Car Reviews

2019 Skoda Scala Review

Paul Horrell’s Skoda Scala Review 2019 With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Interior, Ownership, Verdict And Score.

IN A NUTSHELL: Skoda tackles the Corolla and i30 with a practical, roomy hatch. Tech is up-to-date but driving delight isn’t far up the priorities list.

2019 Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI SE specs

Price N/A Warranty 5 years/unlimited km Engine1.0L petrol turbo Power 85kW at 5000-5500rpm Torque 200Nm at 2000-3500rpm Transmission 6-speed manual, 7-speed DSG auto Drive front-wheel drive Body 4362mm (l); 1793mm (w exc mirrors); 1968mm (w inc mirrors); 1471mm (h) Turning circle 10.2m Towing weight 1200kg (braked), 610kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1220kg (manual) Seats 5 Fuel tank 50 litres Spare Space saver Thirst 5.7-6.8 l/100km combined cycle

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2019 Skoda Scala Review

This is Skoda’s attempt to hit the meat of the compact hatch market. Forget the old Rapid, which was really aimed at more primitive markets. The Scala is up to date with the VW Group’s latest engineering and has advanced tech built right in.

It’s not just a re-bodied Golf though. It actually uses the fundamental platform of the group’s mini cars – the VW Polo, new Audi A1 and the upcoming VW T-Cross crossover. This would apparently make it too small to go up against cars like the Hyundai i30 or Toyota Corolla.

But Skoda has stretched the platform’s wheelbase (to 2.65m) and rear overhang, so in fact cabin and boot space are well up to par.

Thing is, does the stretch show? Does it feel as if it’s playing out of its depth against cars specially engineered from the outset for these weights? That’s one of the things we’re here to test.

We sampled in Britain a right-hook Scala with the 1.0-litre engine, a ubiquitous unit among VW Group small cars in Europe. It’s available as an auto but we had the manual. A 1.6 diesel is also available in Europe, but the market is turning away from that fuel. Given the excellent economy we squeezed out of the little petrol engine, that’s not a worry.

Our car was mid-spec. All sorts of posh gear is available: TFT instruments, panoramic roof, switchable dampers, on-line navigation. But Skoda is about value, so we felt the mid-spec model had all you’d need.

WHAT’S THE SKODA SCALA INTERIOR LIKE?

As promised, there’s room and practicality. Skoda has put a bit of cash into the trim materials too – it’s hardly plush, but there’s actually more soft-touch plastic here than in the Audi A1.

The seats are firm and supportive, though their flatness means they’re not that welcoming when you first land your backside on the cushion.

In the back, there’s loads of clearance for adults’ knees, feet and heads, even behind the seat of an average-height male driver. Surprisingly for a budget car, there are individual reading lights and vents back there, though not a centre armrest. The top-level trim also has a pair of USB-C sockets in the back, but in the one we drove, they were fitted only in the front console.

The instrument has a series of straightforward displays in its centre – trip computer, entertainment, phone. They’re called up by buttons on the steering wheel.

As an option, you can have a version of the VW Group’s active-screen instrument panel, allowing lots of different configurations of simulated dials or digital graphics. It only makes sense if you’ve got the top-spec navigation and adaptive cruise control though, so you can display what those systems are up to.

Climate controls are below the centre screen, and they’re refreshingly straightforward. The test car had a fully manual system – no digital thermostat, no automatic distribution of the air, just a set of three solid knobs to turn. Auto climate control comes higher up the range.

The boot is pretty huge, at 467 litres, and it’s not pulling the old no-spare-wheel trick. You’ll find a space saver under the floor. The mid-spec doesn’t have a double-height boot floor or luggage nets (they come in the top spec), but it does have handy hooks and tie-downs.

The door bins are pretty big too, the front ones each able to take a 1.5-litre bottle. The front armrest box not so much, as the Scala has a real yank-on handbrake – not an electric switch – so that takes up console room. Still, space for a couple of cupholders there though.

