Game, set & hatch: Skoda Scala
Volkswagen Group's good at churning out some of the best family hatchbacks in the business. Volkswagen has its Golf, Seat its Leon, and Audi its A3, but where does Skoda fit?
Well, there's now the all-new Scala. Offering class-leading practicality, a well-built interior, loads of standard equipment and an affordable price tag. Could it help get Skoda back into the minds of family hatchback buyers?
Taking advantage of the MQB platform used across the range of brands, the Scala is essentially an all-new model, and a vast distance apart from the Rapid, even if Skoda is clear to say that it doesn't replace that model.
Aside from a new style language, the Scala's key improvements are in the cabin, where a touchscreen size of up to 9.2-inches is offered alongside a 10.25-inch digital virtual cockpit, which are both among the largest screens in the class. The VW Group's latest MIB3 infotainment package is also offered, which boasts a host of new services.
What's under the bonnet?
There are no surprises with powertrains, with the Scala having three of the Volkswagen Group's staple engines.
The 1.0-litre petrol engine is expected to account for the vast majority of sales. The three-cylinder turbocharged unit is willing and, despite its modest power, still able to accelerate the Scala to 60mph in under 10 seconds and keep going to a top speed of 125mph.
The six-speed manual transmission is slick to shift, although the engine can feel a bit unrefined. It should also prove cheap to run, with Skoda claiming a fuel economy figure of 56.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 113g/km. An 84bhp 1.0-litre unit and a 148bhp 1.5-litre engine round off the petrols.
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A single diesel unit is also offered, which delivers 113bhp and comes with manual or automatic transmission.
What's it like to drive?
Expect the Scala to offer the same level of thrills as the Ford Focus and you'll likely come away disappointed, but it's ideal if you're looking for a comfortable cruiser. The Scala is refined under acceleration and delivers one of the most accommodating rides in its class.
Larger alloy wheels don't affect the quality of the ride either, and generally it's a refreshing change for a family hatchback to be offered with such a supple and relaxing ride.
An optional Sport mode, which firms up the ride to deliver more thrills, is also offered, although we don't see the need to ever use it.
The steering is remarkably light and feels ideal around town. Body roll could be better controlled and the experience just doesn't feel quite as polished as some rivals', but that comes with offering a more comfortable ride.
How does it look?
Skoda has gone down a slightly different path here and it works, but it's still immediately recognisable as a Skoda, with its high bonnet line, flowing lines and hexagonal-shaped grille.
Based on the styling of the Vision RS Concept shown at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, the Scala has a sportier look than the Rapid. It also offers some firsts for Skoda, as the hatchback is the first of the manufacturer's models to have the brand letters spelled out at the back.
Our only gripe about its looks is that the radar sensors for the safety features are poorly integrated behind the front grille. They look untidy and almost like an afterthought.
What's it like inside?
The Scala undercuts the Golf in terms of price by quite some margin, but its interior doesn't feel that way. Skoda's rounded off the cabin with plenty of soft-touch plastics and it looks like a model that occupies a more premium sector, albeit some of the switchgear feels a bit cheap.
All models also come with a touchscreen - a 6.5-inch unit on 'S' variants, with our top-spec SE L test car benefiting from the large 9.2-inch setup included as standard to the range-topping trim.
It's a classy-looking and intuitive system that houses satellite navigation and a host of safety functions, although we had a minor battle with setting up the satellite navigation.
Offering the largest boot in its class, the Scala comes with 467 litres of load space, with an adjustable boot floor adding further scope. Rear seat space is also very generous.
What's the spec like?
Value has always been a selling point for Skodas and the same is true of the Scala. It kicks off at £16,595, or roughly the same as a mid-spec supermini.
Despite its cheap price, plenty of kit is offered as standard. Gone are the plastic wheel trims you would typically find on the entry-level version. Instead, it comes with 16-inch alloys, as well as a 6.5-inch touchscreen, LED headlights and more.
Splashing out an extra £1,185 pays for the SE, which adds even more kit.
Rounding off the range is the SE L, which costs from £19,580. This brings treats such as keyless entry, climate control, a digital 'virtual' cockpit and a large 9.2-inch touchscreen.
The Scala is everything we've come to expect from a modern Skoda. Good to look at, hugely practical, comfortable and yet the firm's long-lasting principle of value remains.
It might have the better-driving Ford Focus snapping at its ankles and it may not be as polished as the more premium Volkswagen Golf, but with such an attractively low price, it's a hugely compelling model and deserves to be yet another sales hit for Skoda.
Facts at a glance
Model as tested: Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI 115 SE L
Price as tested: £20,385
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Power (bhp): 113
Torque (Nm): 200
Max speed (mph): 125
0-60mph: 9.6 seconds
Emissions (g/km): 113Emissions (g/km): 161