UK drive: Skoda’s Scala could be the perfect no-frills hatchback
What is it?
When it comes to competitive segments of the new car market, there are few more hotly-contested than the family hatchback area. It’s dominated by the ever-reliable Volkswagen Golf and the UK-favourite Ford Focus, while the likes of Honda’s Civic, the Renault Megane and the Kia Ceed are hovering around to keep the pressure on the class leaders.
You’d think then, breaking into this is something no manufacturers would really be fancying themselves as being able to do. Well, Skoda thinks it can with this — the Scala. Has it got what it takes though? We’ve been handed to keys to a pre-production example to find out…
Remember the Skoda Rapid Spaceback? Probably not. It was the Czech firm’s previous attempt at cracking the market. Sales weren’t great though, despite the car being pretty good, and it quietly remained on the market until earlier this year.
Skoda wasn’t left disheartened by the experience though and has pulled out all the VW Group stops to give the Scala a chance at remedying the Rapid’s failures. Built on the MQB platform that’s set to underpin the next Golf, it benefits from key tech such as the impressive Active Info Display, while getting some classic Skoda ‘Simply Clever’ touches too.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powering our Scala test car is a 1.0-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder engine developing 113bhp and 200Nm of torque, sending its power to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The result is 0-60mph in 9.8 seconds, with a 125mph top speed possible.
As for efficiency, Skoda claims it can return 44.8mpg on the combined WLTP cycle while emitting 113g/km of CO2 emissions.
There’s very little to shock the driver about this setup. The power unit doesn’t offer an abundance of power, but it’s enough to make driving it a breeze. It’s helped by a gearbox that’s smooth in its action, while the whole powertrain is quiet and very well refined.
What’s it like to drive?
Before we crack on with our driving impressions, we should note this early car we had a go in was left-hand-drive — so we’ll have to see what it’s like being on the correct side of the car before delivering a final verdict on the Scala.
This said, things are remarkably average behind the wheel. We don’t mean this in a negative way — it’s just very much as you’d expect. Handling is well-judged for town driving, but it’s by no means exciting on a b road — this is a car that just ticks the get from A to B box really.
It’s hard to fault it as a mode of transport, but those looking for something more involving may want to consider a Ford Focus instead.
How does it look?
As far as its looks go, the Scala ticks the Skoda trademarks. It’s headed up by angular headlights flanking a wide grille, while at the back a large glass panel sets it apart from anything else in the segment. It’s also the first Skoda sold in the UK to do away with the rear badge and instead have lettering as standard — something that’s fast being rolled out across its range.
In a theme for the car, there’s nothing overly striking about its design (aside from that glass panel arguably) — which is a good or bad thing, depending on your own preferences.
What’s it like inside?
Those who have sat in any recent VW Group product will find the Scala’s interior a very familiar place to be. The trademark squared-off dashboard design, simple-yet-modern switchgear and impressive build quality are all present here.
Hard plastics can be found if you’re looking hard enough, but it’s certainly a pleasant enough place to be. It does lack in ‘premium feel’ materials, but with just SE and SE L trims currently offered, expect higher spec grades to rectify this down the line.
Five can be seated in comfort, while an incredible 467 litres of boot space is available — totally eclipsing the VW Golf’s 380 litres and Ford Focus’ 375 litres. If practicality is the game for you, it’s hard to overlook the Scala’s offering.
What’s the spec like?
We’ve had a go in the Scala in SE L trim, which currently sits at the top of the hatches admittedly limited range.
This enhances the exterior of the car with 17-inch alloy wheels as well as LED head- and rear lights, while inside, microsuede upholstery, a 9.2-inch infotainment system with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and USB C ports all feature. Standard-fit assistance equipment includes cruise control, hill hold assist, automatic beams and front assist too.
SE L trim kicks off at a reasonable £20,385 — undercutting most rivals — though are test car weighed in at a substantially higher £26,510 thanks to optional items like ambient lighting, a rear-view camera, sports chassis control and electrically-adjustable seats. It’s not an obscene price to pay, but we’d suggest keeping the Scala lighter on options to make the most of its well-valued approach.
There’s little in the way of surprise from the Skoda Scala. It’s a car designed to go from A to B with as little fuss as possible, and it ticks that box perfectly.
It’s comfortable, looks nice enough and delivers a very predictable driving experience — and that’s enough to please most buyers in the family hatchback market. It helps that it boasts class-leading boot space, too.
Those wanting a more involving drive would be better looking at the Ford Focus, and for a bit more luxury, perhaps a Volkswagen Golf. The Scala holds its own as a more value for money offering though, and we think that’s enough for it to be a success.