Top of the class

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The Skoda Scala is our favourite family hatchback. It’s one of the most practical cars in its class, with a huge boot and lots of passenger space, and gives the Volkswagen Golf a run for its money when it comes to ride, handling and build quality. It’s almost as good to drive as a Golf too, making great use of the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous MQB platform. Standard equipment is good across the range, with impressive infotainment and the option of digital dials on higher-spec models.

Value is what impresses most with the Scala, though – all of this ability comes at a price that undercuts every version of the Golf and matches most of its nearest rivals. It’s hard to recommend the Volkswagen Golf over the Skoda Scala unless you really want a little extra quality, polish and prestige; the Scala is so good it’s more than just a viable alternative.

Engines, performance & drive

The Skoda Scala occupies the same class as fellow MQB-platformed Volkswagen Group cars like the SEAT Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf, but is actually built on the company’s smaller MQB A0 platform – the same one that underpins the VW Polo, Audi A1 and SEAT Arona. The Scala uses torsion-beam rear suspension as a result, saving costs over more complex multi-link systems. Plus, cheaper versions of the Golf and some other rivals use a similar set-up anyway.

Skoda’s engineers have done a fantastic job with the Scala. It rides just as well as the pricier Volkswagen Golf and is just as easy to drive. It’s not the last word in driving pleasure, but the Scala has accurate steering, lots of grip and a very satisfying manual gearbox. Those looking for more fun behind the wheel will be better served by the Ford Focus or Mazda 3, but the Scala isn’t terrible in this regard by any stretch.

The Scala’s suspension is very well judged – it rides just as well as an equivalent Volkswagen Golf, especially when specced with 16-inch wheels. The suspension makes a bit more noise in its operation than its German counterpart, but the quality of damping is just as impressive.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The Skoda Scala has a fairly basic engine lineup – a choice between two petrols and one diesel. The 1.0-litre TSI unit is available with 94bhp or 114bhp, but buyers can also choose a more powerful 1.5-litre with 148bhp.

The lower-powered 1.0-litre version needs 10.9 seconds to reach 62mph from a standstill, while the 114bhp variant manages 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds and has a 125mph top speed. The 1.5-litre improves on those figures with an 8.2-second 0-62mph time and a 137mph top speed.

The single diesel choice is a 1.6-litre TDI unit with 114bhp, available with either a manual or DSG gearbox – although there’s no difference in sprint times with both hitting 62mph in 10.1 seconds.

Despite the punchier performance of the 1.5-litre petrol and the good economy of the diesel, we recommend the cheaper, yet still excellent 114bhp 1.0-litre TSI for most buyers.

Performance is adequate for most everyday situations thanks to the engine’s decent torque and the Scala’s relative light weight – it’s marginally quicker than the turbocharged 1.0-litre versions of key rivals like the Kia Ceed and Volkswagen Golf. Emissions are low and fuel economy is great too.

MPG, CO2 & running costs

The Scala’s light weight helps to make it one of the most efficient cars in its class – our preferred 114bhp 1.0-litre TSI model returns a claimed maximum of 51.4mpg, but during our tests managed an impressive 54.7mpg. It’s notably more efficient than a Volkswagen Golf with a similar engine. The lower-powered 94bhp version delivers 50.4mpg. Customers opting for the punchier 1.5-litre TSI model will see economy fall slightly to 49.6mpg.

If you’re seeking maximum return on a tank of fuel, then the 1.6-litre diesel is the one to go for, with maximum economy of 60.1mpg from the manual version and 56.5mpg from the DSG auto.

Emissions for the 1.0-litre models range from 126g/km to 148g/km of CO2, depending on the chosen trim level, while the 1.5-litre variant emits from 130g/km to 153g/km. The 1.6-litre TDI diesel is the best performer here, producing 122g/km to 141g/km of CO2.

Insurance groups

The Scala’s low running costs should extend to insurance too – the entry-level 94bhp model in S trim sits in group 10, while the more powerful 114bhp version occupies group 13. The top-spec 1.5-litre petrol in Monte Carlo trim is in group 19, although customers will see cheaper premiums if they opt for diesel power, as the 1.6-litre TDI diesel in well-equipped SE L-spec is in group 13.

Depreciation

Our experts predict that the Skoda Scala will be competitive in the retained value stakes, holding on to an average of 42% of its value come trade-in time after 36,000 miles and three years of ownership.

For comparison, the more expensive, premium-badged Volkswagen Golf is expected to retain around 45% of its value over the same period, depending on specification.

