An additional lower-medium hatchback gives Skoda a new core offering that goes head-to-head with the top hatches in the company car arena.
On the road
On the road
Skoda’s model range has historically been a touch out of kilter, with the likes of the Fabia and in particular the Octavia and Superb being large cars for the classes into which the motor industry likes to pigeon-hole them.
So the Octavia, which nominally competes against the likes of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and the rest of the lower-medium hatchbacks, is larger in terms of interior and particularly luggage space compared to its peers and likewise the Superb against the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia and others that remain in that diminishing upper-medium segment.
1. This is another reminder of the excellence of the VW Group’s small-capacity petrol engines – their performance and efficiency are both very useful.
2. Going with a USB-C point in the front rather than a regular USB socket may make sense on some technological levels, but is a frustration when you don’t have the right adaptor lead.
3. Isofix points in the front seat is a surprisingly rare fixture that will be appreciated by parents.
But as far as the Octavia goes, that is changing slightly, because it has some home-grown competition, at least in as much as the basket of segment rivals that manufacturers are never that keen on their cars being slotted neatly into.
The new Scala is more than 300mm shorter than the Octavia and has a boot 123 litres smaller, but compared to a Vauxhall Astra it’s 16mm shorter and still outpoints its rivals for boot space. The dimensions put the Scala right in the heartland of the sector, as does its pricing, and Skoda clearly feels there is the space for another car between the Fabia supermini and Octavia. Previously, it had the Rapid in similar space, although that was a larger supermini rather than a core lower-medium hatchback.
So the Scala is slightly shorter than the Astra, Ford Focus or the Kia Ceed that are all key rivals, although Skoda’s addiction to offering ultimate practicality means it still has a much larger boot than any of its competition, with the 467 litres being more than 85 clear of the rivals and more than 120 above the Focus’s small offering.
The Scala launches with a range of three petrol engines and a single diesel. The petrols are 95hp and 115hp outputs of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder, plus the top model, driven here, which is the 150hp 1.5. The more powerful pair are both available with either a manual or a DSG automatic transmission, as is the 115hp 1.6 diesel.
The petrol engines are good for efficiency, and all three power levels sit at either 113 or 114g/km for CO2 emissions. The diesel emits 108g/km, which means, thanks to the Government’s diesel penalty, it sits three Benefit-in-Kind bands higher than the petrol alternatives, and given that the 150hp petrol is more than £250 cheaper than the 115hp diesel, and the 115hp petrol is over £1600 cheaper, the diesel is a tricky car to make stack up financially for either a business or its drivers.
Trim levels at launch are pretty straightforward. There is an entry S, available only with the 95hp and 115hp manual petrol engines, then SE and SE L, both of which come with the full array of seven engine and transmission combinations. A fleet-orientated SE Technology and a top Monte Carlo trim are both due to be added next year.
The S is best ignored by all but the most pool-car of fleet purchasers, because equipment levels are pretty basic, although it does get 16-inch alloys and the lane-assist and front-assist safety systems. It’s better to make the £1190 hop up to SE, which brings much of the kit that fleet drivers will expect, including rear parking sensors, an 8.0-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compared with the entry 6.5-inch, automatic lights and wipers, and a steering wheel with infotainment control buttons on.
Another £1800 up is the SE L, which looks like good value in terms of the extra standard equipment fitted in return, including privacy glass, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, keyless entry and a larger 9.2-inch central screen, but at this price level drivers can probably manage without the more premium of niceties.
The Scala also incorporates some of Skoda’s clever little features that the brand has made a name for itself with, including the in-built funnel for topping up the screen wash, the ice scraper fitted inside the filler cap and, from the SE trim upwards, an umbrella slotted into the driver’s door.
Skoda describes the Scala as enjoying a “striking new look” and having a “dynamic appearance”, but to some eyes it’s actually a little on the plain side, and doesn’t offer any stand-out design that will ingrain on the memory. It is the first model to feature the word Skoda across the tailgate, rather than the brand’s badge, which is something that will follow across future models, but overall it’s a fairly sensible and unassuming design.
That continues inside, where there are no major criticisms, but nothing that marks the Scala out from the competition. The dashboard is of reasonable quality with a smart VW Group touchscreen system that is the most modern-looking element of the cabin. Although Skoda’s decision to go with a USB-C port in the front rather than regular USB port could lead to frustration for anyone who doesn’t having the right lead to hand.
There is decent rear space, and the roomy ambience is helped by the big, square rear windows that make the rear-seat area a brighter and airier place than in many rival hatchbacks. On top of that (or rather behind it) the boot is huge for the class, helped in the practicality stakes by no fewer than four hooks for hanging lighter loads to stop them rolling around.
