Not 2 Grand Cars, Skoda

The Skoda Fabia…

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We make no secret of the fact we like a Skoda here at Not £2 Grand. Pollitt was raised on them, with his parents buying a Estelle 120L five-speed and later, a Favorit. Both brand new, both in the height of schoolyard Skoda mockery. Being deeply uncool, but determined to make their money go as far as possible, mother and father Pollitt found the Skodas of the late 1980s and early 1990s to be too much of a temptation. And they were right to place their hard earned money on the Czech portion of the automotive roulette wheel, because neither car ever went wrong. Ever. Both cars proved themselves to be reliable, practical and in the case of the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive Estelle, brilliant to drive. And this was waaaay before Volkswagen got involved.

Back then, it was only people like mother and father Pollitt who got to see the merits of Skoda ownership, what with having bought one. For everyone else, the Skoda was a point of ridicule, a car to be mocked, but as is often the case, that mocker stemmed from a complete lack of knowledge and understanding. The common misconception is that Skodas were crap, then Volkswagen came along and bought it, and then Skodas were good. That’s nonsense. Do you think VW would have pumped millions into buying a car company that made rubbish cars? No. Volkswagen bought Skoda because Skoda was damn good at the old car-building thing.

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Of course, since Voklswagen’s ownership, things have gone from strength to strength for Skoda. The brand has long since left the unfortunate (and undeserving) jokes behind, and now it’s seen as one of the big boys, and to a degree as an aspriational brand. Honestly, people don’t just buy a Skoda because they need a car. They buy one because they want a Skoda. And rightly so. The brightest example of this desire would be the vRS cars, of which we have covered a two. There’s the Octavia vRS and of course, the old Fabia vRS. Performance Skodas. Who’da thunk it?

We’re not looking at a vRS here though. Instead, we’re looking at the second-generation Fabia (there is a vRS model of course, but ti’s still a bit on the pricey side). It’s a car that you need to be aware of, especially if you’re in the market for a small family car. The Fabia is the thinking man’s Polo, Fiesta or Corsa. But because it’s a Skoda, it will have been owned by someone called Geoff, and Geoff will have loved his Skoda and he will have looked after it, making it an astounding used car bargain. Unlike the Corsa that Wayne owned, or the Fiesta from Gary. Cars that will have been flogged to death.

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The second-generation Fabia was launched in 2007, and it built on the good work of its predecessor with aplomb. The first Fabia was one of the initial Volkskodas, if you will, and along with the first-generation Octavia, it set to redefine the Skoda brand. By the time second-generation cars were being talked about, Skoda could afford to be a bit braver with the design, and to dig a bit deeper into the VAG parts bin. The resultant car was a smart-looking, exceptionally we screwed-together, comfortable, practical, economical and generally pleasant little car. Seriously, look at it, how can you not like it? It’s cute.

Underneath its more contemporary skin, the Fabia remained largely the same, but that’s no bad thing. It retained the PQ24 platform from its predecessor, but when you consider the same platform can be found under the Audi A2, the Polo Mk4, the Ibiza and the Fox, it’s no bad thing.

It was styled to fit in with the Skoda family of the time, meaning softer lines and more welcoming faces, which is why it looks somewhat like the Roomster of the time. It’s a cheeky, charming, inoffensive little car. It was trying to be better than the old Fabia, it was not penned to disrupt the small hatch segment. And that shows. It’s not over-designed. It’s just… pleasant.

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In terms of propulsion, the Fabia came with a few options. For those who like their fuel to be ignited, there was a three-pot 1.2 with 60 or 70bhp, which was remarkably peppy considering most Dysons have more grunt. There was also a more conventional 1.4 with 86bhp, though the 1.2TSi complete with turbocharger is ace with 104bhp, though Fabias with this engine are only just dipping their toe into the sub-£2k pool.

If you like your fuel to be squashed into life, there was the 1.6 with 74, 89 or 104bhp depending on trim level. Though all of them will put you north of of 65mpg with ease. That said, the 74bhp 1.2 three-pot diesel in the Greenline models is the work of much mystery and sorcery – it can deliver over 80mpg. As long as it’s been looked after – check the history for regular servicing and the like if you want  Greenline. Well, check it anyway, but really check it on this model.

Gearbox-wise, the second-generation Fabia was made available with a five-speed manual or VW’s snappy DSG in seven’speed flavour. A most excellent ‘box with near telepathic changing speed.

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On the road, the Fabia is quiet, it’s competent and it’s easy to pilot. It is not, however, rewarding, engaging or thrilling. Skoda has built this car to appeal to Geoff, not Gary, and as such, it’s a soft and supple place to be rather than a machine for spiritedly hunting apexes. If you do that, you’ll just end up on a ditch. Possibly on fire.

That said, this is still a Volkswagen product at its core, and as such, you feel very much a part of the drive. It might not be exciting, but it is still involving. You feel like a crucial part of the car’s motion rather than a monkey pressing buttons, or turning a wheel that’s so over-assisted it feels like ti’s connected to nothing but air.

If you’re looking for a reliable, quiet, comfortable car the Fabia is for you. Inside, it’s well appointed, there are plenty of electronic bits like mirrors, windows, CD, air con and so on. the whole thing is screwed together with a pleasing Germanness and for a small car, it’s remarkably spacious, as this technical drawing will go to show…

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There are, of course, some negatives to be aware of. The big one is that EuroNCAP only gave it four stars out of five, which is disappointing. It’s by no means an unsafe car though, so don’t panic. It’s just a shame to not see five starts from a brand like Skoda.

Other than that, there have been complaints of software issues killing the centre screen within the dash, the rear does can leak on some models (though it is a rare complaint compared to the sieve-like Mk1), the central locking can be temperamental and if they’re not serviced properly, they can develop a nasty habit for drinking oil.

The good news is that the second’generation Fabia is plentiful in the sub-£2,000 marketplace, so as a buyer you have power. Don’t buy the first one, buy the right one. The estate, with metallic paint, full and detailed service history, lots of MOT and of course, Geoff on the V5 as the previous owner.

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