Review: Skoda Scala (Overall score 4.5/5)

Considering the biggest car segment across Europe is occupied by small family hatchbacks, it seems incredible that Skoda has never offered a contender before now. Two decades after the small Fabia and larger Octavia arrived, Skoda finally has a rival to the Focus, Astra and Golf – and it was worth the wait. Admittedly, the Scala doesn’t do anything new, but it does offer a superb combination of practicality, value and easy driving, and that’s not always easy to achieve. Indeed, we’d say that this is one of those rare cars that should be on any driving instructor’s shortlist because, while it’s decidedly unexciting, it’s an excellent all-rounder. Think of it as a cut-price Golf and you won’t be far wrong.

scala cabin

Cabin (4.5/5)

The Scala’s cabin features a lot of black textured plastic, and while it doesn’t look cheap, you don’t get the ambience of a Golf or Focus. But the fit and finish is good, and the amount of cabin space belies the Skoda’s exterior dimensions; rear-seat leg room is almost limousine-like, yet this doesn’t come at the expense of boot space, which is also ample. As with all VW-Group cars, the Scala’s dash is a model of clarity and incredibly easy to use; the instrumentation and infotainment system are user-friendly, with a large digital speedo in the centre of the dials.

Our test car’s multi-media set-up had a few glitches though, with phone calls being disconnected mid-conversation and the DAB radio/music streaming sometimes not working properly – teething problems? There’s a decent amount of cubby hole space, the seats are supportive and the cabin feels glassy thanks to the lack of a rising window line. Add in better-than-average rear three-quarter visibility, and it’s a compelling package overall.

scala console

Driving (4.5/5)

There’s a choice of two petrol engines: a 1.0 TSi unit in 94bhp or 114bhp forms, or a 1.5 TSI lump with 148bhp. There’s also a 114bhp 1.6 TDI powerplant available; all engines apart from the entry-level 1.0 TSI have a DSG automatic option. Our test car came with a slick gear change, ample zip and a comfy ride on the standard 16-inch wheels. The three-cylinder powerplant is wonderfully flexible as it’ll sit at 1,000rpm happily, pull with gusto from 1,500rpm and, by 2,000rpm, the change-up light is on – although this is sometimes a little optimistic.
While the handling and steering aren’t class-leading, the Scala feels surprisingly light, and this unexpected agility does make it more fun to drive than you might expect.

Skoda rear

Costs (5/5)

The cheapest Scala is the 1.0 TSI 95 S at £16,595; the most costly is the 1.6 TDi 115 DSG at £23,315. But even the Scala S gets 16″ alloy wheels, LED headlights, air-con, powered windows front and rear, DAB radio, space-saver spare wheel, Bluetooth and 6.5-inch infotainment display.
The SE is the one to go for with its cruise control, rear parking sensors, 8-inch display plus a height-adjustable passenger seat.

The range-topping SE L adds navigation, climate control and a bigger (9.2″) display; on balance we’d opt for the car tested here. At £18,585, the Scala 1.0 TSI 115 SE is very good value; the SE L version costs £1,800 more, while the 1.6 TDI SE weighs in at £20,265 (£1,680 more).