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It was when the rear view mirror dropped off in my hand that I realised my trusty 12 year old Ford Fiesta would have to go.
So a weekend spent on the internet looking for good value second hand cars (my daughter is just learning to drive so I needed something in one of the lower insurance groups) ended with 3 test drives booked: for a Ford Scenic, a Fiat Punto and a Skoda Fabia. Alas, the Scenic and Punto didn't even get out on the road. I took one look at the Fabia, which is lemon yellow, and I was in love.
Yes, it's the same colour as a banana. Yes, it makes street lighting unnecessary. Yes, when the bottom gets muddy, it looks like a liquorice allsort. Somehow, its sunny nature just appeals to me.
Because this absolutely is a car that doesn't take itself seriously.
The Classic is the most basic car you can imagine. My car is the 2002 model, a five door hatchback built just after Volkswagen took over the Skoda marque. When I phoned for the test drive, I knew it didn't have much power under the bonnet (1.4, 8v engine). I knew it didn't have air-con, or a sun roof or a large boot. What I wasn't prepared for though, is the lack of things I'd assumed now came as standard in the 21st century. When did you last see a car with non-electric windows? And, to my horror, not only does it not have remote locking, it doesn't even have central locking!! The last car I owned without central locking was a Metro back in the early 1990s!
So what has it got? Well, despite the jokes, I adore the lemon yellow colour. I like the boxy shape although it has been criticised by others. It has power-assisted steering and ABS. It has a power point for charging small electrical items. It has a reasonable 4 speaker radio and CD player. It has.....well, that's about it really (although.....did I mention the colour??).
The 1.4 engine actually performs quite well. I've already done a couple of motorway trips and it cruises at 70 with no shakes and no sign of effort (well, I wouldn't dream of going any faster would I?). For the price, the engine is very quiet and it's a smooth ride.
But most of my driving is done in town and this is where the Fabia really comes into its own. It hasn't got the power to allow you to be a bully on a busy roundabout but it parks in spaces barely larger than itself and the controls are comfortable and easy to use even in stop start traffic. The driver's seat can be raised and lowered as well as moved backwards and forwards which I appreciate as I'm quite short. I'm told by my passengers that it feels surprisingly spacious even with three people in the back. Other reviewers have criticised the sight lines, but this isn't something I've had a problem with.
From the research I did beforehand, I gather that Fabias can suffer from condensation and damp problems, both in the body of the car and in the engine compartment. Despite the fact that it has rained every day since I bought mine, I certainly haven't noticed any dampness inside. I'm also told they can develop electrical problems at about the 8 year stage (oops!) but everything seems good at the moment. The Skoda Fabia is said to average just under 30 mpg in town and a tad over 50mpg on motorways. At the moment, I would say that's a little optimistic (and I'm not a mad driver or carrying heavy loads).
Perhaps it's a girl's car (although another thing it doesn't have is a driver's sunshade mirror!). As you can tell from the above, I'm not a car expert - I really couldn't tell you exactly what's in the engine compartment let alone what it all does. But then generally I want to drive my car rather than tinker with it and with the Fabia I can enjoy doing just that.
A small car with a cheap price. The Fabia provides you with a reliable car based on VW components.
The car has a decent appearance, nothing special but not ugly either. The 5 door is a bonus and something that I prefer.
The 1.4 litre engine doesn't provide much power and the horsepower is lacking. Don't expect to overtake very easily and it does take a while to get up to motorway speeds. Otherwise the car handles well with decent power steering and very easy and smooth gear changing.
Being the basic model, the Classic doesn't provide much in terms of features with only the basic fan heating system, cassette radio system & manual everything. This isn't too bad if you're used to basic features but those looking for something more might want to look at the higher range.
Boot space is very good for a small hatchback and there's plenty of room to fit 2 people with their luggage in the boot for a short holiday. Enough room for 5 passengers and I've happily been one of these five passengers on a 6 hour trip.
Reliability on the car has been good over the past 8 years or so with a distinct lack of any bad issues or breakdowns. Recently the car has developed some electrical problems which are somewhat common to the Fabia but compared to the lifetime reliability it's pretty good.
Recently I had to have some work done on my Felicia, so I trundled down to my local dealer who handed me the keys to a brand new lemon yellow fabia, at least you cant lose it in the dark! Being used to my 1.6, I more than noticed the drop in power to the 1.4, but still feel that the engine was a bit too under powered for the car. Drivers seat was comfortable, and not being used to the gadgets they have on cars these days, I had fun (!) adjusting the seat and stearing wheel to give me a very comfortable ride. However looking out of the windows there is far less visibility that you would expect. Overall, I'd say it was a good for a second car, runabout kind of thing, where you'll be spending half your life in traffic, but for long journeys, I'd steer clear or go for a higher engine.