Never mind the rather odd name, the all-new Skoda Scala is yet another good reason for Japanese and Korean carmakers to sleep with one eye open, and for Australian car buyers to stand up and take notice of the Czech brand.
Think of the Scala as a feature-packed, five-door hatchback that sits between the Skoda Fabia light car and Octavia mid-sizer – and it makes perfect sense to fill the gap. The competition is tough, with the Scala taking on usual suspects like the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30, Mazda 3, Kia Cerato, Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic.
That’s no small ask for any manufacturer, but along with its vast experience from more than 125 years of manufacturing everything from bicycles to cars, Skoda has more than a few tricks up its sleeve – not the least of which is the space, kit, and value on offer in this five-door hatch.
And while it might be part of the giant Volkswagen Group and goes head-to-head with Volkswagen itself in multiple segments, there are significant differences between the Golf Mk7.5 (and upcoming Mk8) and the Scala. Most obvious is design.
For starters, it’s built on the same MQB A0 platform as the smaller Volkswagen Polo (as well as the T-Cross and Skoda Kamiq SUVs), but the Scala is actually larger than the Golf and Corolla, which becomes apparent when it comes to boot space and headroom.
The Scala range is pretty simple. Rather than bamboozle buyers, there’s just one four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine across four variants including our top-shelf Launch Edition tester and entry-level 110TSI manual variant. All are comprehensively equipped with the latest tech and active safety systems.
Skoda’s design language isn’t for everyone. It’s definitely a tad quirky compared with its more mainstream rivals and certainly not as neat or resolved as the Golf, but the overall look is always compelling and the Scala is no different.
Who else would offer an automatic tailgate, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and dynamic rear indicators in a base model car in this class for less than $27,000 drive away?
I’m getting ahead of my enthusiastic self, as usual.
For those who enjoy an old-school manual shift in their daily driver, you can get into the new Skoda Scala 110TSI with a six-speed manual for as little as $26,990 drive away, which is actually less than the recommended retail pricing.
The more popular choice will likely be entry-level automatic Scala 110TSI DSG, with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission from $28,990 drive away – or just $300 bucks than RRP.
The next rung up the Scala ladder is the more sportily-skewed Monte Carlo from $33,990 drive-away, while our range-topping, front-wheel drive Launch Edition will set you back a still-value-packed $35,990 drive-away.
Comparisons will most certainly be made with the the Volkswagen Golf. In upcoming Mk8 guise (the Mk7.5 is in runout), a mid-range 110TSI Life will cost $34,250 before on-road costs when the new-generation model arrives in the coming months.
Direct comparisons with rivals such as the Toyota Corolla are more difficult given the sheer number of variants on offer and choice between naturally-aspirated and hybrid powertrains. Suffice to say, the top-spec ZR Hybrid at $34,695 excluding on-roads would be the closest match to our First Edition Scala, though it’s significantly down on power and performance.
The Hyundai i30 Hatch is represented by an extensive range of variants, but the N Line Premium priced from $36,220 before on-roads would be the closest contest spec-wise, notwithstanding the more powerful 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo four under the bonnet.
The Mazda 3 model range is even more confusing with an endless array of hatch and sedan versions including the $35,090 before on-road costs G25 GT Hatch, which uses a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 139kW and 252Nm.
Here’s where Skoda has always shone brightest, by offering cleverly packaged interiors with a host of premium features, some of which are not found anywhere else in the class.
The Scala is the latest example of a successful formula designed to tempt more pragmatic buyers who are less swayed by a badge and more about maximum bang for buck.
While your budget might only allow for the entry-level Scala 110TSI, the list of equipment is far from skint.
Standard inventory includes 18-inch ‘Vega’ silver alloy wheels, LED tail lights with animated turn signals, privacy glass, double-sided rubber/carpet in the luggage compartment, the 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit virtual instrument cluster and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
There’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with wireless charging, an electrically-operated tailgate, driver’s door umbrella, a five-net storage system in the boot, a flat-bottom leather steering wheel, rear parking sensors with reversing camera, auto LED headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, an eight-speaker audio system and electric, and heated/folding mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming.
On the safety front, there’s seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, driver fatigue detection, multi-collision brake, rear manoeuvre braking assist as well as a tyre pressure monitoring system. And that’s just the entry level.
Stepping up to the mid-spec Monte Carlo gets you black Vega alloys, heavily-bolstered sports seats, along with a black pack which includes door mirror caps, grille frame, rear lettering rear diffuser, sill cover and headliner.
It also gets adaptive LED headlights, a panoramic roof, and sports pedals, both of which are unique to the Monte Carlo. Additionally, there’s dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, lowered (by 15mm) sports suspension, and selectable drive modes.
Our top-spec Launch Edition enjoys its own style Vega Aero wheels (by far the best), leather/Alcantara upholstery, body-coloured door mirror caps, a chrome grille frame and rear lettering, auto park assist, front parking sensors, a 9.2-inch navigation system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front and rear seats, and an electrically-operated driver’s seat. I count four USB-C ports (two front, two rear).
Skoda also offers several option packages across the entry-level 110TSI and Monte Carlo (claiming up to a 43 per cent discount against individual pricing), kicking off with the Driver’s Support Package ($4300, 110TSI exclusive) which adds leather/Alcantara upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a powered driver’s seat, semi-autonomous parking assist, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Tech Pack ($3900, 110TSI only) includes a 9.2-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, voice control and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED headlights with adaptive front lighting system, a Skoda premium sound system, and keyless entry and start.
Lastly, there’s the Travel Pack ($4300, Monte Carlo only) which adds a 9.2-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, voice control, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, semi-autonomous parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, paddle shifters, a Skoda premium sound system, and heated front and rear seats.
Individual options are limited to metallic and pearl effect paints ($550), as well as premium paint (Velvet Red) – limited to the Monte Carlo and priced at $1110.
The Launch Edition essentially gets the lot, the exception being the panoramic sunroof which costs an additional $1300.
Yes. The Skoda Scala has been awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating with 2019 date stamp.
It scored 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 81 per cent for vulnerable road users, and 76 per cent for safety assist in Euro NCAP testing.
Dual frontal, side chest and side curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag are standard across the Scala range, as is, autonomous emergency braking (City, Interurban and Vulnerable Road Users) lane-keep assist, and lane departure warning.
You don’t have to look far to be impressed by the cockpit in the Scala. Everywhere you look there are treats, especially in the Launch Edition tester we have here.
The combination leather/suede seats are properly bolstered on the base and back and more comfortable than my favourite TV chair at home.
The 10.25-inch high-definition driver’s instrument display (dubbed Virtual Cockpit) is similarly impressive and fully configurable to the tune of five different presentations, while the 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment screen looks even larger than the measurement suggests, while offering brilliant clarity and quick response times.
I also like the stitched, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel for its tactile perforated leather rim and feeling in the hands. It’s got paddle shifters too, but they are plastic and incredibly small if you get the urge to downshift a few gears under braking.
The entire dashboard is fabricated using a variety of soft-touch materials – some attractive, some not so, like the metal-look facing on the front passenger side which looks a tad cheap to me, as are the plastics below decks – but that’s common to many brands including the equivalent Volkswagen models.
Leather extends to the armrest in the centre console sitting atop of a rather uselessly-small storage bin (keys and one phone, maybe), though the glovebox is large and cooled. There’s a stack of room in the door pockets – easily enough for larger water bottles and other odds and ends, and the footwells up front and in the rear are nice and wide.
That said, there’s a large transmission tunnel hump in the rear that makes it uncomfortable for the middle seat passenger if you’ve got three people back there. And, there’s no rear armrest in the 60/40 split-fold configuration.
It’s also a pleasant surprise to find a traditional gear shifter and leather-wrapped hand brake in the Scala, but that might also be a cost-cutting measure by Skoda instead of an electric parking brake – though all MQB-A0 products seem to have manual handbrakes
Another noticeable plus for me was the easy ingress and egress with the Scala, largely thanks to doors that open sufficiently wide to makes things easy. Rear legroom is simply excellent, though I suspect rear headroom might prove limiting to taller frames.
Boot space is another area where the Scala outshines its rivals by offering 467 litres behind the rear seats, expanding to 1490 litres when folded. To give that some context, that’s 250 litres more than the Toyota Corolla, 72 litres more than an i30, 172 litres more than the Mazda 3, and 87 litres more than the Volkswagen Golf.
