Friday 15 December 2017

Why it is any colour except black for Skoda's new Fabia

Skoda Fabia
Skoda Fabia
Skoda Fabia interior

I NEVER thought I'd paraphrase the great Henry Ford when reviewing a Skoda.

His famous proclamation, of course, was: "Any colour so long as it's black."

My advice on the new Skoda Fabia is: "Any colour except black."

I have rarely seen a car's appearance suffer so much from this dark shade.

To my eyes, anyway, the new supermini hatch looked quite uninspiring and dreary draped in black. It needs strong, lively colours. I like it a lot with the blue body and white-roof mix. That makes it look like the real modern car it is designed to be; the sort people would gravitate towards in the showroom or street.

I really don't like starting a review on a negative but if you take nothing else away from this I think I'd like it to be that warning about colour.

Look, you might totally disagree. I'm just giving you my personal reaction. And I am aware that the car is now designed and projected towards a far younger audience so an ould lad like me may be off the mark when it comes to what colour is trendy or not.

And I don't want my colour criticism to overshadow the merits of this fine new supermini because it is a strong, sturdy and roomy little number. That is hardly surprising as it is built on Volkswagen's global MQB platform.

I also think it is reasonable value for money and a decent drive into the bargain. It may not touch the sportiness of the Ford Fiesta but it competes strongly on a number of fronts with it and other rivals such as the Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio etc.

I didn't really notice it being much changed in size but they tell me it is lower, wider and shorter as well as having a slightly longer wheelbase than the old one.

The wider bit I came to notice quite a lot because there was more elbow room. For me that's important.

The cabin is much improved and I found the seats excellent. I'm going to keep on harping about seats because I know from personal experience how those with reasonable built-in lumbar support can transform a journey - and indeed ownership of a car.

Despite the lower roof there was excellent headroom.

And thankfully they have kept the dash clutter free.

I'm often overwhelmed with the number of buttons on dashboards and central consoles these days. Last week's review car, the MINI Cooper D 5dr, was an example of that madness.

I feel the carmakers who keep it simple are doing more than just a visual service; they are reducing the level of distraction behind the wheel as well.

Fair dues to Skoda on another front too. They have taken the 'personalisation' game to new heights. To break a continuous blob of dull dash they have a colour insert on the front passenger's side.

However, if you want to (and I think many people will) you can have your own personalised picture 'built in'. You can send the image - of yourself, family, friend, pet, whatever - to your dealer and for €20 it becomes part of the dash. And you can change it whenever you like. Should be fun.

And so to more practical matters. As I said there was good space in the cabin overall with decent legroom in the rear. The boot (330 litres) is among the largest in the class. This really matters because a lot of people who contact me are looking for that sort of space and sometimes find they have to edge to a larger car to get it.

Price is not everything in this sector of the market but it is a huge consideration.

They have managed to peg the entry-level price under the €14,000 mark but just remember you don't get Bluetooth - a drawback for hands-free phone use.

So you might be better going for the Ambition level (you still don't get air con or rear electric windows but there is a new touchscreen sound system, 15ins alloys, LEDs and Bluetooth). It is around €400 more than the old one.

Funnily enough the price of top spec Style has come down and has air con and rear electric windows (alleluia), 16ins alloys and rear-parking sensors.

I find the latter to be an increasingly important part of any package nowadays. I'd say only for it we'd all have a few more scrapes on the bumpers.

They also have the MirrorLink connectivity/app system. I'm not a fan. It is far too reliant on a good wifi signal which, as we all know, can disappear at a whim.

That apart, I have to say the Fabia is a really attractive package now.

Just so long as it is not in black.

Skoda Fabia: The facts and figures

* Skoda Fabia Style 5dr hatchack: 1.2 TSI petrol with Start/Stop (90bhp, 107g/km, road tax €190,  claimed 4.7l/100km (60 mpg).

* Price of model on test (including options): €18,195. The Fabia hatch range starts from €13,895.

Remember: delivery and related charges are extra.

Standard equipment includes front electric windows, 14ins wheels, stop/start, six airbags etc.

Ambition spec adds heated/electric mirrors, 60:40 split folding seats, front fogs, touchscreen radio, maxi dot and Bluetooth, 15ins alloys, front LEDs.

Style adds air con, rear electric windows, 16ins alloys, rear parking sensors, six-speaker sound system.

Optional equipment included digital radio, Sygic navigation, Bolero sound system with Mirror Link, Sport steering wheel, cruise control and 'Black Magic' metallic paint.

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