First Drive: 2014 Skoda Fabia Estate

Skoda Fabia Estate

This is Skoda's all-new Fabia Estate - the respected hatchback's spacious big brother. First launched seven years ago – and earning a loyal following - the trusty estate has finally been overhauled to create an everyday family car, which is slightly more exciting to look at than its predecessor but still offers big-car practicality in a small package.

What is it?

Christened the Combi, the Fabia Estate is a five-door family runaround and remains one of the most comfortable and spacious contenders in its sector. Under the metal, the hatchback and estate are essentially the same car – at the front at least. In fact, the only real difference is the extra 26cm on the rear, which provides a gigantic 530-litre luggage space (505 with the optional spare wheel under the floor). Fold the rear seats forward, and this extends to an impressive 1,370 litres.

Designed by a team led by the man who designed the Bugatti Veyron the estate follows in the footsteps of the current Octavia and recently launched Fabia hatch, featuring Skoda's latest design style with a well-equipped and functional cabin. While boasting a large load bay in what feels like a small car, the estate is easy to manoeuvre and drive around town.

What's under the bonnet?

Skoda's all-new estate comes with a variety of engine options, from a 1.0-litre 75bhp petrol unit to all-new 1.4-litre diesel units. If you're sticking to petrol, we'd recommend the 89bhp 1.2-litre TSI petrol, which is also available with a DSG automatic six-speed gearbox and in 109bhp tune. But for better fuel consumption and lower tax bills, the new 89bhp 1.4-litre, three-cylinder diesel is the one to go for and is also available with an automatic gearbox and in 104bhp form.

The 1.2-litre TSI offers a strong average fuel consumption figure of 60.1mpg and emits just 107g/km of CO2. It's not the slowest car on the road either, with the ability to accelerate from 0-60mph in a respectable 10.8 seconds. Meanwhile, the 89bhp 1.4-litre diesel has a combined fuel consumption figure of 83.1mpg and emits 89g/km of CO2. Furthermore, no model exceeds car tax band B, so tax will cost a maximum of £20 per year.

What's the spec like?

Both the hatchback and estate are available in the three trim levels - S, SE and SE L. All of these are better equipped than the outgoing models they will replace and lighter too, improving economy and performance. Entry-level S models, priced from £12,405, feature Start/Stop, a digital radio, electric front windows and Bluetooth as standard. Move up a level to SE, which have price tags starting from £13,905, and you gain air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, height adjustable front seats and roof rails. Meanwhile, the range-topping SE L models, priced from £14,755, add features including larger alloy wheels, climate control and LED daytime running headlights.

Skoda Fabia Estate

Skoda Fabia Estate

The media screens available in the new Fabia range are packed with a wide array of apps. USB and Bluetooth smartphone connection both come as standard on all models, while MirrorLink - the system which allows passengers to interact with with Android handsets using the Fabia's touchscreen display - is only available from mid-range. The entire range benefits from body coloured door mirrors and handles, while SE L models get front fog lights.

Step out from behind the wheel and the Fabia Estate is much better looking and more refined than its predecessor. Skoda's new design motto to keep things simple in order for its cars to look good in five years' time, has helped the brand to differentiate its models and distance itself from parent group, Volkswagen.

Any rivals?

The supermini Fabia Estate is one of a handful of small estates on sale in the UK, though it lines up alongside larger cars in terms of boot space. The Estate's boot space is just 20 litres smaller than the Ford Mondeo – a vehicle two classes higher – and although it's still smaller than the Dacia Logan MCV, which is available from a mere £6,995, the Estate oozes a much greater sense of quality and is packed with far more technology.

The Estate's freshly designed exterior also puts it ahead of the game, sharing many visual elements with the Octavia. In fact, the Estate's biggest rivals are the Seat Ibiza ST, which is closely related to the previous Fabia Estate and shares the new car's sharp looks and large boot and the standard Fabia hatchback, which offers the same kit and quality but at a lower price.

What's it like to drive?

Sharing lots of its underpinnings with the VW Golf and Audi A3, the Fabia Estate is a small package that's packed with big ideas – making it both comfortable and easy to drive. If you go for the turbocharged petrol, the 89bhp 1.2-litre petrol is just as responsive as the hatch and satisfyingly smooth.

The diesel is a pleasant surprise, too - the new three-cylinder engine copes well on the road, even at high revs, and it's just as pokey as the petrol. The Fabia Estate isn't designed to be a fun car to drive though and, with this is mind, it's easy to appreciate its smooth and quiet ride both on the motorway and in the city, or even when driving along country roads. For a five-seater family car, the Fabia Estate is impressively nimble too. In fact, the extra 26cm in length is hardly noticeable.

The AOL Cars verdict

The Fabia Estate is both cheap to buy and run and usefully practical, with a large boot for its size and good on-road behaviour. The petrol 1.2 TSI – set to be Skoda's best seller – is the engine to go for and you'll want to opt for mid-range SE trim, which is crammed with all of the essential kit you could need.

Essentially, the Fabia Estate is a full-size family car with a supermini price tag, and if space is a big priority for you, then the Fabia Estate is definitely a big contender.

The Knowledge

Model: Skoda Fabia Estate
Price: £13,905
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbo petrol
Power: 89bhp, 160Nm
Max speed: 115mph
0-62: 11 seconds
MPG: 60.1 (combined)
Emissions: 107g/km

Author: Sophie Williamson-Stothert