Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Skoda Fabia

Years built: 2007 to 2014

Bodystyles: Small hatchback and estate

What is it?

This is the second generation Skoda Fabia, a car that built on the impressive debut of the 1999 original with a new body fitted on top of the same chassis that that first version. Does that make it old-fashioned before its time? No — it’s more a case of Skoda making good use of components that weren’t quite past their sell-by. The Fabia is simple, rugged, practical, and comfortable, making it an ideal small car either for those looking to down-size or for those looking to start their motoring lives.

Which one should I buy?

In the seven years that it was in production, the Fabia II didn’t change all that much. The engine lineup stayed basically static, based around 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol engines, and a 1.6-litre diesel. There were two types of 1.2 petrol —  a basic with either 60hp or 70hp, and a turbocharged 1.2 four-cylinder with 105hp which made its debut in the Fabia when it was given a facelift in 2010. That’s a rare version, though, especially in Ireland where most buyers went for the basic 1.2. Just make sure you avoid the 60hp version — it’s almost hopelessly breathless, and while 10hp isn’t a major difference, the 70hp version feels much more at home on main roads. The 85hp 1.4, an engine that dates back more than two decades, is a solid unit, although again a relative rarity in Ireland.

Of the diesels, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder TDI is the best choice, as it’s relatively smooth and refined (well, by mid-noughties standards anyway). It’s certainly better in that respect than the excessively noisy three-cylinder 1.2 and 1.4 diesel options, or the positively ancient 1.9 ‘Pump Duse’ engine.

Almost all Fabias that you’ll find will be the standard five-door hatchback (unlike the VW Polo and Seat Ibiza, which shared its chassis, there was never a three-door version) but shop around and you might track down the rare estate model. It may sound a bit daft to go for an estate version of such a small car, but with a 480-litre cargo area, the Fabia Combi is remarkably useful, and makes for an exceptionally good way to down-size without sacrificing practicality.

As far as trim goes, it’s best to try to track down a high-spec Ambition model, as more basic versions can be a bit too plain inside. Post-facelift models also came with the option of sporty Monte Carlo trim (to celebrate Skoda’s rallying successes) and that’s a good choice if you fancy something that looks like a hot hatch, but doesn’t have the running costs.

How much should I spend?

The very best post-facelift Fabia IIs are on sale for less than €8,000 so you really can get a lot of car for not much money.

Here’s one we found:

2014 Skoda Fabia II Combi estate 1.2 HTP 70hp Ambition, three owners, 160,000km, €6,950 from a SIMI-registered dealer.

What goes wrong?

Skoda has a tremendous reputation for reliability and the relatively mechanical simple Fabia doesn’t do anything to dent that. All of its engines and components are tried and tested VW Group parts, so you’re unlikely to run into any major issues.

Keep an eye out — with all engines — for high oil consumption. It’s not usually a symptom of anything bad, more a genuine case of ‘they all do that, sir.’ Don’t be alarmed by poor panel fit on the outside, either — again, it goes with the Fabia territory and it’s not a sign of anything dodgy under the skin.

Post-2009 cars don’t come with a spare wheel as standard, so watch for that, and the cabin can suffer from squeaks and rattles, especially after a few years on Irish country roads. The pedals can also start squeaking, but that can usually be fixed with some carefully applied lubricant.

It’s worth pointing out too that by being based on an older platform, the Fabia II missed out on some of the newer technology of some of its rivals, so don’t go expecting big touchscreens and lots of electronic driver aids.

Anything else?

Skoda doesn’t always do a sporty version of its models, but when it does, they’re usually worth checking out. Thus it was with the Fabia RS, which used the 180hp turbo 1.4-litre engine from the VW Polo GTI. It wasn’t an out-and-out hot hatch, more a very warm one with only small tweaks to the chassis and steering, but it was fun and a relatively frugal way to get a true motorsports badge on your driveway (RS also looked after Skoda’s rallying entries). They’re rare though, as the RS model was dropped after the 2010 facelift.

And when you’ve found your perfect Skoda Fabia don’t forget to get it history checked by motorcheck.ie.