We were nearing the end of a 250-mile day trip when my passenger pitched in with his first comment on the Fabia: “This is a really good car, isn’t it?”

The mild suggestion of surprise underlying the remark is not the first I have encountered from people unfamiliar with the superb engineering and build quality that underpins the modern Skoda range.

The Fabia name has been around for almost two decades with the Czech carmaker’s line-up expanding from just two models in 2000, to an eight-model choice later this year.

The little car has proved a powerful weapon for Skoda, drawing in a mass of customers to the brand with sales worldwide topping the four million mark.

The latest model has built on that remarkable record with a new, all-petrol engine range, boosted equipment levels, new safety systems and a sharper look.

The range of hatchback and estate models has five trim levels; S, SE, SE L, Monte Carlo and Colour Edition. All have a new front end that incorporates a revised grille, new headlights and a redesigned bumper. At the rear, are new light clusters, a subtly updated rear bumper and a new range of alloy wheels.

But it is inside where you really notice the difference with new fabric and trim and a redesigned instrument cluster complete with a touchscreen.

Solid, well-built, with not a squeak or rattle in sight, the car driven here was in upmarket SE L specification, packing in loads of up-to-date technology and feelgood equipment from satellite navigation, rear parking sensors and climate control air conditioning to cruise control and lighting in the front centre console.

LED daytime running lights are standard on all models, while front assist and a multifunction trip computer are also included across the line-up for the first time.

Power for the Fabia comes from a range of 999cc three-cylinder engines, ranging in output from 75 up to the 110 horsepower in the test car, which was mated to seven-speed, semi-automatic gearbox.

That combination delivers hassle-free, round-town manoeuvring and remarkably relaxed cruising on faster roads.

Much of the attraction of the Fabia is down to its practicality and collection of neat features, such as an ice scraper, complete with tyre tread depth gauge, built into the fuel filler flap. Open the boot and there are a couple of luggage hooks, ideal for hanging shopping bags and preventing them rolling around. Look under the front passenger seat and there is a compact umbrella.

Add a £120 option pack and you can have a net to pin down items on the boot floor; a separate boot storage compartment; a rubber holder for an iPhone or iPod and even a lidded waste bin that clips in the door bin. Small things in themselves but they make a big difference.

Safety equipment is impressive too, with the likes of electronic stability control, anti-lock braking and traction control fitted as standard along with electronic brake force distribution and tyre pressure monitoring.

Options available range from adaptive cruise control, speed limiter and a rear-view camera to a driver fatigue assistant and blind spot detection with rear traffic alert.

Though the Fabia has been around a long time, it continues to incorporate latest technology while delivering straightforward, honest, value-for-money motoring.

That’s more than enough to explain to people like my day-tripping passenger why it remains a firm favourite with savvy car buyers in the UK.

Auto facts

Model: Skoda Fabia SE L 1.0 TSI DSG

Price: £18,550 as tested

Insurance group: 12E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 47.9mpg

Top speed: 120mph

Length: 399.7cm/157in

Width: 173.2cm/68in

Luggage capacity: 11.6 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.9 gallons/45 litres

CO2 emissions: 106g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles