Superminis sell by the truckload in the UK, so to stay competitive manufacturers need to make sure their cars are facelifted frequently. And the latest brand to tick that box is Skoda, with this revamped Fabia

The range-wide updates comprisea new grille, tweaked headlights, a spec boost across the line-up that includes stronger safety tech, and LED running lights. Personalisation is a priority for buyers in this sector, too, so Skoda has also delivered more on this front, while it’s followed market trends by offering the updated Fabia with a line-up of three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines.

• Best superminis to buy 2018

But of course, the competition is stiff, and the new Fabia is facing off against the king of the class, the Ford Fiesta. It boasts many of the features of this newer Skoda, so the fight will be tight. Price will naturally come into the equation as well, and we know the Ford is affordable on PCP finance, which is how most people buy in this class.

Finally, the Citroen C3 will give the Skoda a run for its money when it comes to practicality and comfort. So which is the star supermini?

Skoda Fabia

Model: Skoda Fabia 1.0
TSI 95 Colour Edition
Price: £15,395
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 94bhp
0-60mph: 10.3 seconds
Test Economy: 44.0mpg/9.7mpl
CO2: 106g/km
Annual Road Tax: £140

Even though a new 1.0 TSI engine joined the range last year, the Skoda Fabia has received another update, with subtly-tweaked styling and more kit throughout. How does the improved car fare against the competition? We’ll find out with this well-priced £15,395 1.0 TSI 95 Colour Edition.

Although the Fabia is around 100kg lighter than its competitors here, it’s slightly less powerful. It produces 94bhp and 160Nm of torque, with the latter figure down on both rivals. In our performance tests, the Skoda took 10.3 seconds to cover 0-60mph. It feels nippy, but a shortage of torque means it’s not quite as flexible, which counts double in a car that’ll spend a lot of its life in town. From 30-50mph in fourth it posted a time of 8.6 seconds, which was 1.8 seconds slower than the Fiesta and trailed the C3 by 1.1 seconds.

Between 50 and 70mph in fifth the Czech hatch took 11.8 seconds, 1.6 seconds behind the Ford and 0.8 seconds down on the Citroen, despite having shorter overall gearing, turning 2,800rpm at 70mph in top. Yet pulling more revs doesn’t hurt the Fabia’s cruising ability; the engine is quiet when revved
and the Skoda suppresses noise well on the move.

The damping feels forgiving, too, so there’s a decent level of comfort. It doesn’t tie the body down quite as well as the Ford, but it’s easily more composed than the Citroen, if not quite as comfortable as its French competitor. There’s a fair degree of compliance and a nice balance between ride quality and control, but the Fiesta offers similar attributes, too, with a more sporty focus. The Fabia is refined and isn’t deficient in any one area, but it doesn’t stand out in any, either.

Testers’ Notes: “Compared with its VW Group stablemates, the Fabia feels a little short on tech, given that it doesn’t get the latest highlights from the MQB-platform cars. It’s a similar story against the Fiesta and C3, too.”

Ford Fiesta

Model: Ford Fiesta 1.0
EcoBoost 100 Zetec 5dr
Price: £16,465
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 99bhp
0-60mph: 9.8 seconds
Test Economy: 43.8 mpg/9.6mpl
CO2: 110g/km
Annual Road Tax: £140

The Ford Fiesta is Britain’s most popular car and routinely tops the chart of best sellers. It’s also our favourite supermini, so in every sense this is the model the new Fabia has to beat. We’re testing a 1.0 EcoBoost 100 version in five-door Zetec trim (although our pictures show a three-door ST-Line).

The Fiesta is still the best driver’s car in its class. It has the most communicative steering and a chassis that injects a sense of fun into the experience. The relatively peppy 99bhp 1.0-litre turbo engine revs sweetly and with a muted three-cylinder thrum.

There’s a good amount of torque, with 170Nm available. This is 10Nm more than in the lighter Skoda, but 35Nm down on the Citroen. However, due to its six-speed box covering a narrower speed range, the Fiesta actually had the advantage in gear.

