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First drive: Skoda Fabia - on sale May 17



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Škoda launched the first generation Fabia in 2000 and it has sold 1.5m cars globally.

The UK share is 130,000 owners, nine out of 10 of whom would recommend their Fabia to a friend, according to Škoda.

It believes the new model will appeal to existing customers and conquests, who will be wooed by style with substance, design, space and quality.

Dealers are tasked with selling 9,500 new models this year – on sale from May 17 – alongside 7,800 of the current model on run out, making a total of 17,300. Next year Škoda expects to sell 17,500, buoyed by the estate, which goes on sale in first quarter of 2008.

The new Fabia has grown in all aspects, except for wheelbase. The result in improved space for all occupants (Škoda is promising the most rear knee- and headroom in the class), plus an increase of 40 litres luggage capacity with the seats up and 147 litres with the rear seats folded.

Engines for the new line-up are 1.2 (59bhp), 1.2 12v (68bhp), 1.4 16v (84bhp) and 1.6 16v (103bhp) petrol units, or 1.4 TDI PD (68bhp or 79bhp) and 1.9 TDI PD (103bhp) diesel. The 79bhp and 103bhp diesels have a particulate filter.

Six-speed Tiptronic transmission is optional with the 1.6 16v engine and customers can also choose Climatronic air-con, head airbags, GSM and Bluetooth phone kit, and MP3/iPod-compatible audio systems. Three trim levels are offered – Comfort, Elegance and Avantgarde – with base cars fairly meagrely appointed.

As far as target customers are concerned, Škoda is hedging its bets. According to its marketing spiel: “The ‘Supermini’ market is a large volume, well established segment with a number of competitors and a wide appeal to a variety of age groups and lifestyles.

“New Fabia’s additional space and leer design features will attract young families with one or two children where space and functionality is all important, whilst its fresh, contemporary, high quality interior and exterior design will appeal to couples and singles alike.”

Rivals include the Honda Jazz, Citroën C3, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 207.

Behind the wheel

Drawn from the same platform as the Volkswagen Polo and Seat Ibiza, Škoda has arguably found the best all-round balance in terms of ride and handling.

The spring and damper set-up is pretty much spot on, being relatively firm through corners, providing good levels of body control and limited roll. Yet ride quality is also excellent, smoothing bumps with ease.

Although the smaller engined models represent strong value for money, their lack of power is telling.

The larger petrol units perform much more strongly and, predictably, the diesels are the pick of the bunch.

Inside and out, the new Fabia’s build quality is superb. Interior layout, comfort and visibility are all as good as anything in its class, while the exterior wears the new corporate ‘face’, first seen on the Roomster.

Fact file

Price From £7,995 (est)
Engines Petrol: 1.2 (59bhp, 68bhp), 1.4 84bhp, 1.6 103bhp. Diesel: 1.4 (68bhp, 79bhp), 1.9 (103bhp)
Performance Petrol: 0-62mph 10.1-16.5sec, top speed 96-118mph. Diesel: 0-62mph 10.8-14.8sec, top speed 101-118mph
Transmission Five-speed manual, six-speed Tiptronic
Efficiency Petrol: 37-48mpg, 140-181g/km CO2. Diesel: 57-61mpg, 120-129g/km CO2 Rivals Honda Jazz, Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 207

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