You also get the benefit of a dual-sided boot-floor mat with carpet on one side and rubber on the other. The netting system in the boot is also fantastic – allowing you to secure any number of goods be they multiple grocery bags or bicycle helmets and other lifestyle equipment. Under the boot floor is a space saver wheel.
Skoda offers just one engine across the entire Scala range.
It’s a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol motor paired with either a six-speed manual transmission in the entry variant, or seven-speed dual-clutch auto optional on the base 110TSI and standard for the Monte Carlo and launch Edition.
Although it makes the same 110kW of power (at 6000rpm) and torque of 250Nm (at 1500-3500rpm) as the 1.4-litre turbo in the Volkswagen Golf, the 1.5-litre in the Skoda is actually a newer, more advanced engine.
In the entry-level Scala 110TSI with manual transmission it returns 4.9L/100km on a combined cycle, while all other variants with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox claim 5.5L/100km on the same cycle.
It might have a turbo-four under the bonnet but don’t expect too much excitement behind the wheel here, as its claimed 8.2-second sprint time from 0-100km/h might suggest.
Mind, I don’t find it slow. Energetic and almost fun rather than any kind of ‘fast’ but more than capable of a quick sprint between roundabouts after some momentary lag if you’re a tad too keen with the throttle.
Rowing through the gears using the paddle shifters is kind of fun thanks to the slick-shifting DSG transmission, and you’ll like the well-timed throttle blips in Sport, without being scintillating.
That engine is quiet, though, even under load. I was expecting a bit of a racket in Sport mode, but the sound deadening is surprisingly effective.
The steering is relatively light, too, at least in the Normal setting and overall a bit numb, but it goes where you point it and parking the Scala is a breeze given it’s actually longer and wider than the current-generation Golf.
I’d expect the sporty-skewed Monte Carlo with its tuned suspension and lowered stance to corner with slightly less body roll than our Launch Edition tester. Either way, it feels relatively well-sorted and capable of stringing a few nice bends together.
Suspension compliance is another area where the Scala feels resolved.
Even though it’s riding on standard 18-inch rims, it deals with bumps and broken roads with sufficient cushioning and feels sufficiently poised through mid-corner rough spots despite its cheaper torsion-beam rear axle.
It also stops well too thanks to decent brakes and Goodyear Eagle tyres.
Skoda offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty across its entire range as well as two service packs – three years of servicing up to 45,000km costs $800, while five years up to 75,000km will cost $1400.
The service packs also include free roadside assistance over the term of the pack, fluids, pollen filters, map updates and these packs are fully transferable if you choose to sell your car before it expires. Interestingly, Skoda will also offer a four-year used car service pack.
Owners can also sign up to one of Skoda’s Service and Maintenance Subscription plans over four levels with a monthly fee that includes consumables such as brakes and tyres.
The standard plan costs $99 per month with a maximum 15,000km, Elevated costs $129/month and allows for 20,000km, High is $189/m and allows for 30,000km while the top-shelf Extra High is $249/m for a 40,000km limit.
The various fee levels include the scheduled service every 15,000km, courtesy loan vehicle, front and rear brake pads/discs, engine oil top up, Skoda Roadside Assist renewal, tyres (including wheel balance, alignment and recalibration), battery replacement, remote key batteries as well as wiper blades.
Better still, for new Scala owners, Skoda is offering a 50 per cent discount on the monthly subscription costs for a limited time (not spelled out) for three years or up to 45,000km. Well worth consideration.
No real surprises, really, just an accomplished European hatch that delivers in all the right areas for what could be the perfect small family daily for those buyers who want quite a bit more than what the competition is offering but without the premium price point.
Design is important and while I’ve only had this Scala tester for a few days, already Skoda’s sharp new design language is growing on me. No mean feat given the 7.5 (nearly eight) generations of Golf familiarisation I’m accustomed to.
It won’t be for everyone but for those more astute hatchback buyers that value smart packaging and loads of creature comforts, as well as class-leading boot capacity – you’d be wise to add Scala to your shortlist. It’s a damn fine effort for a first attempt.
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