The VW Group’s widely used range of petrol engines are generally corkers, and the 150hp 1.5 TSI in the Scala is no exception, feeling powerful enough for such a hatchback yet offering efficiency figures that few rivals can better. The ride quality is surprisingly solid, giving the car a sportier feel than expected. That helps with handling, but makes for a firmer long-distance experience than the Octavia offers.
And in many ways the Octavia is the Scala’s biggest problem. It’s undeniably an older car that is due for replacement next year, but it’s priced at under £1000 more than the Scala with broadly similar equipment levels, and much more interior and boot space. And though taste-specific, it’s also possibly the better-looking of the two. Slightly poorer RVs mean it’s 2.0p per mile more expensive, but it’s still a tough call between the sibling models.
Away from its own brand, the Scala nestles in among its main volume rivals in the fleet sector, with residual value, whole-life cost, emissions and SMR cost all better than some but behind others. Which makes for a good all-rounder, and the combination of competitive pricing and low emissions means a monthly BiK payment a couple of pounds cheaper than that of the equivalent Vauxhall Astra and well clear of the Ford Focus and Kia Ceed.
In some ways, this almost feels like a return to the Skoda of previous years, rather than continuing the brand’s attempts to become more a more stylish and emotion-led decision. The Scala is neutrally styled, above average inside for the class, and overall something of a solid, sensible all-rounder. And in many ways that’s a real compliment – good company cars don’t have to be exciting; sometimes they are just required to get on with the job with minimal fuss, maximum financial sense, good efficiency and decent practicality. And although the Scala isn’t thrilling in any major way, it carries off the more boring and sensible stuff rather well.
Skoda’s new Scala comes into the VW-owned brand’s line-up between the Fabia supermini and Octavia models, sitting in the same lower-medium sector that the Octavia has inhabited, although the Scala is sized more in line with the rest of the class.
The Octavia has always straddled conventional sectors, falling somewhere between the Ford Focus and Mondeo sizes of vehicle, so the new addition gives Skoda a core competitor in the key lower-medium hatchback sector. It’s sized directly in line with the big players in the segment, while the Czech brand is still offering the larger Octavia for customers wanting the extra space. Skoda is also at pains to point out the Scala doesn’t replace the Rapid, a discontinued smaller model between the Fabia and Octavia.
The Scala was previewed in the form of the Vision RS concept car (pictured) at the 2018 Paris motor show, although the show car had a plug-in hybrid powertrain with 46-mile range and a 33g/km CO2 figure. Skoda’s first production plug-in hybrid comes early next year in the form of the Skoda Superb iV, toting a range of up to 34 miles and a sub-40g/km emissions figure.
What they said
What They Said
“Blending new tech, an emotive design, a high degree of functionality and state-of-the-art connectivity, the Skoda Scala sets a new level."
“It combines a high-quality finish with plenty of space, and LED headlights and tail lights as well as dynamic indicators add to the striking look."
“Optional additions such as electric tailgate, panoramic glass roof with extended tailgate glass and virtual cockpit make it feel it’s in a different class."
“The latest Amundsen infotainment system is one of the largest in its segment and fleets can always be online thanks to its integrated eSIM.”
Henry Williams, head of fleet, Skoda UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
Skoda loves clever touches, such as the ice scraper in the fuel flap
Big and square back windows mean plenty of light for rear passengers
The rear light cluster is the best example of neat Scala design
...And one we don't
The crystal effect on the running lights looks a little too much like they’ve been shattered
The set-up is a little more-sporty and entertaining than might be expected, and the 1.5 TSI engine is a very decent unit.
The 150hp petrol is good, but it’s a shame the lower-powered engines and the diesel aren’t much more efficient than the powerful one.
Typical Skoda, with plenty of room for passengers and luggage compared with rivals. But if these are your key desires then maybe the Octavia is a better bet.
Kit levels are reasonable rather than outstanding. The top-spec model is well loaded for the price.
It’s not the most eye-catching of designs, although it sits in a sector where most rivals aren’t the most innovative at the moment.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
The ride quality is a little harsh, although refinement levels are good enough.
It’s all fine and functional, without being exciting or memorable. The front seats aren’t the most comfortable around and feel a touch on the thin side.
The screen looks smart, especially with the increasing screen sizes of the middle and top trim levels.
Whole life costs 8/10
Good efficiency figures are helped by the very competitive pricing and RV and SMR figures that keep the Scala in the upper half of the class.
CCT opinion 7/10
Skoda’s latest addition is very much a car that appeals to the head rather than the heart. It makes sense in all the logical ways, but doesn’t stir the emotions.
The Scala almost feels like a return to the Skoda of old in terms of good, solid, practical and sensible cars, but the Superb ands its SUVs do more to move the brand forward.