Skoda’s family hatch offers a class-leading combination of space, quality, comfort and value
The Skoda Scala is our favourite family hatchback. It’s one of the most practical cars in its class, with a huge boot at 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.
5 Jul, 2019 4.5
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 further helps its case as a no-fuss, easy-to-own family car.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Scala features an eight-inch screen even in entry-level SE trim, with DAB, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android Auto. It’s an excellent system that keeps things simple, and even though there’s no sat-nav as standard, most buyers will be able to use their smartphone for that. If you don’t have one, navigation is £1,150 as part of an upgrade that increases the screen size to 9.2 inches, and this also includes 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. There’s a pair of USB-C ports in the centre console – perfect for those with the latest smartphones – but an adapter means any USB device will work.
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.
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 has 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 in SE trim. The suspension makes a bit more noise in its operation than its German counterpart, but the quality of damping is just as impressive.
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Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
The Skoda Scala has a fairly limited engine lineup, but it’s all killer and no filler – a simple choice between two petrols and one diesel. Our favourite is the entry-level 1.0-litre TSI with 113bhp, but buyers can also choose a more powerful 1.5-litre with 148bhp.
The former manages 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds and has a 125mph top speed; the latter improves on those figures with an 8.2-second 0-62mph time and 136mph top speed. The 1.0-litre car is only available with a manual gearbox, while the 1.5-litre comes with a DSG automatic.
The single diesel choice is a 1.6-litre TDI unit with 113bhp, available with either a manual or DSG gearbox. The manual car is marginally quicker: 10.1 seconds to 62mph trumps the auto’s 10.3 seconds. Top speed is 125mph in the manual and 124mph in the auto.
Despite the punchier performance of the 1.5-litre petrol and the good economy of the diesel, we recommend the cheaper yet still excellent 1.0-litre TSI for most buyers – provided you don’t want or need an automatic gearbox.
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.
Euro NCAP is yet to crash-test the Skoda Scala, but Skoda models regularly perform well – a five-star rating is very likely. It’s encouraging to see a good amount of standard safety kit, though – autonomous emergency braking (called ‘Front Assist’, lane-keep assistance, cruise control, hill-hold control, a speed limiter and automatic headlights are all included in SE spec. Options include knee airbags at £240, a driver fatigue sensor for £55 and curtain and side airbags for £425.
The Scala is too new to have featured in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but Skoda itself finished in an impressive 5th place – good news for prospective owners. Practicality was rated highly, as were engines, child-friendly features and – cruicially – reliability. A relatively low average of 13.7 per cent of owners experienced faults with their Skodas.
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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.
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.
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.
The Scala measures in at 4,362mm in length, 1,793mm in width (1,988mm with mirrors) and 1,471mm high. It’s a 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.
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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.
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The Scala can be prepared for – or fitted with – a tow bar as an option, but you’ll need to make sure the former box has been ticked on the list if you want to retrospectively add a tow bar. The 1.0-litre TSI model can tow up to 1,200kg of unbraked weight, while the 1.5 TSI and 1.6 TDI manage an unbraked load of 1,250kg.
The Scala’s light weight helps to make it one of the most efficient cars in its class – our preferred 1.0-litre TSI model returns a claimed 44.8 to 49.6mpg, but during our tests maganged an impressive 54.7mpg. It’s notably more efficient than a Volkswagen Golf with a similar engine. Meanwhile, the automatic-only 1.5-litre Scala returns a claimed 40.9 to 45.6mpg.
Diesel models offer good economy too – the manual 1.6-litre car returns a claimed 53.3 to 57.7mpg, with the automatic managing a 49.6 to 54.3mpg range.
Emissions are low across the board: 113g/km of CO2 for both petrol models and 108g/km for the diesels. Road tax is reasonable as a result: £170 for petrols or £150 for diesels in the first year (usually rolled into the on-the-road price), followed by the usual £145 yearly payment thereafter.
Company car users will benefit from low benefit in kind rates too – both the 1.0 TSI and 1.5 TSI command a 26 per cent charge in 2019/20 and 27 per cent from 2020/21 onwards, while the diesel is subject to a 29 per cent BiK charge in 2019/20, climbing to 30 per cent in 2020/21.
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The Scala’s low running costs should extend to insurance too – it occupies groups 16 (1.6 TDI), 17 (1.0 TSI) and 21 (1.5 TSI). Trim levels do not make a difference to the Scala’s insurance groupings.
The older Volkswagen Golf sits in groups seven to 20 depending on spec, equalling the Scala’s group 17 rating in similar 1.0 TSI Evo guise. A 1.6 diesel may be slightly cheaper to insure than an equivalent Scala, but not by much.
Our experts predict that the Skoda Scala will be competitive in the retained value stakes, holding on to around 44 to 49 per cent 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 36 to 45 per cent of its value over the same period, depending on specification.