Skoda makes a big deal of the handy (and very clever) little features no-one else provides, even though they cost very little yet add a lot. The Scala has an ice scraper clipped inside the fuel filler, which can also be used as a tyre-wear scale. The screenwash tank has a funnel built-in. An umbrella is stored in the driver’s door lining, and there are little clips and hooks dotted around the cabin.

You can also get an electrically folding towbar, which is pretty unusual in this class of car.

WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE IN THE SKODA SCALA?

All Scalas have a colour centre touchscreen. Also an embedded SIM card, which means you can remotely, via phone app, lock the car or check fuel level. It’ll also alert you if it goes outside a geofenced area of your choice, so that’s a handy anti-theft feature – or a way for parents to track their youngsters.

The base car has no phone mirroring, no navigation and only four speakers. The one we tested gets a decent-sounding eight speakers, and a pair of USB-C sockets up front, used for CarPlay. Its screen is clear and responsive.

The top spec gets a bigger screen, navigation with more online services such as traffic, and wireless CarPlay over Bluetooth.

WHAT’S THE SKODA SCALA’S PERFORMANCE LIKE?

Here’s another use of the same VW Group 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo motor as we’ve tested before. It’s a plucky little thing with good torque spread over a conveniently accessible rev range.

But it doesn’t like to rev, so you have to shift up as the needle passes 5500rpm. Actually you’d do that anyway because its chattery sound gets noisy by then. Otherwise, it’s quiet.

Performance is OK for the engine size, because despite the cabin space it’s a relatively light car. It gets to 100km/h in just under 10 seconds.

Fuel economy is excellent, whether on the highway (helped by careful aero detailing) or in nip and tuck driving. Cars with this engine always seem to avoid service stations.

IS THE SKODA SCALA GOOD TO DRIVE? 

The soft springs and slightly baggy dampers give it an aimless feel. The steering’s low-geared too. It feels like what it is: a lightweight car where they didn’t spend a lot of money on the dampers. They also use a simple torsion-beam rear suspension, which isn’t the last word in dynamics but saves money and space.

This isn’t an enthusiast’s car, then. That was never the aim.

But actually it’s capable of making good progress on bad roads. The grip is faithful and it doesn’t melt into understeer. The steering is in fact accurate in bends. The supple springs and anti-roll bars mean it floats around a bit but isn’t actually knocked off course by a series of bumps.

On a highway there’s the same sensation of the car having a mind of its own, floating and wandering in tiny amounts. But you can just allow it to do that and it won’t actually depart out of your lane.

Anyway, the purpose of the soft springs is a comfortable ride, and you certainly get that. There’s a fair bit of tyre noise but the basic suppleness is nicely relaxing, especially over urban bumps and ill-maintained rural routes.

HOW SAFE IS THE SKODA SCALA?

There are two ISOFIX points in the back. The airbag count includes sidebags in the front, windowbags front-to-back, and a knee bag.

It has scored an excellent 97 percent in the Euro NCAP (which is very like the Oz assessment) for adult occupant crash protection, with especially good side-crash and whiplash scores. The child protection score was lower because there are just two ISOFIX points and no integrated child seats.

The driver assist systems worked well in the test – auto emergency braking for vehicles and cyclists and pedestrians, a warning that you’re travelling too close, and lane assist.

But other safety systems including blind spot detection and reversing camera are optional. LED headlamps are standard.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's the infotainment like?
What's the performance like?
What's it like on the road?
What about the safety features?
It's not charismatic to look at or to drive, but the Skoda has an appealing honesty. It's roomy in the front and back and has a large boot. Safety is a strong point too. Down the road, it's comfortable and relaxing to drive, and very economical. How can Practical Motoring not like it? The cabin is nicely turned out too, and the equipment is well-chosen. The Scala makes a strong bid to your rational side.

Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.