Currently reading: Skoda Scala: why it’s a 5-star What Car? family hatchback
We delve into the key reasons why our sister title has such high regard for Skoda’s compact but value-packed hatchback

If you’re looking for a comfortable, versatile, feature-packed family-friendly hatchback, then the Skoda Scala should probably be on your shortlist. After all, between 2020 and 2023 it won the What Car? Award for top family car for value four times in a row, while the 2024 model has received a stellar five-star rating from the discerning What Car? road test team.

“Don't discount the Skoda Scala on the basis that it's inexpensive,” What Car? said. “You rarely get something for nothing, so as cars become bigger and more sophisticated, they’re also becoming more expensive. Well, the Skoda Scala is an exception to the rule. It ticks many of the boxes that more expensive family cars fail to tick with its supple ride, decent handling, good infotainment system, amazing rear seat space and vast boot.”

That’s why we decided to delve deep into the five big reasons why What Car? thinks the Skoda Scala is a five-star car.

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#1 Great behind the wheel

It all starts where it matters most: the driver’s seat. What Car? has given the Skoda Scala a four-star rating for its driving position and dashboard – with particular praise for a marked leap in quality over the previous model, its ample front storage space and its intuitive infotainment system.

“The interior of the Skoda Scala has taken a step forward and feels well screwed together,” What Car? said. “Hard, scratchy plastics have been replaced with soft-touch materials and recycled fabrics, while the ‘Lodge’ interior that comes with SE L trim and up offers an even nicer mix of materials. The Skoda Scala now looks sharper and plusher than before, with an interior comparable to that of a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra.”

In addition, the Skoda Scala features a wealth of tech that is – crucially – easy to use. “The Skoda Scala's infotainment is one of the better systems in the family car class,” What Car? said. “All versions of the Skoda Scala come with a high-definition touchscreen display, measuring 8.25in on the SE trim and 9.2in on others. If you go for the entry-level SE trim, there’s a crisp 8.0in digital driver’s display behind the steering wheel, but it’s the 10in Virtual Cockpit that steals the show. Fitted as standard on all other trim levels, it’s superb and features crisp graphics and plenty of configurability. 

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“Skoda has sensibly decided to keep traditional buttons and knobs for the climate controls. That makes them a breeze to operate while you're driving, and it's refreshing in a world where more and more rivals are loading such routine adjustments into their infotainment systems. DAB radio, Bluetooth and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring are all standard, letting you run sat-nav apps and play music from your mobile.” 

What Car? also had high praise for the Skoda Scala’s front seats and configurability of its driving position. “The Skoda Scala gives you a wide range of steering-wheel adjustments, and you get driver's seat-height adjustment and lumbar adjustment as standard. Even if you’re well over six feet tall, you won't feel your hair brushing the roof of the Skoda Scala, and the seats slide far enough back to accommodate anyone long in the leg.”

Finally, you’ll never be short of places to store stuff up-front. “Storage for odds and ends is good, and includes generous front door pockets, a decent-sized glovebox, a cupholder in the centre console, a large drawer under the front seats and a sunglasses holder above the rear-view mirror. There's also a small cubby in front of the gear lever, which doubles as the area for the optional wireless phone charging pad.”

#2 Impressive driving character

Once you’re on the road the Skoda Scala steps up another gear, with What Car? praising its comfortable ride, tidy handling and characterful but incredibly fuel-efficient choice of engines.

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“Come rain or shine, the Skoda Scala delivers more grip than the Mazda 3, and that grip is better balanced front-to-rear than it is in the Kia Ceed,” What Car? said in its five-star review. “The Skoda Scala doesn’t flit through bends quite as keenly as a Ford Focus. Still, there's a sense of precision to the Skoda Scala’s steering and it builds weight progressively, giving you the confidence you need when guiding it along tight and twisty country lanes.”

The Skoda Scala comes with a choice of two turbo petrol engines: a 1.0-litre TSI with either 95PS with 175Nm of torque and a five-speed manual gearbox, or a 116PS unit with 200Nm and either a 6-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic DSG transmission. You can also pick a 1.5-litre TSI that offers a more potent and sporty 150PS with 250Nm of torque. 

“We recommend the 116PS 1.0-litre TSI engine,” What Car? said. “It has enough low-end shove to easily keep up with the flow of traffic (0-62mph takes 9.5 seconds), and it provides the Skoda Scala with greater overtaking power than a 1.0-litre Kia Ceed. It also has the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, helping with refinement at speed.

“If you have a bit more money to spend and are likely to carry a car-load of people and luggage regularly, we'd completely understand if you stepped up to the 1.5-litre TSI 150PS. The four-cylinder petrol is smoother and quieter, and with an official 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds, it's usefully swift and matches a Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI 150 for pace.”

The Skoda Scala is just as refined to drive as it is characterful. “The Skoda Scala is one of the better-riding family cars,” What Car? concluded in its five-star review. “It's far better at isolating you from razor-edged bumps and potholes than a Ford Focus or Mazda 3. For the best results, spec your Skoda Scala with the smallest – 16in – alloy wheels, which just happen to be standard on our favourite SE trim.”

