fabia is no exception to that. The seven speed dual-clutch DSG transmission is great. Lightning-fast shifts, and it always seems to have the correct gear ready. When it’s in Drive, pull the lever back a second time and it switches to Sport mode, making the car hold the gears longer and rev higher. One thing I noticed is that it takes a little longer to go from 1st to reverse than a normal auto so I found myself rolling backwards a couple of times on hills before I got used to it. Talking of reversing, there are reversing sensors, which tie into the central display, showing the distance from each sensor to any obstacle.

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Another thing Skoda have done well is the cruise control. It’s simple to use, with controls on the same stalk as the wipers, and the speed it’s set to appears on the display. I’m not sure why this isn’t the case in most other cars, but Skoda have it right. They have integrated everything well in this car, in a logical and easy to use way.

What it’s up against

I struggled to find direct competition for the Fabia Wagon in this price range as most manufacturers don’t do a small wagon. This is as close as I could find.

Brand / ModelEnginePowerDrivetrainFuel L/100km0-100km/hPrice Highest to Lowest
Ford Focus Ambiente Wagon1.6l 4 cylinder92kW/159Nm6 speed auto6.3N/A$33,840
Holden Cruze CD Wagon1.8l 4 cylinder104kW/175Nm6 speed sports auto7.4N/A$32,490
Mazda CX-3 GLX Wagon2.0l 4 cylinder109kW/192Nm6 speed sports auto6.1N/A$31,195
Toyota Corolla GX Wagon 1.5l 4 cylinder80kW/136NmCVT4.313.2s$30,990
Skoda Fabia Wagon1.2l 4 cylinder turbo81kW/175Nm7 Speed DSG4.79.6s$26,990
Ssangyong Tivoli wagon1.6l 4 cylinder94kW/160Nm6 speed auto7.2N/A$26,990

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The good and the bad.

ProsCons
  • Feels solid and well built
  • Impressive equipment levels
  • Huge boot
  • Performance from that 1.2T
  • Great stereo
  • Some hard plastics cheapen the interior
  • A little more rear legroom would be nice
  • Engine can seem noisy

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What do we think?

I really enjoyed the week I spent with the Fabia Wagon. I like the way it feels to drive, it has great levels of equipment, a massive boot, and there’s hardly anything else in this price range to compare it to, showing what great value it is. And with five years’ warranty and servicing included at the moment it’s definitely a great choice for a small family wagon.

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5

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Vehicle TypeSmall station wagon
Starting Price$26,990 + On road costs
Tested Price$27,840 + On road costs
Engine1197cc 4 cylinder direct injection turbocharged petrol engine
Transmission7 speed DSG dual clutch automatic
0 – 100 kph9.6s
Kerb Weight1178 kg
Length x Width x Height4257 x 1732 x 1467mm
Cargo CapacityWith rear seat up – 505l

With rear seat down – 1370l

Fuel Tank45 litres
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 stars
Warranty5 years servicing

5 years roadside assistance

5 years warranty

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I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!

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