The Skoda Scala is a smart five-door hatchback featuring a wealth of on-board technology. There are generously equipped trim levels and a choice of powertrains to select from. It’s a perfect car for all the family and has been very competitively priced.
The goodPractical and keenly priced
The badRivals may be more fun to drive
Skoda Scala – First Drive (2019)
You may have thought the compact SUV sector was simply full to bursting with no room for any newcomers. But you would be wrong because Skoda has thrown an absolute gem into the mix.
It’s called the Scala and it appears to be the complete package boasting dynamic good looks, a wealth of on-board techno treats, great versatility and practicality, plus a selection of punchy, yet efficient engines.
Although the Scala is not officially being billed as the replacement for the Rapid, the latter is being phased out. But it’s certainly not a like for like substitution by any means. The Scala is wider and longer than the Rapid and generally better in every way.
Customers can choose from three trim levels called S, SE and SE-L with prices ranging from £16,595 to £23,315 and there is a wide range of engines available too. The petrol options are a 1.0-litre TSI 3-cylinder unit with 95PS or 115PS and a 4-cylinder 1.5 TSI unit with 150PS. Diesel preferences are catered for via a 1.6-litre TDI engine delivering 115PS.
From a design viewpoint, the Scala, which sits between the Fabia and Octavia in the Skoda line-up, certainly looks the business with its modern, athletic styling. The five-door model features narrow, tapered LED headlights, sweeping rear indicators on the higher trim, Full LED tail lights, a striking upright radiator grille, a choice of 16 to 18-inch alloy wheels, and, for the first time the letters of SKODA are spread across the tailgate instead of the brand logo – this is a new design approach that will be introduced on all future Skoda models.
Step inside and the spacious cabin is clutter-free, but generously equipped. The focal point is a free standing display screen where all the infotainment systems are accessed using the touch or gesture control or via the enhanced voice control.
The Scala is fitted with a built-in eSIM as standard and that means it will always be online for the most up-to-date reports on traffic and the likes. There is also a Virtual Cockpit on the SE-L models (optional on SE) that offers the driver a choice of five different layouts.
And being a Skoda, there are lots of Simply Clever touches such as the ice scraper in the fuel filler flap, an umbrella in the driver’s door, a ticket holder on the windscreen and a very well designed panoramic roof. Normally adding a panoramic roof to a car impacts upon rear passenger head space, but not so in this mid-sized hatchback where the screen opens from the back instead of the front, so passengers enjoy the same amount of room with or without the sunroof.
And speaking of space, the Scala is like a TARDIS. There is ample room to accommodate four six footers with bundles of knee and elbow space. And the practically-sized boot can swallow 467 litres of kit, a capacity that increases to 1,410 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
We tested the SE model powered by the punchy 1.0-litre 115PS engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, priced at £18,585 (£21,525 with options). This car could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 9.8 seconds, topped out at 125mph and, according to official figures, could deliver 44.8-49.6mpg under the stricter WLTP ratings with carbon emissions of 113g/km.
Creature comforts were plentiful on the car with the likes of full smartphone connectivity via MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, DAB radio, Bluetooth, the latest USB-C ports for faster charging, an eight speaker sound system, a classy touchscreen and options included a rearview camera, park assist, plus rain and light assist.
Comfort levels are very high inside the Scala and my first 90 minutes behind the wheel involved escaping the gridlocked City of London traffic with bikes, pedestrians and cabs cutting in from all angles. I can honestly vouch for the excellent all-round visibility.
But once out on the open road and motorways, the acceleration through the six-speed gearbox is both smooth and responsive, and the engine sounds nice and raspy when pushed on.
The handling and road holding are first rate and all the controls, dials and readouts are perfectly positioned for ease of use. It is a car that proves three-pot motoring can be both fun and rewarding with ample power on tap for overtaking. But it’s also nicely refined and can cruise effortlessly at national speed limits on the faster roads.
Skoda has an excellent reputation when it comes to safety and the Scala is packed with features to protect occupants and pedestrians alike, as well as a number of driver assist systems to help prevent accidents occurring in the first place. There is lane assist and front assist with city emergency braking, hill hold control, a full suite of airbags, emergency call and proactive services, adaptive cruise control and plenty more besides.
All in all, the new Scala is perfect proof that there is still ample room for new models to launch into the compact SUV sector provided they are good enough. And the Scala most certainly is.