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#3 Great driving visibility and impressive safety

Whether you’re navigating the urban jungle, threading your way around A-roads, munching motorway miles, or simply pulling up to park at the end of the journey, the Skoda Scala makes every step of your journey easier, less stressful and safer. 

“Thanks to the Skoda Scala's relatively slim windscreen pillars, forward visibility is impressive,” What Car? said. “The rear pillars are thicker, but there's still an acreage of glass that makes your over-the-shoulder vision way better than it is in many rivals – including the Ford Focus, the Vauxhall Astra and, most strikingly, the Mazda 3, with its enclosed rear end. 

“Rear parking sensors are fitted as standard, while the Skoda Scala’s top-spec Monte Carlo trim adds a rear-view camera. Alternatively, if you go for SE or SE L, you can add front parking sensors and a rear-view camera as part of the optional ‘Convenience package’."

What Car? also gave the Skoda Scala a four-star rating for its wealth of safety tech and driver aids. “All versions of the Skoda Scala get ultra-bright LED dipped-beam headlights,” What Car? said. “On the Monte Carlo trim, they're matrix LEDs, which can be left on full beam without dazzling other drivers, and you can pay extra to have the same on the SE L trim. 

“Standard safety kit on the Skoda Scala includes lane-keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition and six airbags. There’s also an Assisted Drive Plus option package which adds Adaptive Cruise Control, blind-spot assist and Adaptive Lane Assist. The airbag count is raised to nine if you spec the optional driver’s knee bag and rear side airbags.”

The Skoda Scala also continues Skoda’s reputation for safety innovation. “An optional safety package includes a feature called Crew Protect Assist, which automatically closes open windows and immediately tightens the front seat belts in the event of an imminent collision.”

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#4 Plenty of space for people and stuff

When it comes to packing in all that you love and all that life throws at you, the Skoda Scala is more than up to the task – with comfortable spacious seating for five, and between 467 litres and 1,410 litres of easily adaptable luggage volume (depending on whether you have the rear seats up or down).

“Rear passenger space is one of the Skoda Scala's greatest attributes,” What Car? said. “Leg room and head room are exceedingly generous for the class – beating even the spacious Ford Focus, and up there with the Seat Leon and the Skoda Octavia. There’s plenty of foot space under the front seats, and the cushy headrests help your passengers kick back and relax.”

What Car? also gave the Skoda Scala a five-star rating for its luggage bay, praising both its size and its flexibility. “The Skoda Scala’s rear seatbacks fold in a conventional 60/40 split. With the rear seats in their upright positions, the Skoda Scala can take more luggage in its 467-litre boot than a Ford Focus. It can manage up to seven carry-on suitcases below its parcel shelf, against six and five respectively for those two rivals. That means the Skoda Scala's boot capacity will be plenty for most people. 

“The Skoda Scala’s boot is a useful square shape and has plenty of bag hooks, while the load lip is manageably low if you put the optional (and highly recommended) adjustable boot floor in its higher setting. Doing that also smooths out the step left in the floor when you fold down the rear seats.”

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#5 Cost-effective to buy and run

Last, but not least, the Skoda Scala delivers where it really matters for any busy family: great value and impressively low running costs. “Despite recently receiving a comprehensive mid-life facelift, the Skoda Scala remains one of the cheapest ways into a good family hatchback,” What Car? said. 

“If you stick with our recommended entry-level SE trim, an equivalently equipped Ford Focus will cost you thousands more. It gives you all the basics, including 16in alloy wheels, dual-zone air conditioning, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob, a front centre armrest, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

“The mid-spec SE L trim is worth considering for its infotainment upgrades, but it also adds bigger 17in wheels and privacy glass. The top-spec Monte Carlo trim, meanwhile, offers a sportier look, 18in wheels, sports front seats, keyless entry and a panoramic sunroof. What’s more, all versions come with Skoda's ‘Simply Clever’ features, which aim to make life easier. They include a parking ticket holder on the windscreen pillar, an umbrella stowed away in the driver's door, an ice scraper/tyre tread depth gauge inside the fuel filler cap and a cap for the screen-wash bottle that unfolds and turns into a funnel.”

The Skoda Scala’s engine range also offers impressive fuel-efficiency to keep your running costs low – with up to 55.4mpg (WLTP combined) from the entry-level 95PS 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine. Equally, the more sporty 150PS engine doesn’t compromise on efficiency, delivering fuel economy of up to 52.3mpg (WLTP). What Car? found this translated well into real-world performance.

“Fuel economy is a Skoda Scala strength,” What Car? concluded in its five-star review. “You can expect to see more than 40mpg in the real world. Even the 1.5 TSI 150 shouldn't break the bank. With its low P11D price and sensible CO2 emissions, the Skoda Scala is also a fairly cost-effective choice as a company car because BIK (benefit-in-kind) tax payments are reasonably low.”

So, those are all the reasons why the Skoda Scala is a great five-star family car. Maybe it’s time to try it for yourself.

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