Skoda Fabia GreenLine Estate
Front end is largely identical to standard car
- The huge boot offers plenty of storage potential
- Its spacious interior is balanced by a relatively compact size
- Performance is more than adequate
- Exceptional economy means very low running costs
- Some hard plastics are used in the cabin
- Limited option range on GreenLine model
- Smaller wheels hurt the car's appearance
- Dark interior plastics
With increases in fuel costs and rising environmental pressures, many manufactures are introducing economy versions of existing cars, optimised to reduce emissions and running costs. Skoda's first offering is the Fabia GreenLine, available in hatchback or estate form and based on the 1.4 TDI model, which should bring efficiency benefits without compromising its utility or comfort.
Despite its economy claims, the Fabia GreenLine accelerates swiftly and cruises with ease. Its oil burning unit provides plenty of pull from low revs and it performs just as well higher up the rev range when it's fully laden thanks to its ample torque. Its performance figures suggest it's a bit of a slow coach off the line, but it certainly doesn't feel like it when sat behind the wheel. And like all diesels, the accelerative benefits really kick in when once on the move.
The estate has a slightly firmer suspension than its hatchback equivalent, which delivers good body control and composure through tight corners or on the motorways, whether carrying passengers or fully loaded. The firm ride means poor road surfaces equate to a slightly jarring ride, however refinement is good and noise levels entering the cabin remain low and unobtrusive. The same can't be said of the engine however, whose tone penetrates the calm of the cabin when worked hard.
Skoda has fitted an electro-hydraulic steering system, as opposed to a fully electric one, with the intention of giving high levels of feel and to save fuel when the car is travelling straight. Consequently there are decent levels of feedback and the light nature of the steering makes for a car that's easy to manoeuvre when parking.
Equipment levels are decent, with occupant safety and vehicle security generally well catered for, although only the top spec model comes with the full safety kit. The engineers have employed a clever design strategy, giving it a taller silhouette than the average estate, which produces generous passenger space. The downside is that it gives the estate a slightly lanky and gauche appearance.
Our verdict on the Skoda Fabia GreenLine Estate
The GreenLine offers a decent improvement in economy over the equivalent standard Fabia, but it is the reduction in C02 and therefore vehicle excise duty which really makes it worthwhile. A good standard of equipment accounts for the increased price, and its frugality does not dampen its practicality or enthusiasm when out on the road. It is definitely the acceptable face of economy motoring.
The GreenLine is better than the already impressive standard car here, with further improved economy - Skoda claim the GreenLine estate is the most economical estate money can buy. The reduction in C02 and subsequent vehicle excise duty is the real boon however, and with low insurance the GreenLine should be once of the cheapest cars to run currently on sale.
Space and practicality
Motorists may very well be surprised by the amount of space and versatility on offer in the estate, which is after all an extended supermini. Its boot provides 480 litres of space with the 60/40 split seats up, and an enormous 1460 litres with them down. It can even carry a payload of just over half a tonne. Storage options abound in the cabin, with useful sized cubbyholes stashed about nearly everywhere you look.
Controls and display
At the front of the cabin, the interior of the estate version is no different to the hatchback. It's a nice touch for Fabia supermini owners who will upgrade to the estate version and benefit from the familiarity of the layout. Similarly, like the hatch, the controls are laid out in a logical and convenient order with minimal fuss, but addressing all the essentials nonetheless. The switchgear is sturdy while the instrument displays are clean and easy to read.
Getting comfortable in the driver's seat poses no problem, with the height adjustable seat and reach and rake adjustable steering wheel helping matters. The seats are supportive and comfortable although the firm ride means occupants will be aware of the road surface below them. Both legroom and headroom have been increased throughout the cabin over the old model, with rear passengers benefiting from an extra 42mm of space above their heads.
The estate benefits from remote central locking and also has an immobiliser. The amount of cabin storage available means there is no excuse for leaving valuables in view. Standard equipment on the 2 adds an alarm with tilt sensor and anti-theft locking wheel bolts on the alloys. The estate's modest looks should be viewed as an attribute, especially if you don't want you car to catch the eye of the casual thief.
All models come with four airbags as standard, twin front and side airbags, but only the top-trim car adds rear curtain airbags. The hatch has performed well in crash tests and there's no reason to assume the estate won't follow. Skoda has improved the Fabia's energy absorbing properties and deformation zones to give occupants greater protection in the event of an impact while pedestrian safety has also been addressed.
Thanks to the willing nature of the diesel engine tested, the Fabia GreenLine delivers an engaging drive that can honestly be described as athletic. The GreenLine gives away nothing in power or torque to the standard 1.4-litre diesel hence respectable performance. The set up of the suspension and chassis means that it handles in a sure-footed and tidy manner, confident and capable on cross-country roads as well as motorways. Even when extended, the GreenLine delivers efficient motoring and the heaviest of right feet will fail to turn it into a gas guzzler.
Family car appeal
It's an affordable option for the average family that should tick all of the boxes as a main means of transport. The roomy cabin will accomodate a family of five comfortably, while the large boot means pets will be able to join in on family days out. It should see a family through all of its needs over a number of years from carrying buggies in the back right through to packing a student off to university.
First car appeal
Normally first time drivers are warned off thinking about anything other than a supermini and certainly not an estate car. However the Fabia's compact dimensions and easy driving dynamics, coupled with low running costs, make this a contender for any new driver who needs more space and practicality.
Quality and image
Skoda calls itself the manufacturer of happy drivers and why not? Since Volkswagen took over, Skoda now delivers consistently on durability and reliability, not to mention polished cars that manage to be practical and refined. The Fabia Estate won't win any awards for style but should win the respect of other manufacturers and road users for succeeding in offering a versatile and budget-friendly estate supermini where others have failed.
The access to the boot, and the space provided, is one of the best attributes of the Fabia estate. The tailgate requires little effort to open and the load lip is low providing easy access to an extremely useful area. An internal grab handle fitted to the tailgate allows you to keep your hands clean when closing the boot. All passenger doors open wide so access to the front and rear seats is more than reasonable.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Standard fit across the range is an integrated CD player featuring a jack socket input for iPods and other MP3 players. The stereo is centrally located and thanks to its simple and straightforward design together with its large controls, is easy to use and read. The Fabia GreenLine adds four additional speakers to deliver excellent sound quality.
Colours and trim
Available in four solid colours, including vivid yellow, and a wide range of metallic colours, the estate looks good in all of the shades with the exception of the sombre Highland Green which doesn't do much to compliment the car's slightly gawky styling. Although sturdily built, the hard plastics used in the cabin are a little disappointing.
Despite it being an estate car, the Fabia's compact size means it is easy to manoeuvre in small spaces and is not cumbersome to drive in the urban environment, allowing drivers to negotiate their way around city centre multi-storey car parks with confidence. Slim A pillars provide the driver with good visibility while acoustic rear parking sensors, standard on the top spec model, are also available as an option.
GreenLine has a tyre repair kit unlike other Fabias in order to save weight.
Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre (70bhp); 1.4-litre (85bhp); 1.6-litre (105bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.4-litre (70bhp); 1.4-litre (80bhp) 1.9-litre (105bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, six-gear Tiptronic transmission available as option on 1.6 petrol version. Trim levels: 1, 2, 3, GreenLine and Sport.
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