It was 0.1 seconds slower than the C3 from 0-60mph, taking 9.8 seconds, but between 50 and 70mph in fifth it was 0.8 seconds quicker than the Citroen. Between 30 and 50mph in fourth, it was 1.1 seconds ahead of the French car and 1.8 seconds up on the Czech model.

It’s not necessarily about performance here, although the Ford offers more easily accessible speed. The Fiesta’s powertrain is the most refined, and so is the ride. It filters out corrugations you feel even in the softer Citroen, thanks to its high-quality damping, while harsher bumps don’t have the same impact because of the finesse with which the dampers control the wheels and the body.

This gives the car an incredible breadth of ability for a supermini. It’s the most comfortable, the most agile and the most engaging choice. It’s also faster and more fun to drive, yet also the most relaxing car when all you want to do is get from A to B at a cruise.

Testers’ Notes: “The Fiesta has a slight practicality disadvantage over its rivals, but it’s not enough to stop you buying one, because it’s still incredibly versatile. Besides, it matches almost every other supermini for usability.”

Citroen C3

Model: Citroen C3
PureTech 110
Feel Nav Edition
Price: £16,750
Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo, 108bhp
0-60mph: 9.7 seconds
Test Economy: 43.3mpg/9.5mpl
CO2: 103g/km
Annual Road Tax: £140

The C3 fired Citroen towards the front of the supermini sector at launch, but while newer models have usurped its position, the car we’re testing is a relatively new trim level. With the PureTech 110 engine this Feel Nav costs £16,750 (our pictures show a Flair), so it’s the priciest choice here, but it gets lots of kit and is similar to the Skoda in many ways.

The C3’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo unit boasts the strongest output here, serving up 108bhp and a healthy 205Nm of torque from 1,500rpm; 45Nm more than the Fabia. It shows why the Citroen was the quickest car at our test track, just edging the Fiesta in the 0-60mph sprint, taking 9.7 seconds. That torque also meant there was good in-gear flexibility.

The box is one of the C3’s weak points, because the rubbery, notchy shift feels less precise than its rivals’. You don’t enjoy changing gear in the Citroen, so it’s a good job the engine pulls well from low revs.

The steering is light, but has a nice, natural weight, so it’s easy to drive in tight city streets, but the C3’s size makes it feel like the largest car on test. This is backed up by the least agile chassis, yet the benefit of the softer set-up is a good level of comfort.

As long as you avoid big potholes, the Citroen’s suspension moves with the road nicely, so it feels calm and relaxed, especially on motorways, where that extra torque comes in useful. Over bad bumps this control breaks down, because it lacks the finesse of the Ford’s suspension set-up, so the C3 is compliant up to a point, beyond which it becomes crashy.

It’s best to drive the Citroen using the punch lower down in the range. Rev it beyond 3,500rpm and the PureTech unit gets a little rougher, becoming more vocal and sending noticeable vibrations through the pedals. The car doesn’t like to be hustled, and although there’s a respectable level of grip on offer, you can’t lean on the chassis like you can in the Ford in particular. The C3 prefers a more relaxed approach, which fits with its character; that’s why the Citroen is a convincing supermini that delivers comfort, usability and decent performance.

Testers’ Notes: “The Airbumps on the C3’s doors should help reduce parking dents, but they’re only standard on the top-spec Flair model. If you want this feature on the Feel Nav trim you’ll have to pay £290.”

Verdict

First place – Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta’s appealing blend of abilities means it rises to the top yet again. It drives brilliantly but doesn’t sacrifice comfort, yet it’s also practical enough. The infotainment is close to being the best in its class and there’s enough kit in Zetec trim. It’ll be cheap to run, too. These factors combined make it easy to see why the Ford Fiesta has been Britain’s best-selling car for so long.

Second place – Citroen C3

For most of the time the Citroen is comfortable, and this makes the C3 a relaxing hatch to drive. It’s also the pokiest, is roomy inside and offers a slice of individuality in a derivative market. However, while the infotainment is good, it’s also the priciest car here, and cabin quality doesn’t match the cost, even if there is a useful level of practicality on offer.

Third place – Skoda Fabia

The updates this revised Fabia brings are too subtle. Still, it’s undoubtedly practical and affordable, especially because most people buy on finance. New safety tech across the range is welcome, but the Skoda still feels older due to its infotainment. It’s comfortable and efficient, just not by a big enough margin to put it ahead. It doesn’t have the all-round ability of its rivals.

