Driven: Skoda Scala

The Czech firm is feeling pretty confident about the new Skoda Scala. Phil Huff finds out why…

It’s a car that represents another step forward for the brand, and it’s so proud of the development that it’s written its own name on the back of the car in bold, chrome letters. Where once there was a discrete Skoda badge by a number plate, there’s now ‘S K O D A’ writ large across the middle of the boot lid.

Confidence in the new Scala is high, then. Despite the trend for SUVs showing no signs of abating, it’s the humble hatchback that still sells – the Golf outsells the Tiguan, the Focus finds more buyers than the Kuga, and the Astra is a more popular car than the Grandland X. That means Skoda can’t afford for that confidence to be misplaced.

It starts off well, with what appears to be an Audi-inspired body. Chrome surrounds the front grille, with aggressive LED headlights flanking it on either side. The rear window flows down over the hatch, creating a premium looking back end that’s bookended by new, scrolling LED taillights.

The wheelbase is 6cm longer than the Volkswagen T-Rocs, despite them both sharing the same MQB-A0 platform, which adds visual length to the car, while a large window area (including a carved out C-pillar) create lightness. The net result of the pushing and pulling of length, width and height is that it’s a little bit bigger than a Kia Ceed, but a little bit smaller than a Ford Focus.

At least on the outside, anyway. The Skoda Scala does a great impression of a TV-drama Police Box and squeezes in more room than you’ll find in any of its rivals, enough to feel like it’s come from a class above. Six-footers can take a seat in each space and feel comfortable enough, with loads of legroom in the rear and enough headroom for all. Anybody left in the centre seat in the back might feel a little hard done by thanks to the hump in the bench, but it’s perfectly acceptable for a short journey.

Even further back is an enormous boot, able to take 467 litres of luggage with the seats up and parcel shelf in place – that’s around 23% more room than a Ford Focus provides. Fold the seats down and stack things to the roof and you’ll be able to fit 1,410-litres of toner cartridges, pushchairs, Belgian buns, or whatever else you feel the need to fill a Skoda with. Optionally, you can fold the front passenger seat flat to create a clear space that will easily take a Billy bookcase.

There are curry hooks in there too, along with netting under the parcel shelf to hold small items. The whole car is littered with ‘Simply Clever’ elements, or handy design touches that exist to make life easier; the cap for the washer bottle doubles as a funnel, there’s an ice-scraper in the fuel flap that also has a gauge to measure tyre tread depth and, of course, a ticket holder behind the windscreen built into the A-pillar.

The SE L also gets an umbrella in the door, climate control, keyless entry and start, navigation, and privacy glass amongst other items. Even the entry-level S includes two USB-C ports, hill hold, DAB digital radio, a chilled glovebox and leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake lever.

It’s not all good news though. It’s possible to see where Skoda has saved money, especially inside the cabin. Material choices are a grade or two lower than you’ll find in its rivals, even from the likes of Hyundai and Kia, but they’re reserved for those bits below elbow height. Underneath there’s torsion beam suspension at the rear, which is cheaper than fully independent suspension, but impacts handling. That said, the Scala isn’t a car that you’re going to be setting A to B records in, as there’s nothing even remotely exciting about the way it drives. That’s a compliment, surprisingly, as the Scala is perfectly competent, safe and predictable. It turns nicely, never feeling unbalanced, and stops well, but does it without any drama or involvement.

It may not be as sharp as the Focus, but the ride quality is decent enough, even on the 17-inch wheels the SE L model comes fitted with. The smooth roads of the launch venue didn’t trouble it too much, but going off-piste and finding some rutted urban roads shows that it’s still a compliant car.

There’s a choice of engines, including a diesel option, but most will opt for the tiny 1.0-litre petrol that develops 115hp. It’s not the world’s greatest engine, but suits the lightweight Skoda Scala nicely and its noise remains well-insulated from within the cabin. Economy figures are currently unknown, but I got around 40mpg during testing. That’s good, if not great.

That sums up the Skoda Scala in many ways. It’s good in every area, and great in a few. But, somehow, the whole is far greater than the parts and, with prices undercutting its rivals by some margin, the Scala deserves significant success. No wonder Skoda’s so proud of it.

Model Tested: Skoda Scala SE L 1.0 TSI 115 Manual
Price: £20,730
Range: £16,940 – £23,885
Top speed: 125 mph
0-62 mph: 9.8 seconds
Power: 115 PS (113 bhp)
Torque: 200 Nm (148 lb ft)
Monthly PCP*: £283
Official economy: 49.6 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 113 g/km
Car Tax: £145
Insurance group: 14E

* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.