From first to fourth. The new FABIA has a lot to live up to

From first to fourth. The new FABIA has a lot to live up to

The fourth-generation ŠKODA FABIA has revealed its silhouette for the first time. It will represent a huge step forwards in terms of technology and design as well. Let’s take a look back at how the first generation was born back in the past century, and how it might have looked.

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Judging by the first released images of its silhouette, the fourth generation of the popular FABIA model will have reworked proportions and will offer state-of-the-art technologies, improved safety and even a bigger boot.

The new FABIA is built on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB-A0 platform for small cars with transversely mounted front engines. This platform has allowed the fourth-generation FABIA to grow in all directions. Although ŠKODA will not fully unveil the new FABIA until spring, we already know that its luggage space will be 50 litres bigger than its predecessor’s. A stiffer body and a modern array of safety and assistance systems will enhance the driving experience and both active and passive safety.

Silhouette of the newest generation of the ŠKODA FABIA

What’s more, the fourth-generation FABIA will be endowed with a modern EVO petrol engine with low fuel consumption and low CO2 emissions. Customers will also be able to choose between a manual gearbox and a DSG seven-position automatic transmission. This will make the new ŠKODA FABIA one of the most universal models in its segment, just like the first generation presented in 1999 was.

New technology and new design

The first-generation FABIA followed up the FAVORIT and FELICIA models that date from the 1980s. By the end of the millennium the FABIA had become the definition of a small urban car and family car for the 21st century. The new model’s name continued its predecessors’ tradition by starting with an F. The first ŠKODA FABIA became the first modern ŠKODA car for the B-segment (called “supermini” in Anglo-Saxon countries) that was developed entirely under the aegis of Volkswagen Group. 

A detailed sketch of the first version of the ŠKODA FABIA by Václav Capouch

The first-generation FABIA used what was then the group’s latest platform for small cars, known as PQ24. So compared to its predecessors, it was genuinely a brand new model with new technologies and design. 

The brief sounded simple. “We were given the basic dimensions and technical specifications dictated by the platform, and our job was to design a modern, but still a relatively conservative small car,” recalls Václav Capouch, who was exterior design coordinator in the ŠKODA design team. In the end, three alternative designs were produced in parallel. Besides Václav Capouch’s version, designs were made by Belgian Luc Donckerwolke and Brazilian Raul Pires.

The three different interpretations by three different designers provided the first outline of the future FABIA. What they all had in common was that the body was noticeably more rounded at the back of the roof and around the rear windows than in the final design. Although the three versions were different, they had some obvious features in common: the bold line of the sides with a clean, flat surface, and the way the sides of the car were separated from the other surfaces with one pronounced line running from the front bumper to the rear lights.

Designers of the first generation

The design of the first-generation ŠKODA FABIA was the work of a team of around twenty designers. The team was composed of experienced experts and young talents drawn from all over the globe. ŠKODA’s design chief at the time was Dirk van Braeckel, and the exterior design coordinator was Václav Capouch, who had previously worked on the “Bertone” FAVORIT and its successor, the FELICIA. In addition to him, Luc Donckerwolke and Raul Pires, there was Martin Uhlárik, a Canadian with Slovak and Czech roots, who worked on the interior design. The model’s derivatives were largely designed by Daniel Petr, who works in the Czech carmaker’s design department to this day.

Internal competition 

ŠKODA’s first step was to let all three designers’ visions evolve. This kind of internal competition is completely normal in these cases, as it results in more ideas and makes it possible to weigh up certain design development options. On top of this, comments and demands started to filter down from the management. “At the start we didn’t really think about it, but the demand that the new model’s design should be connected to the OCTAVIA, which predated the FABIA, was voiced during the development process as a way of defining the company’s design language. That’s why the FABIA got its characteristic radiator grille,” says Václav Capouch, explaining where the first FABIA got its looks from.

The winner of the internal competition that went into development was the version designed by Raul Pires. Even so, the car bears the handiwork of Václav Capouch and other team members as well. “Designing a car is obviously teamwork: everyone contributes to some part of the car. I worked on the headlights, for example. But in general, door handles, wheels, bumpers and other such details are created by individual designers,” Capouch says.

Three bodies

One of the people who worked on various details was Daniel Petr, who was still quite new to the team. He was put in charge of preparing the RS sports version. “At the time there was already an idea that the FABIA would be ŠKODA’s model that would compete in WRC, so one of the tasks was to get the car to exceed the four-metre length threshold that was a homologation condition at the time,” recalls Daniel Petr. “For that reason I reworked the front bumper, which is longer on the RS than in the standard version,” he explains.

His focus on the car’s sporty design also encouraged Daniel Petr to create two other versions of the FABIA model that were never made: a GTC Coupé and a GTC Roadster. Though it was clear from the start that these were only experiments. “During development we went down a more practical route, creating an estate version, just like the previous FELICIA and FAVORIT models had had,” Daniel Petr says. “The sedan version that grew out of similar trial studies from the days of the FAVORIT was a bit of a surprise, but the small sedan category seemed set for big things at the time,” he adds.

The first-generation ŠKODA FABIA came in three body styles

There could even have been one more version of the ŠKODA FABIA, though this had nothing to do with the car body. “There is even a sketch of a Volkswagen version of the car. The group was toying with the idea of having this version of the model produced in Mexico for that country’s market,” Daniel Petr remembers.


The design of the first-generation ŠKODA FABIA was a success and was warmly received by the public. “The car’s looks were different from what the public was expecting, and they liked it. And it still looks good. I still consider it a stylish car. If you ask me, the first FABIA still looks modern today. It has clean lines and sharp edges and a timeless appearance,” says Daniel Petr. He concedes, though, that there are some details that could have been done differently from today’s perspective. “Sometimes you want to change a detail, but that has a knock-on effect necessitating other changes in other parts of the car,” says Václav Capouch, outlining the pitfalls of later tinkering with a car’s design. 

The first-generation ŠKODA FABIA

But a car’s appearance ages partly because of the technologies used, and it is this factor that makes the first FABIA look so different from today’s cars. “Car design today is all about lights and wheels. Today’s headlight technologies are much more advanced and diverse,” says Václav Capouch. It’s the same story for the car’s interior. “The uncluttered design and clearly defined shapes of the instrument panel looked modern back then, while from today's perspective it seems almost naively simple,” he adds.

Interior of the first-generation ŠKODA FABIA

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