Rivals

Hyundai i20

Model: Hyundai i20 1.0 T-GDi SE
Price: £14,680
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 99bhp

The updated Hyundai i20 gets more standard safety technology, as with the revised Skoda Fabia, but its infotainment is even better. It’s not the most exciting car to drive, but on offer at £14,680, it’s really well priced, too.

SEAT Ibiza 

Model: Seat Ibiza1.0 TSI 95 SE
Price: £15,595
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 94bhp

Latest MQB chassis under the Ibiza’s skin shows what the Fabia is missing out on. The SEAT is even roomier as well. Its engine is the same as the Skoda’s, but SE trim gets a great level of standard equipment with better infotainment.

Figures

Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost 100 Zetec 5dr Citroen C3 PureTech 110 Feel Nav Edition Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 95 Colour Edition
On the road price/total as tested £16,465/£16,465 £16,750/£16,750 £15,395/£17,040
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) £6,393/38.8% £6,199/37.0% £6,026/39.1%
Depreciation £10,072 £10,551 £9,369
Annual tax liability std/higher rate £748/£1,496 £695/£1,390 £669/£1,337
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles) £1,637/£2,728 £1,655/£2,759 £1,629/£2,715
Insurance group/quote/VED 10/£355/£140 15/£529/£140 9/£381/£140
Servicing costs £340 (2yrs) £692 (3yrs) £279 (2yrs)
Length/wheelbase 4,040/2,493mm 3,996/2,539mm 3,997/2,470mm
Height/width 1,476/1,735mm 1,474/1,829mm 1,467/1,732mm
Engine 3cyl in-line/998cc 3cyl in-line/1,199cc 3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs  99/4,500 bhp/rpm 108/5,500 bhp/rpm 94/5,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs  170/1,500 Nm/rpm 205/1,500 Nm/rpm 160/1,800 Nm/rpm
Transmission  6-speed man/fwd 5-speed man/fwd 5-speed man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 42 litres/repair kit 45 litres/space saver 45 litres/£110
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 292/1,093 litres 300/922 litres 330/1,150 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight 1,163/502/1,000kg 1,050/550/600kg 1,046/530/1,000kg
Turning circle 10.1 metres 10.9 metres 9.8 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/1yr 3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos. 16th/20th 25th/11th 6th/8th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars 87/84/64/60/5 (2017) 88/83/59/58/5 (2017) 81/81/69/69/5 (2014)
0-60/30-70mph 9.8/9.7 secs 9.7/10.5 secs 10.3/11.1 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.8/6.8 secs 4.6/7.7 secs 5.3/8.6 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 10.2/13.5 secs 11.0 secs/N/A 11.8 secs/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph  113mph/2,300rpm 117mph/2,500rpm 114mph/2,800rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph  45.1/33.7/9.8m 53.7/38.8/11.2m 51.1/38.7/9.0m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph 68/52/63/71dB 74/51/62/70dB 51/65/65/73dB
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range 43.8/9.6/405 miles 43.3/9.5/429 miles 44.0/9.7/436 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  48.7/68.9/58.9mpg 51.4/70.6/61.4mpg 51.4/68.9/61.4mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined  10.7/15.2/13.0mpl 11.3/15.5/13.5mpl 11.3/15.2/13.5mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket 149/110g/km/23% 151/103g/km/21% 148/106g/km/22%
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/camera Six/yes/£350/£250 Six/yes/£250/no Six/yes/yes/£265
Auto box/lane keep/blind spot/AEB £1,330/yes/no/£400 No/no/no/£600 No/no/£390/yes
Clim ctrl/cruise/leather/heated seats Air-con/£400/n/£250 Yes/yes/no/no £305/yes/no/£250
Metallic paint/LEDs/keyless entry & go £495/no/no/no £495/no/no/no £595/£960/£325/no
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connected services £550/no/yes/yes Yes/no/yes/yes £570/no/yes/yes
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android Auto £69/yes/yes No/yes/yes No/yes/yes

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