Interior, design & technology

Form has followed function in most aspects of the Skoda Scala’s design – it’s a large hatchback for the class that doesn’t skimp on interior space by using a sloping roofline. The exterior looks sharp and modern, but rivals like the Mazda 3 highlight its relative plainness. This could be construed as a good thing, though – it’s an unpretentious car that doesn’t try to stand out.

Inside, the sensible no-frills approach continues with a fairly drab dashboard that’s functional rather than pleasing to the eye. Everything is very well put together and the materials used are of good quality, with lots of soft-touch plastics in all the right places – it happily stands up to that found in the Kia Ceed and Ford Focus, but is just shy of the Golf’s more premium feel.

It’s easy to find an acceptable driving position in the comfortable seats and the cabin’s ergonomics are easy to get to grips with very quickly. Much like the rest of the Scala’s agreeable traits, this helps its case as a no-fuss, easy-to-own family car.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The entry-level Scala S model features a basic 6.5-inch colour display, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and a couple of USB-C ports in the centre console – perfect for those with the latest smartphones – although an adapter means any USB device will work.

Skoda offers an eight-inch touchscreen display for SE-spec cars, with Smartlink connectivity for Apple and Android phone users. SE L trim brings a larger 9.2-inch screen with sat-nav and a digital instrument cluster as well.

The Skoda system uses a neat user interface and a responsive screen, so it’s good to use, and smartphone integration works well. The screen is sharp and looks modern, but we would prefer some more physical buttons to access menus more easily. At least the air-conditioning controls are all buttons below the screen.

Practicality, comfort & boot space

The Scala majors on practicality – those looking to get the most space for their money will be hard pressed to find a better hatchback in the class. There are five seats, with those in the rear big enough for adults. Interior space is impressive generally – Skoda has done wonders with packaging. Visibility is great thanks to a large glasshouse.

The boot is large and there’s the usual smattering of practical storage areas, including large door bins, a cooled glovebox, under-seat storage in the front and a sunglasses cubby in the roof.

Other practical touches include electrically adjustable and heated mirrors, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a space-saver spare (rather than a rescue foam kit).

The Skoda Octavia is a good alternative if you need even more space, but the Scala’s shape makes it a more flexible proposition overall.

Size

The Scala measures in at 4,362mm in length, 1,793mm in width (1,988mm with mirrors) and 1,471mm high. It’s just over 510kg lighter than an equivalent Volkswagen Golf and over 130kg lighter than a Kia Ceed, despite being longer and more spacious inside than both.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

There’s loads of room for adult passengers front and rear, while those in the back will have little to complain about. Both front and rear seats are very comfortable, with the fronts each adjustable for height as standard. A standard centre armrest also features along with a leather steering wheel.

There’s more space in the back of the Scala for passengers than just about any other car in this class – great news if you need space for a growing family. Speaking of which, ISOfix points are supplied in the outer two rear seats and are easily accessed; the rear doors open wide and, in combination with the relatively high roofline, offer good access to the rear when fitting child seats.

Boot

One of the Scala’s big selling points is its even bigger boot – a wide, square load space with an impressive 467 litres and a low load lip. The boot is usefully bigger than the Volkswagen Golf’s 380-litre offering and beats the Ford Focus’ 375 litres.

The rear bench folds in a 60/40 split to increase total load capacity to 1,410 litres – a figure that’s among the very best in this class. The seats don’t fold completely flat, but it’s still a hugely practical space. The boot also features two large pockets behind each wheel arch – great for keeping loose items from sliding around.

Reliability & safety

Euro NCAP crash-tested the Skoda Scala in 2019 and awarded it a full five-star rating, with excellent scores for adult and child safety of 97% and 87%, respectively.

It’s encouraging to see a good amount of standard safety kit – autonomous emergency braking (called ‘Front Assist’), lane-keep assistance and an automatic emergency call function are included for the entry-level S trim, while cruise control and rear parking sensors are standard for SE-spec cars. Options include knee airbags at £240, a driver fatigue sensor for £60 and rear side airbags for £450.

The Scala is too new to have featured in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, although Karoq, Superb and Kodiaq all finished in the top twenty. Skoda itself finished in an impressive 5th place – good news for prospective owners.

Warranty

All Skoda models are covered by a three-year warranty that includes cover for unlimited mileage in the first two years, plus up to 60,000 miles in year three. For just over £500, this warranty can be extended to up to five years and 100,00 miles. It’s a competitive warranty, but can’t match Hyundai’s unlimited-mileage five-year coverage, nor Kia’s famous seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

Servicing

Fixed-price servicing for the Skoda Scala should be reasonable – you should pay around £170 for an interim service and around £280 for a major one, while service plans and deals are available to help spread the cost. Skoda charges around £40 for an MoT (for cars over three years old) and an oil and filter change will set you back just under £100

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Source: ADI News

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