Skoda’s model range has changed at an alarming rate over the past few years, so as well as stalwarts like the Fabia, Octavia and Superb, there’s now a host of new names like Karoq, Kodiaq and Scala in showrooms, and this is due to be joined by the Kamiq very soon. It’s the Scala family hatchback that’s the latest addition to our fleet, and you might be asking, doesn’t Skoda already have one of those? Yes, that’ll be the Octavia, but the Czech manufacturer says that car is bigger and appeals to a slightly different audience than typical Focus, Astra and Golf buyers, so there’s room for a more conventional hatchback to compete directly with them too. The Scala replaces the Rapid, too.
So, the resulting Scala looks more conventional, like a cross between a widened Skoda Fabia at the front and an Audi A3 Sportback at the rear. It’s a fairly pedestrian design, not helped by the sensible Brilliant Silver metallic paintwork and 16-inch alloys of our test car, but sharp lines and bright LED daytime running lights help it look modern and more lively colours like Corrida Red, Race Blue and Rallye Green are available. I’m also glad our car is fitted with Skoda’s Tailgate design pack, which is a £425 option for the SE trim, but adds an extended glass rear windscreen and scrolling LED rear indicators – both really lifting the car’s design in my opinion. It’s standard if you go for SE L trim, and a Monte Carlo specification was also just announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Arriving in 2020, this will have the sportiest looks, with a contrasting roof and black wheels and trim, along with red stitching and a digital instrument cluster.
Inside, first impressions are that Skoda has done a good job, especially when you consider the Scala’s price. I’ll go into this more in a future update, but spoiler alert – the Scala is something of a bargain, costing from £20,265 in SE trim and with the 1.6-litre 114bhp diesel engine fitted to our car. This seriously undercuts most rivals, and even adding a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission only increases its price to £21,515. Its diamond-effect cloth seats are attractive, there are some well-placed soft-touch materials and silver trim across the dashboard to lighten things up. Our car also gets a slick eight-inch touchscreen, although there’s no navigation system, unless you connect your smartphone by using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
It’s easier to spot scratchy plastics in the back, but the big story is the amount of knee and headroom on offer, and I’ve already had passengers well over six-feet tall sit comfortably in the back. This is one of the roomiest hatchbacks on offer, with a 467-litre boot that easily puts the Golf’s 380-litres in the shade. There are plenty of cubbies too, including spacious door bins, but the lack of luxuries like a flock lining means that things can rattle around, and point to the cost savings over a Golf.
Skoda has concentrated on exactly what’s important in a modern hatchback. The mid-range SE gets lots of convenience features like cruise control and automatic headlights, while the leather steering wheel is rather attractive. Some options are quite pricey though, like the all-round parking sensors fitted to our car for £400 and the £300 rear-view camera – although the image is very clear. We’ve also got a neat foldable tow bar, that drops down from its hidden position behind the bumper and just needs locking into place, costing £775. Now I just need to find something to tow.
There are lots of neat touches I’m looking forward to exploring too, although I’m glad I haven’t needed to use the ice scraper (hidden in the fuel filler cap) or the washer fluid nozzle that doubles as a funnel just yet. One thing that is guaranteed as autumn sets in is that the Scala’s standard umbrella will be called into frequent action.
Date arrived 21st August 2018
Fuel economy 53.3-57.7mpg (WLTP combined) 61.8mpg (on test)
The Scala has already cut £20 off the monthly fuel bill.
It’s great when it works, but the infotainment software seems to crash pretty frequently.