Ian Dickson
11/02/2008 00:00 | By Ian Dickson, content editor, MSN Cars

Skoda Fabia Estate 1.2 review (2008 onwards)

Skoda (© Skoda)

Model: Skoda Fabia Estate 1.2
Bodystyle: estate
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual

Read more Skoda reviews

What is it?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

You need space. You want a new car. You have less than £10,000 to spend. If this sounds like the sort of dilemma you are facing, then we feel for you. Because at this end of the market there isn't much to choose from. Yes, plenty of superminis, but most are too small to be worthy of consideration if you need genuine load-lugging capability, while most estates cars start well above £10,000. However, Skoda's new Fabia estate might be the answer to your prayers, starting at a very reasonable £9,360 for the entry-level '1' spec. There has got to be a catch, though. Well, plump for the sub-£10k model and you're going to be looking at the least-powerful 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. The questions is, is it strong enough to make this the best budget estate car out there?

Where does it fit?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

On price, the range stretches from £9,360 as mentioned to £13,775 for the 1.9 diesel - the predicted best seller accounting for 27% of sales. At the bottom end of the scale this would also get you into a Fiat Doblo 1.4 Active (£10,110), a kind of unsightly van-like MPV estate car, while at the top of the scale you could have a Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra or Skoda Octavia petrol. Other rivals include the Peugeot 207 SW (starting at £11,540) and the forthcoming Renault Clio Sport Tourer (estimated to start at £14,500). So the Fabia estate is well priced to scoop up sales at both ends of the market, undercutting rivals healthily even before you start talking discounts.

Is it for you?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

If you need the space, then most certainly. The Fabia estate's load area has been increased by 235-litres giving it the sort of boot a Ford Focus/VW Golf hatchback driver could only dream about. Looking at the figures, the Fabia estate's boot has 480-litres with the rear seats up versus 396-litres for a five-door Focus hatch, which rises to 1,460-litres (Skoda) versus 1,258 (Ford) with the rear seats folded flat. As for direct supermini-cum-estate rivals, the Peugeot 207 SW falls well short, with 32% less boot space seats up, and 14% seats down.

What does it do well?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

Erm, apart from the ability to move half your house, the Fabia estate mirrors many of the hatchback's qualities, so you get a modern and robust if slightly dour interior, a reasonably sharp drive, a smooth ride, excellent standard equipment levels if you go for the '2' or '3' trim levels and a huge amount of interior space. Anyone wanting a small car with big-car feel will be impressed as the rear headroom has been increased by 42mm, as well as more legroom thanks to the slightly-extended wheelbase. We tried the 1.9-litre diesel on the way to Belgium for this test, and it worked remarkably well.However, the 70bhp 1.2 petrol was keen lower down the rev range but not so flexible when you needed a burst of speed on the motorway. And that was with only a couple of suitcases in the back.

What doesn't it do well?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

With a full load in the back, the 1.2 engine will struggle - and that's before you hit any hills. It will be fine for Saturday afternoon meanders to the tip, but not so competent if you've got a son or daughter at university and need to cart their stuff home two or three times a year, or you intend using it for work. Better to stump up the £3,255 that will get you into the Fabia2 1.9d Estate. The only downside with this powerful 105bhp engine is that it can be a bit deafening at times, not helped by the five-speed gearbox and lack of sound-deadening material that normally masks most of the diesel clatter.

What’s it like to live with?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

It may be big, but the steering is light, the visibility is clear and the engines are all nippy (even the 1.2 in town) so it is not a difficult car to drive. Most people will probably go for the '2' or '3' trim levels, which give you 15-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, halogen headlights, a trip computer and roof rails. Go for the top spec and this rises to include bigger wheels, rear parking sensors (which could come in handy on this model), curtain airbags and, unnecessarily, cruise control. The Fabia estate has quite a cult following, with the previous model selling 30,000 cars in the UK in just six years.

How green is it?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

You'll get no bother from any tree dwellers in the Fabia estate. The best-selling 1.9 diesel breathes out 129g/km of carbon dioxide, which is comparable to rivals, and will average 57.7mpg. It is 10g/km shy of the magic 119g/km figure that Ken Livingstone was banging on about; he said that cars producing less than this would escape the congestion charge, although he may have changed his mind again. The 1.2 produces 140g/km, so it isn't as clean burning as the diesel, nor is it as fuel friendly although you should manage 47.8mpg if you don't rev it too hard.

Would we buy one?

Skoda Fabia 1.2 estate (© Image by Simon Clay/Skoda)

Yes, if we wanted a cheap little load-lugger this would do the job perfectly well, but we couldn't wholeheartedly recommend the 1.2-litre engine. Save up a bit more or cut down on the booze or takeaways and spend the extra income on the 1.9 diesel. It's good to drive, has loads of room, is well specified and is excellent value for money. However, I personally couldn't overlook the used estate car bargains out there in the classifieds. For similar money you could have a used Volvo V70, Ford Mondeo or the simply humongous Vauxhall Vectra estate.

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