Okay, so its looks won’t set your heart on fire and its badges won’t turn the neighbours green with envy, but the Skoda Scala is a nicely judged and decently competent family hatchback, and now it’s a useful second-hand purchase, too.
The Scala offers a choice of two turbo petrol engines and one diesel. The 1.0-litre triple with 94bhp is perky enough, but the 113bhp version has a bit more overtaking urge, along with a six-speed gearbox for more refined motorway cruising. This was replaced by a 109bhp 1.0-litre unit in 2020. The 148bhp 1.5-litre four-pot is pretty swift and very refined, while the 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel is good for those who cover an annual mileage that would put a taxi firm to shame.
There are five trim levels to choose from, each with standard automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. S trim gives you 16in alloy wheels, LED headlights and a 6.5in touchscreen with a DAB radio and Bluetooth.
Step up to SE for rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control and an upgraded 8.0in touchscreen system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to mitigate the lack of in-built satnav (although SE Technology, added in late 2020, does include the latter, plus front parking sensors). SE L includes 17in alloys, a 9.2in touchscreen with sat-nav and a 10.25in digital instrument cluster.
Monte Carlo trim is more of a styling pack, bringing a sportier interior and exterior and a glass roof. Where the Scala excels is in being a calm and competent performer. It does a great job of smoothing over the worst surfaces without being bouncy. The compromise is that it can feel a little floaty over crests and dips at speed. You will also notice more suspension noise, along with higher levels of wind and road roar than in some of its rivals, particularly when you’re travelling along a motorway.
The Scala leans over more in the bends, due to its soft suspension, but it still grips well and handles very tidily, plus its steering gains weight progressively as you turn the wheel, giving you confidence to go briskly.