Skoda Scala hatchback (2019 - ) review
The Skoda Scala may be smaller than its Octavia stablemate, but it’s still roomier – and cheaper – than most other mid-size hatchbacks. On that score, it competes with the Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30 and Seat Leon.
Interested in buying a SKODA Scala?
How good does it look?
Take a glancing look at the Scala, and you’d be forgiven for not immediately recognising it as a Skoda. The sharp, angular lines on various elements of the exterior – such as the triangular headlamps and the bulge in the bonnet – are more reminiscent of models from other Volkswagen Group brands. Remove the trademark Skoda front grille, and you could easily be looking at an Audi or a Seat. But let’s face it, that’s no bad thing. All models get alloy wheels, tinted windows and LED headlamps with daytime running lights. Second-level SE cars add front foglamps, while range-topping SE L cars have LED rear lights, privacy glass and cool scrolling indicators.
What's the interior like?
The Scala’s cabin has lots in common with other Skoda models, which is a very good thing. The dashboard layout is simple, so the various controls are all fairly easy to find and use, and with clear all-round visibility and lots of adjustment in both the driver’s seat and steering wheel, life is pretty sweet at the wheel.
For the most part, the touchscreen infotainment system (the functionality and the size of the screen you get vary depending on the trim level you choose) works reasonably easily as well, although we did experience some connection difficulties when trying to use the smartphone mirroring functionality (standard on SE and SE L).
The quality is solid and sturdy, with pleasant materials to be found in most areas, but with harder, scratchier surfaces in one or two places. Compared with most other Skoda models, the cabin doesn’t feel quite as posh. That said, compared with other value-focused hatchbacks, it’s still pretty good.
How practical is it?
One of Skoda’s big selling points is that it provides better-than-average space for a lower-than-average price, and so it proves with the Scala. It’s not quite as bonkers big inside as the Octavia, but it still feels roomier than most other family hatchbacks of its type, with absolutely bags of headroom and legroom in the back. It even has a wide middle seat to make carrying three in the back reasonably comfy, although whoever’s in the middle seat will have to sit with their legs straddled either side of a bulky ridge in the floor. The 467-litre boot is also considerably bigger than you get in most hatchback rivals, budget-focused or not. The rear seats fold down pretty easily, too, although the backrests sit at an angle rather than lying flat, and there’s a step in the load floor, too.
What's it like to drive?
It’s a car’s suspension that has the most fundamental effect on a car’s behaviour in this area, and unfortunately, things remain unclear, because we still haven’t had the chance to try the car on its standard suspension. Instead, all the cars on the launch event we attended were fitted with an adaptive sports suspension that alters its behaviour depending on which driving mode you select, and it’s an optional item that costs you extra. It’s not particularly impressive, either. Being a sports suspension, it’s lower and stiffer than the standard setup, and whichever mode you choose, the low-speed ride is decidedly lumpy and unsettled.
In Normal mode, you also have to contend with steering that’s disconcertingly light and reluctant to respond. Selecting Sport mode adds a little more weight and urgency to the steering, which gives you greater confidence in the car, and to be fair, the car does change direction reasonably crisply in the corners. The ride also feels appreciably more settled and stable when you’re going faster, too. Dynamically, then, the Scala feels fairly average, but it’ll still be absolutely fine for most drivers.
How powerful is it?
The Scala comes with a choice of three petrol engines: two 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbos with either 95 or 115 horsepower, and a four-cylinder 1.5 turbo with 150 horsepower. So far, we’ve only tried the 115 horsepower unit, and it’s a little cracker. It’s really perky and responsive throughout most of the rev range, so not only does it make the car very easy to drive, it also gives it a very decent turn of pace. It stays pretty quiet as well, although you will detect quite a few vibrations from the engine coming through the floor of the car, especially on the passenger side.
We also had a shot in the one diesel option available: a 1.6 with 115 horsepower. It’s capable of decent pace, but most of its strength comes in one big lump in the middle of the rev range, giving the engine a rather all-or-nothing character. It sounds rather clattery and uncultured on the move as well, even when you’re not working it particularly hard.
How much will it cost me?
Like most Skodas, the Scala is all about providing a lot of car for a very affordable amount of money. As a result, the Scala is considerably cheaper to buy than the Focuses, Golfs and Civics of the world, but it’s there-or-thereabouts on price with more direct rivals like the Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30 and Seat Leon.
The Scala’s efficiency figures look to be on a par with those of its main rivals, too, so there shouldn’t be a vast difference on day-to-day running costs, either. How the Scala compares to the others on long-term running costs will depend on how well it retains its value, though, and that’s not something that’s clear just yet.
How reliable is it?
The Scala is a new model for Skoda, so there’s virtually no reliability data to work with, but buyers should still be confident the car will prove dependable. Not only are the parts tried an tested in countless other models from the VW Group, but Skoda also ranks near the top in most of the reliability surveys we’ve seen, including the latest JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study and the Warranty Direct Reliability Index. The standard warranty gives you unlimited-mileage cover for two years, but the third year’s cover is limited to 60,000 miles.
How safe is it?
The Scala comes with a seriously impressive amount of safety kit as standard, especially when you consider it’s a value-focused proposition among family hatchbacks. It has all sorts of electronic systems that warn you about traffic approaching from the sides or the rear of the car, and it’ll also warn you if it senses an impending frontal collision, and slam the stoppers on automatically if you don’t take action yourself.
There’s also a system that steers you back into your lane if you start to wander out of it, and while an impressive seven airbags (including one to protect the driver’s knees) are standard, you can also add another two to give better protection to those in the back. The car is yet to be tested by the safety bods at Euro NCAP, but on this evidence, we’d be surprised if it didn’t achieve the full five-star rating.
How much equipment do I get?
The entry-level S car comes with a very decent slice of luxury equipment as standard, including air-conditioning, a cooled glovebox, four electric windows, electric door mirrors and a stereo with DAB radio and Bluetooth. We’d recommend the upgrade to SE trim, though, because it adds front foglamps, cruise control, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone mirroring and a host of other clever little touches to boost the car’s versatility.
With the SE L car, the foglamps also move to help light your way around bends, and you also get keyless entry, climate-control, configurable digital instrument dials and a bigger 9.2-inch touchscreen.
You’ll buy the Scala because you want a spacious hatchback that comes with plenty of standard equipment for an affordable price. On all those scores, the Scala does a cracking job, and it has a fair amount of style and quality, too. For those reasons, we can see why you might choose one over the Kia Ceed, Hyundai i30 and Seat Leon it competes with.