Motoring

2021 Skoda Scala review: Small car rise to new heights

Small hatchbacks are falling out of favour with buyers as shoppers move towards SUVs. Savvy motorists who choose a hatchback will be rewarded with a superior driving experience and more goodies for their spend, and Skoda’s Scala could be the best small car on the road.

VALUE

The days of the circa-$20,000 small hatchbacks are gone, as makers are packing their vehicles with standard comfort and safety features.

The Scala looks more like a mini station wagon than a hatch.
media_cameraThe Scala looks more like a mini station wagon than a hatch.

Skoda’s Scala is no different. Prices start at $28,990 drive-away for the Scala Ambition with a manual transmission – a seven-speed dual clutch auto costs $2000 more – and rise to $36,990 for the Scala Signature that was formerly known as the Launch Edition we are testing here.

Headline features include front and rear heated seats, faux leather and suede upholstery, a heated and leather wrapped sports steering wheel, a big 9.2-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a fully digital instrument display.

Styling is conservative and its long wheelbase makes it look more a station wagon than a hatch, but 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome exterior highlights give the Scala a bit of street cred.

The level of kit far outstrips most rivals for the price. The value equation is improved further by a five-year/unlimited km warranty and if you prepay servicing it costs just $1400 over five years.

The Scala’s cabin comes with luxe materials and hi-tech features throughout. Build quality is top notch, too.

The Scala is absolutely loaded with the latest tech and comfort features. Pic by Mark Bean
media_cameraThe Scala is absolutely loaded with the latest tech and comfort features. Pic by Mark Bean

COMFORT

Front passengers are treated to snug electronically adjustable seats and there are plenty of USB-C charging points as well as a wireless charging pad.

Headroom and vision are excellent for a small hatch.

There are clever little touches throughout, such as an umbrella hidden in the front door.

In the rear there are two rear vents and a pair of USB-C power-points.

Rear head and legroom are class leading, comfortably accommodating a tall adult.

The boot is bigger than most similarly priced SUVs and an auto tailgate adds to the appeal.

Well sorted suspension soaks up most bumps and quality insulation makes for a quiet ride.

SAFETY

Skoda covers all the safety bases.

The Scala will apply the brakes automatically if it detects a potential collision with a car, pedestrian or cyclist.

Its turbo engine is a willing and smooth performer. Pic by Mark Bean
media_cameraIts turbo engine is a willing and smooth performer. Pic by Mark Bean

Lane-keep assist will stop you from wandering out of your lane by gently tugging the steering wheel.

The Scala will let you know if something is in your blind spot and will sound an alert if it detects a car approaching from the side as you reverse out of your driveway or carpark.

Seven airbags add further peace of mind.

DRIVING

Power comes from a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that makes 110kW and 250Nm.

These numbers don’t sound like much on paper but the torque is delivered low in the rev range to provide ample shove off the mark, while the quick shifting dual-clutch auto keeps the turbocharged engine bubbling along in its sweet spot.

Direct, light steering makes the Scala just as adept at slogging through the daily commute as it is handling a twisting country back road.

The Scala has plenty of rear seat room and the boot is bigger than many SUVs.
media_cameraThe Scala has plenty of rear seat room and the boot is bigger than many SUVs.

The dual-clutch auto does take some getting used to, as it can feel a bit jerky at lower speeds.

Skoda claims the Scala drinks just 5.5L/100km, but it requires pricier premium unleaded.

VERDICT 4.5/5

Great looking, packed with value and a pleasure to drive, the Scala is hard to look past.

ALTERNATIVES

Volkswagen Golf Life, from about $39,000 drive-away

More expensive, less gear but a sophisticated small car that is great to drive.

Kia Cerato GT, from $36,990 drive-away

Punchy turbo engine and seven-year warranty, but not as polished as the Skoda, with overly firm suspension.

Mazda 3 G25 Astina, from about $42,000 drive-away

Has a properly luxurious interior, but is much more expensive and the rear seat is tight for adults.

SKODA SCALA VITALS

Price: $36,990 drive-away

Engine: 1.5-litre, 4-cyl, 110kW/250Nm

Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unlimited km, $1400 over five years

Safety: Seven airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, radar cruise

Thirst: 5.5L/100km

Spare: Space saver

Cargo: 467 litres

Originally published as Why this is Australia’s best small car


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