No sooner had the Skoda Scala arrived, it was called into duty for more motorway driving than I’d done all year. This at first seemed a bit unfortunate. After all, the Mazda6 Tourer I’d just given back was an exceptional motorway car, so I wasn’t quite sure how the Scala would stack up in comparison.
Of course, I needn’t have worried too much. Despite being Golf-sized, the Scala is actually based on the same MQB A0 platform as the Volkswagen Polo, which we already know is impressively refined. Sure, it doesn’t lope along – or accelerate – with the same commanding feel as the Mazda, but these are cars in very different classes and with more than £10k separating them. The Scala also isn’t without convenience features, like cruise control and lane change warnings to make the miles whip by more easily.
What the Scala really excels at, though, is saving fuel. Fitted with Skoda’s latest 1.6-litre TDI engine, long gearing and a relatively light body, it’s actually quite common to see over 70mpg on the trip computer with careful driving. There appears to be some clever airflow trickery at work too – there are channels directing the oncoming air through the front wheel arches, around the sleek door mirrors and over a rather neat rear wing.
All this fuel-saving really paid dividends during our annual end-of-season holiday, this year to South Devon. The journey from near Congleton, ten days of day trips and the return trip were all completed with just two tanks of fuel, which is remarkable. 16-inch wheels might not earn many bragging rights in the staff car park, but they help soak up potholes and help make the Scala more comfortable than you might imagine.
Navigating Devon’s narrow roads and avoiding holiday traffic is always a challenge, but the clear eight-inch touchscreen and Google Maps (via the Android Auto app on my smartphone) worked almost perfectly. I say ‘almost perfectly’, because one issue with using mobile-based navigation is having enough signal when you set off in a rural area – like our holiday home. This led to an amusing game of programming the destination while heading up the driveway, in the hope the device would gain enough signal to spring to life and point us in the right direction. A T-junction at the end of it heightening the “left or right?” excitement.
More specifically, our Scala’s infotainment system also had an issue where the software would crash on almost every journey. Usually it would freeze, leaving the car in silence with no music, and sometimes with the parking sensor screen stuck on the display. At its worst, the screen turned black and filled with computer code, and on my first trip to London I was stuck with no music for a third of the journey. A Google search found a workaround – holding the power button down until the system restarts. It certainly led to some fraught moments, but don’t panic if you’re buying a Scala – Skoda has told us this should only be an issue with very early cars like our press vehicle, and I’ll report on its fix next month.
Date arrived 21st August 2018
Fuel economy 53.3-57.7mpg (WLTP combined) 54.1mpg (on test)
Holiday fuel savings meant we had extra money for eating out.
Frequent crashes plagued the infotainment system during our trip.