Skoda’s new entrant in the fiercely competitive family hatchback sector has got its work cut out – its rivals include the Ford Focus, VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Kia Ceed, to name but a few.
Slotting in between the Fabia and Octavia in the range, the Scala excels in all the areas we’ve come to expect from Skoda.
With its wide, vertically-slatted grille, slim headlights, sharp lines and distinctive profile, the Scala is classic Skoda at first sight.
And though it might not win the rear of the Year award (it has an unusual derriere with a slight overhang), it’s only when you study it in more detail that you realise that there’s a purpose to it.
The cabin is spacious and light, especially for rear passengers, while that generous boot is best in class. With the 60:40 split back seats up boot capacity is a 467 litres, expanding to a remarkable 1,410 when they are flipped.
There’s also an additional 26 litres of storage for smaller items scattered around, plus Skoda’s Simply Clever solutions such as an ice scraper clipped inside the fuel filler, which can also be used as a tyre-wear scale, a built-in funnel for the screenwash and an umbrella stored in the driver’s door. In short, the Scala is superbly packaged.
As ever, the build quality and finish is great, even if it is on the bland side. Up front, the dashboard and centre console are attractive enough and intuitively designed, there are plenty of soft-touch plastic surfaces high up, while the seats and driving position are comfortable.
There’s a fully-connected infotainment touchscreen (up to 10.25 inches, depending on the model chosen), while a slick ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital driver’s display is available higher up the range.
As you’d expect, the Scala is keenly priced from just £16,595 and it’s available with a choice of three engines – 1.0-litre (94bhp and 113bhp) and 1.5-litre (148bhp) petrols and a 1.6-litre (113bhp) diesel.
With a 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds, the larger petrol is the fastest, while the diesel is the most frugal, managing up to 57.7mpg with CO2 emissions of just 108g/km.
I tested the 1.6 diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox (a seven-speed auto DSG transmission is also available) in mid-range SE trim.
The Scala is well equipped in standard S specification, but SE adds goodies including rear parking sensors, a height adjustable passenger seat, cruise control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, plus a leather steering wheel.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Lane Assist are standard across the range, helping the Scala gain a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing.
The diesel under the bonnet makes itself known on start-up and under heavy acceleration, but soon settles down and cruises well. It pulls nicely and the short-throw gearshift is slick. Fuel economy is excellent with 50mpg easily achievable and much more on long motorway runs.
If you’d prefer to steer clear of a diesel (not unusual these days), then the petrol units, already used widely within the Skoda line-up, are great options. If you’re a fan of thrummy but willing three-cylinders, then the entry-level 1.0-litres will do just fine, but the 1.5-litre doesn’t need to be worked so hard and is smoother.
It would be wrong to say the Scala is an exciting car on the road – instead the accent is more on comfort, refinement and practicality. The steering is light and precise, and it’s easy to drive, so it’s ideal for urban areas or simply getting from A to B in an unhurried fashion.
Push it on more challenging roads and it’s not quite as admirable. The suspension is not the most sophisticated out there and it can get a little floaty and unsettled, though body roll is well controlled.
Verdict: The all-new Skoda Scala is a sensible, safe, value-for-money family hatchback choice that’s comfortable and relaxing to drive and boasts bags of space – all backed up by the Czech brand’s great reputation for dependability.