I had intended to use my 'UK first drive' review by trying the Fabia Estate 2, 1.9 TDi 105bhp version priced at £12,615, the likely best selling model.
However the low starting price for the Fabia Estate 1 with the 1.2-litre 70bhp petrol engine at just £9,360 seems more relevant for many potential Skoda buyers.
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Whilst the price and the space attracts the Fabia Estate's styling does not. The front is OK and the new face of Skoda is fine, but side and rear profiles are pretty uninspiring compared to the equally well priced and better warrantied Kia Cee'd and Hyundai i30 Estates.
The Fabia Estate looks so old fashioned with its high waistline, small side windows and really dated tailgate design. It is Eastern European design of a bygone age. Why on earth didn't they just follow the design of their slightly larger Octavia Estate which is much more modern?
Skoda designers and engineers are proud of the way they adapt the core designs and components from the parent VW company to give their products distinctive looks and a unique Skoda driveability relative to price. Well they have succeeded with space and price but not looks on this occasion.
The level 1 specification can best be described as basic but relative to the low price. Customers get a Fabia Estate 1 with the choice of 1.2-litre 70bhp petrol or 1.4-litre TDI 70 and 80bhp engine options with steel wheels, anti-lock braking, central door locking, driver, front passenger and side airbags.
Also included are electric front windows, 60/40 split rear seat, height adjustable driver's seat, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, immobiliser and stereo radio/CD player with four speakers and MP3 compatibility. The rest of the specification is pretty basic, a glovebox with no lid, cheap looking seat upholstery and manually adjustable door mirrors.
If customers want more engine choices and better equipment levels it makes more sense to opt for the level 2 specification. The 1.2-litre petrol model with level 2 equipment is £1,110 more expensive than my test car but gets alloy wheels, four additional speakers, air conditioning, alarm, electrically heated and operated door mirrors halogen headlights, remote central locking, trip computer and roof rails.
Level 3 specification includes larger alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control extra airbags, front fog lights leather steering wheel and gearknob and a better computer. The all important safety feature of an electronic stability programme is an extra cost option for all models.
I gather all the petrol and diesel engines are not the smoothest on offer in the market place today. If a customer wants an automatic transmission model then the only engine available with it is the 1.6-litre, 105bhp unit which comes with either level 2 or 3 specification costing £12,300 and £13,460 respectively.
As for the 1.2-litre, 70bhp petrol engine I tried. This is a three-cylinder unit with the characteristic gruffness of a three-pot but it is surprisingly sprightly and flexible, except on hills. Even with only 112Nm of torque from 3,000rpm this unit allows for easy driving around town with minimal gearchanges.
On the open roads the engine needs to be pushed harder to get the best from it and the engine tone rises accordingly. Top speed is 102mph and 0-62mph is covered in 15.1 seconds. On motorways or open roads the manual gearbox would benefit from a higher fifth gear or a six-speed unit to reduced noise and perhaps improve fuel economy.
But on that front this car will return 47.9mpg on average and the 140g/km of CO2 puts it in road tax class C at £115 a year.
The roadholding and handling is no more than capable, ride comfort is average, road and wind noise intrusion quite high and being a tall vehicle side wind gusting unsettles the vehicle - but you get what you pay for.
Overall the Skoda Fabia Estate scores highly for interior space and the 1.2-litre model in particular scores well for the low purchase price and fuel economy. If you want a basic estate car with loads of space for not much money then the Fabia 1, 1.2 HTP model is for you with.
However if you are going for a higher specification and a larger engine I'd probably consider a Kia Cee'd SW estate which looks much better, has a long seven-year warranty and has a better specification as standard.
Skoda Fabia Estate 1, 1.2 HTP. Price: £9,360 (£10,610 as tested)
Engine: 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol, 70bhp, 112Nm of torque
Performance: 102mph, 0-62mph 15.1 seconds, 47.9mpg, CO2 140g/km, VED Group C at £115
Load space: Up to 1,460-litre
Insurance group: 2
For: Interior passenger and load carrying space, low purchase price, low running costs, low insurance costs, well built and sturdy
Against: Dated rear end styling, very basic equipment levels on cheapest model, no electronic stability safety programme for any models as standard, engine and road noise intrusion, prone to side wind gusting