Skoda Scala 1.5 TSI review

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Skoda's Scala is an under-rated family hatch, especially in this improved form. Jonathan Crouch looks at the 1.5 TSI petrol version.

Ten Second Review

In many ways, the Scala is Skoda's strongest-ever offering in the family hatchback sector, even though its engineering isn't strictly family hatchback-based. It offers value, efficiency and more interior space than almost anything in the segment. If you're out for something sensible in this class, there's a lot to like. Here, we look at the improved 1.5 TSI petrol version.

Background

Skoda's family hatch models aim to bring you something a little extra. Here's another of them, the Scala. You get engineering - and a price - that's very supermini-like. But more interior space than the pricier Golf or Focus-sized family hatch models the Czech brand is pitching this car against.

The Scala is based on the more compact MQB A0 chassis used by superminis like the Volkswagen Polo and the SEAT Ibiza. And its name comes from the Latin meaning 'stairs' or 'ladder', reflecting this model's claim to be 'a leap forward in design and technology' - at least for a Skoda. Plus as usual with its offerings, the brand is offering it at slightly lower prices than the opposition and includes a range of 'Simply Clever' design features intended to make everyday life with this car just that little bit easier. It all adds up to a contender that aims to bring something a little different to the family hatchback class. Time to put it to the test in 1.5 TSI 150PS petrol form.

Driving Experience

Given that whole 'big car feel' ethos that Skoda's so keen to talk about with this model, we thought we'd try a Scala fitted with the largest petrol engine it's ever likely to get, the 1.5 TSI 150PS unit that you'll also find fitted to every model bigger than this one in the current Skoda catalogue. It can be had with manual transmission, but here we elected to test it with that DSG auto 'box, in which form it dispatches 62mph in 8.2s on the way to a maximum (that no Scala owner will ever approach) of 136mph. This dual-clutch gearbox is predictably slick in the mid-range, but we're not sure we'd choose it in this car unless we really were urban-bound.

Apart from the fact that when wedded to the 1.5-litre engine, it pushes the price of this car beyond the level most prospective owners will want to pay, we found this transmission a bit hesitant when pulling away from junctions. And it can be found hunting around for the right ratio with a touch of indecision when rapid bursts of acceleration are needed. If you occasionally undertake longer trips in a car of this kind though, this package is still worth a look.

Design and Build

The Scala now looks a little more dynamic in this improved form, evoking the brand's 'Vision RS' concept study with its revised grille, slimmed-down headlights, redesigned bumpers at the front and rear and striking air curtains. Matrix headlights are now available for the first time, with crystalline LED modules designed to evoke sparkling little blocks of ice or gemstones. A diamond pattern in the mesh of the redesigned air intake gives a three-dimensional look and as an option, buyers can now specify an extended rear hatch glass that stretches down to the tail lamps. Skoda has also redesigned the alloy wheel (which vary between 16 and 18-inches in size); and added fresh paint colours. As before, under the skin, the car sits on the VW Group's usual chassis for small cars, it's MQB-A0 platform.

Inside, an 8-inch digital instrument panel screen is now standard, with a larger 10.25-inch set-up offered as an option. The centre dash infotainment monitor is 8-inches as standard, but customers can upgrade to a 9.2-inch display, complete with a wireless version of the brand's 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring system.

There's also a smarter cabin feel, thanks to trimming and materials governed by various 'Design Selections' - package combinations of colours and finishes. Other fresh additions include smartphone storage pockets in the front seatbacks and the option of a powered tailgate with foot gesture control. The car can have as many as five USB-C ports, including one built into the rear view mirror, ideal to plug in a dash cam. As before, the long 2,649mm wheelbase allows for more rear seat leg room than you might expect to find in a car of this class. Out back, there's a large 467-litre boot, the largest in the class. This increases to 1,410-litres with the rear bench folded.

Market and Model

Pricing for the 1.5 TSI model we tried is pitched at just over £23,000 - you'll need a budget of just around £1,300 more for the DSG auto version. There are three trim levels with this engine, 'SE', 'SE L' or top-spec 'Monte Carlo'. Despite its status as the entry-level model, the 'SE' is fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, leather for the steering wheel, gear and handbrake lever and a height adjustable driver's seat. Customers opting for the 'SE' model also get air-conditioning, a DAB digital radio, front and rear electric windows and a 'Bolero' infotainment system with an 8.0-inch screen. You also get cruise control, rear parking sensors, an integrated umbrella and a height adjustable passenger seat. In terms of safety equipment, the 'SE' model features front head and side airbags, Front assist, Lane assist, a Speed limiter and Emergency call with proactive services.

If you're happy to spend more on this Scala, then your dealer will direct you to the plush 'SE L' model, which includes the brand's top 'Amundsen' infotainment system with a 9.2-inch glass touchscreen, plus there's a hi-tech digital cockpit, climate control air conditioning, keyless entry with start/stop and a colour multifunction trip computer. The exterior design features 17-inch alloy wheels, full LED rear lights, dynamic indicators and privacy glass on the rear windows. At the top of the range, the 'Monte Carlo' variant includes 18-inch black Vega alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof and an interior leather pack with red stitching.

Cost of Ownership

It's interesting to note that the penalty for switching to the gutsier four cylinder TSI petrol engine, the 1.5-litre 150PS unit we're trying here, is also quite minor over the alternative three cylinder 1.0 TSI unit. Even if you saddle it with the DSG auto gearbox that featured in our test car. In this form (with either transmission option), the Scala returns up to 50.4mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and 127g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. That's thanks to cylinder deactivation technology that sees two of this powerplant's four cylinders deactivated under light to medium throttle loads. The DSG set-up also helps with a 'coasting' function that at cruising speeds, will disconnect the gearbox from the powertrain, leaving the engine to idle until you next need it. Plus all the petrol engines get the usual industry efficiency aids like brake energy regeneration and an engine stop-start system to help them meet the current Euro 6d-TEMP emission standards.

Finally, while it's certainly true that other rivals better the three year 60,000 mile warranty that Skoda provides, you can extend your cover to four or five years by paying extra. Not that you really need to. The brand regularly tops independent consumer satisfaction surveys: according to real people, there are few more satisfying cars to own.

Summary

Will buyers previously foreign to the Skoda brand be won over by this car? Possibly. It won't suit those always yearning for a spirited drive but otherwise, its list of attributes ought to be enough to earn a place on your family hatchback shortlist. After all, this model is more affordable than most of its rivals - and more spacious too. In addition, it's well built, acceptably efficient - and to some eyes really quite stylish. We'd probably only choose this 1.5 TSI 150PS version over the alternative 1.0 TSI variant if we habitually engaged in longer trips though.

Either way, there are more exciting class choices to be sure. But, by and large, you don't buy a family hatchback for excitement. All the reasons you would want such a thing are covered off here with typical Skoda thoroughness. And with enough style and quality to make brand loyalists feel rather smug. This probably won't have been the car you started out wanting in this class. But there's just a chance that it may be the one, you actually need.

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