Make: Skoda
Model: Fabia 
Variant: Run-out edition
Engine / Transmission: 1.0 turbo  – 7 speed DSG
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 4.7L/100km combined 
Price: $23,990 

In a nutshell: 

I’m going to call it, this is the best small car you can buy AND IT’S THE RUN-OUT MODEL! 

First Impressions: 

Skoda’s are hugely undervalued in Australia. Big sellers in Europe, they always seem to be criminally overlooked in the Australian market. This seems especially true for the smallest and most affordable of the range – the Fabia. 

On test is the ‘Run-out Edition’ – basically a few blacker bits, some shinier bits and some comfier bits for not much more money. The utterly superb 1.0 three cylinder turbo petrol is consistently fitted across the range and so too is the seven speed DSG transmission (a manual is also available). 

Tech Inside:

If you’re looking for every possible widget and trinket in your next car, the Fabia isn’t for you. What makes the Fabia so impressive is its balance of useful tech, peppy performance and value. Of course, it comes with the full suite of safety features that you would expect, including one of the best radar cruise control systems in the business – regardless of price! More than this though is the way convenience features are so carefully balanced with the price. Keyless entry, but only on the front doors, where it’s needed most. Single zone air conditioning, avoids complications and cost of a multi zone system – something that never really works anyway. Sensibly sized 16” rims that not only keep down unsprung mass but also allow for a full sized spare. LED headlights and turning lights that are far better than a city car deserves. The only blight on the Fabia’s copy book is the reverse camera – it’s capable but a 360 degree system would be the icing on the cake. 

Most Impressive:

Back in the day I had a little Peugeot 205 GTI – a car that is regarded as an all time classic and one that I regret ever selling. Unfortunately, many modern ‘GTi’ hatches are too peaky, too heavy and way too fast to ever be compared with the 205. Want proof? Toyota’s Yaris GR easily matches Lamborghini’s Countach (on sale at the same time as the 205 GTi) in a straight line, while the little Toyota will murder the Lambo in the curves. This little Skoda Fabia is the closest thing I’ve ever found to the 205. The 205 had a normally aspirated 1.9 litre engine matched to a tight chassis with wheels planted at the extremities of each corner. It weighs 900kg and pumps out around 90kw. The Fabia weighs around 1000kg and pumps out 81kw from its torque laden 1.0 litre turbo three cylinder. More important than those raw numbers though is the combination of tight but compliant suspension and low unsprung weight, thanks to wheels that are normal sized and not just fashion accessories. Throw in a lightning fast DSG ‘box and I found myself thinking that I would actually pay a lot more than the sticker $23k. 

Like Mazda’s MX5, so called ‘underpowered’ cars are just so darn fun. You really have to drive them to make any sort of rapid progress and it makes for a deeply satisfying experience. 

Worried about Skoda’s Euro roots not being as reliable as the Koreans or Japanese? Fear not. Skoda has a five year unlimited kilometre warranty that, if serviced at a Skoda dealer, can be bumped up to seven years. Along with it being light on tyres, light on brakes and delivering hybrid levels of fuel economy (4.7 L/100km), this is going to be a cheap (and FUN) car to own. 

Not So Impressive:

There is always going to be a limit to this sort of car. It’s probably not the ideal choice for a family of five for a week’s holiday on the Sunshine Coast, but I reckon I could almost manage it. Likewise, while it can easily cruise on the freeway, the Fabia’s real sweet spot is in the 20kph – 100kph zone. 

WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE: 

I’m happy to be proven wrong on this one, but for my money, the Fabia is the best small car on the market. It just reminds me so much of my beloved 205 GTi! The low price is just the icing on the cake. For the same price as Toyota’s Yaris GR, you can have the Skoda and a new MX5! (…but I still REALLY want a Yaris GR!!!).

I can’t wait for the new model Fabia to hit our shores. If they keep to the same formula, it will be a belter.