UK Drive: Diesel-powered Skoda Scala makes for a great all-rounder
What is it?
This is the Scala – and it’s Skoda’s interpretation of what a practical, economical and spacious hatchback should be. It’s why the Czech firm has worked to ensure that the Scala can not only live up to the value-driven ideals that provide the basis for all of the cars in its range, but also give rivals something to think about.
We’ve headed out in the 1.6-litre diesel-powered version to see how it gets on, and whether or not it should be the go-to choice over more established competitors.
The Scala utilises the Volkswagen Group MQB platform, which means it shares its underpinnings with a myriad of other cars including the Volkswagen T-Cross, Audi Q2 and even Skoda’s own Karoq and Kodiaq models. However, though the underneath of the cars may be the same, manufacturers are free to play about with the size of the body on top – hence the vast differences in vehicles all sharing a common platform.
But Skoda has retained a similar line of styling for the Scala, ensuring it’s recognisable as a relation to the other cars on the firm’s line-up, but still very much a model in its own right.
What’s under the bonnet?
Though a versatile range of engines are available with the Scala, our test car came with a 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel engine under the bonnet, sending power to the front wheels through a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. It’s been created with efficiency in mind, which is why Skoda says it’ll return up to 54.3mpg and emit 108g/km CO2. That said, it hasn’t been made with performance at the top of the list of priorities, with 0-60mph undertaken in a relatively sedate 10 seconds. It will do 124mph flat-out, however.
Start-stop is fitted to the car as standard too, which helps drive efficiency up and emissions down. It’s a good option for those who require an automatic, but for those using their Scala for shorter trips we’d still recommend a small-capacity petrol.
What’s it like to drive?
The Scala covers many of the bases that you’d require from a hatchback. It’s easy to drive, with light steering which makes parking a doddle and good ride quality which helps to iron out the worst of the road imperfections. It’s also efficient, and the diesel engine feels refined at motorway speeds – even if it is a little gruff at more sedate paces.
The gearbox is a weak point in the overall package, and can be hesitant to kick down when you require a quick burst of acceleration, such as when entering a roundabout.
It’s not an invigorating driving experience, though. Drivers after a more involving hatchback may want to look elsewhere, but for sheer day-to-day usability the Scala does exceptionally well.
How does it look?
It’s testament to the hard work that Skoda has put in over the last years in giving its line-up of cars a distinctive family face that when you first see the Scala, there’s little doubt surrounding which manufacturer is behind it.
It’s longer in person than you’d expect, and the three-quarter section can make it look a bit heavy at the rear sometimes. The back of the car is helped no end by the long piece of glass which runs almost halfway down the boot lid, while the chrome Skoda badge gives it a more premium appearance too.
Is it pretty? We’ll leave that up to you to decide. But it’s a design which neither offends nor intrigues, carving a line right down the middle. For some buyers, that’s right on the money.
What’s it like inside?
It’s a similar story inside. There’s nothing to stir the soul when it comes to the cabin, but everything is well made and well placed too. Yes, some harsher plastics can be found here and there, however when you consider that base versions of the Scala start from £16,595, this is to be expected.
The driving position is good and gives you plenty of visibility out of the front. The forward passenger has plenty of space to stretch out, and the same can be said for those sat in the back – there’s plenty of leg- and headroom for even the lankiest of occupants.
When it comes to boot space the Scala has things buttoned up, offering 467 litres, which roundly beats the 380 litres you’ll find in the Volkswagen Golf along with the 375 litres in the Ford Focus. Fold the rear seats down and you’ve got an impressive 1,410 litres of space to play with too.
What’s the spec like?
Our car came in middle-of-the-road SE specification, cutting in between base S spec and higher SE L. It’s got a wealth of kit included as standard, with all cars benefitting from 16-inch alloys, cruise control and an eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment. All cars get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto too, which helps anyone who wants a better way to integrate their smartphone into the car’s system.
Our Scala did come with a smattering of options too, with upgraded alloys (£415), front and rear parking sensors (£400) and metallic paint (£595) bumping up the car’s price to a still-respectable £24,470. However, we’d argue that save for the parking sensors these options could be done without – leave the tick boxes alone and our car would’ve come in at an impressive £21,515.
The Skoda Scala is unlikely to spark excitement into the hearts of die-hard motoring enthusiasts, but that isn’t what this car is about. It’s practical, well-made and excellent value-for-money too, whichever specification you go for. Though it may not offer the same amount of driver involvement that rivals can, it counters with such impressive day-to-day usability that you’re unlikely to be bothered by that. All in, the Scala would make a fine family car – and one which will keep delivering day in, day out.