Can Skoda's new family hatchback seriously take on established players such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai i30?

What is it?

You’d be forgiven for not being awfully familiar with the Skoda Rapid, a car which, while certainly decent, lacked soul in our humble opinion. It also sat in an odd segment, between the Fabia and the Octavia, making it not quite a VW Golf rival but not a supermini either.

It was sold in two bodystyles, the Rapid and Rapid Spaceback, and worldwide, was the second biggest seller for Skoda after the Octavia. The same wasn’t true of the UK, with sales amounting to a modest 3669 units in 2017.

But enough background. What we’re driving here is the new Scala. The Scala is an indirect replacement for the Rapid – bringing a new name and an entirely new game, if Skoda is to be believed. 

Scala comes from the Latin word meaning ‘stairs’ or ‘ladder’, chosen to help reflect the fact that the model will be a “a leap forward in design and technology,” according to the Czech brand.

The Scala won’t be offered in two bodystyles like its predecessor, with Skoda choosing to focus on the hatchback, a style which remains incredibly important in Europe.

It is also being pitched more directly as a family hatchback rival, intended to take on the likes of the Ford Focus, Hyundai i30 and Seat Leon.

That means an overhaul: in design, in dimensions and in its offering. Skoda has previously told Autocar that it will be the first model to receive a new generation of interior and will offer “innovative features that have so far only been seen in higher segments”.

It’s also the first European model to bear the Skoda name in lettering on the back replacing the logo, a move that Skoda has identified as making its cars appear more upmarket. It also helps buyers who are less familiar with the brand and the logo – such as in the crucial Chinese market – recognise the car as Skoda, reckons the maker.

What's it like?

The Scala won’t be officially revealed until December, so we drove a prototype version, which isn’t far from final. If you could ignore the camouflage and lack of interior (more on that later), there’s little behind the wheel to suggest this is anything but a production-ready model. 

If you were blindfolded, it’s hard to tell it apart from many other Skodas – and indeed Volkswagen Group models – which, while it might not be original, is exactly what Skoda is aiming for. When we commented to an engineer that it felt like other Skodas, he was glad, describing it as the “Skoda DNA”.

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The chassis set-up is comfortable and given that Czech roads are as rough in places as the UK, it’s a fair measure of its capabilities. Skoda will offer an optional Sport Chassis Preset configuration, which makes the car 15mm lower and adds a more sporty dynamic to the set-up. We tried both possibilities and, naturally, the standard model is far more comfortable. It’s hard to imagine that many Scala drivers will want the harder ride of Sport Chassis Preset, but Skoda assures us it will be very popular in some markets, albeit not the UK.

Steering, while not yet finalised, is light and has the vagueness of many modern VW Group cars. Nonetheless, it’s effortless in most driving scenarios and, importantly, will suit most buyers of this sort of car. 

In the few corners we experienced, the car handled respectably and will more than suffice in this kind of car. (If a Scala vRS was coming – and we’re told it’s not – it’d be a different story of course…) Keen drivers will still prefer the Ford Focus.

We spent most time in the 1.5-litre TSI, but there will also be a 1.0-litre TSI and 1.6-litre TDI. On start-up, the 1.5 sounded momentarily gruff but once up to speed became unnoticeable. With noise-cancelling materials not yet finalised in the car, this complaint isn’t likely to carry over to the production car. The 1.5-litre will be the most popular in the UK, followed by the 1.0-litre TSI.

The 1.5 TSI is the sweet spot with ample power driven through a six speed manual (or optional seven-speed DSG), while the 1.0-litre regularly needs changing down on anything but the flattest of roads.

The interior is a major point of note in the Scala. Completely taped up in our prototypes, we’re told the interior will closely mirror that in the recently revealed Skoda Vision RS concept

That includes an optional 9.2-inch touchscreen - the largest in the segment, and over-the-air updates include maps, in-car web apps, internet radio and four USB-C ports. It’s also the first Skoda to be online permanently thanks to a built-in SIM card, providing high-speed internet connection. 

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There’s also a host of driver assistance systems. As well as the adaptive cruise control, lane assist and lane change assist, there is also park assist and rear traffic alert, both unusual in this segment. Skoda prides itself on practicality, and has made the Scala as practical as possible.

In almost all dimensions, it’s larger than rivals such as the i30 and Focus, meaning more room in the rear (a six-foot tester was satisfied) and big boot space. The Scala has 467 litres, compared to the Focus’ 341 litres, plus plenty of nets and a variable floor. 

Should I buy one?

The jury’s out until we try the final version on UK roads, but it’s a promising start. The Scala is unlikely to set hearts on fire, but it’s a generous step up from it’s predecessor and will appeal to many hatchback buyers, thanks to its well-designed interior, advanced levels of technology and value for money, all of which help give it an edge on its many rivals. 

Skoda Scala prototype

Where Prague Price £16,500 (est) On sale April 2019 Engine 1.5-litre, 1498cc, 4cyl petrol Power 148bhp Torque 184lb ft (est) Gearbox Six-speed manual Kerb weight TBC Top speed 134mph (est) 0-62mph 7.9sec Fuel economy TBC CO2 TBC Rivals Hyundai i30, Ford Focus, Seat Leon

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Comments
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eseaton 24 October 2018

It is just a VW wearing a

It is just a VW wearing a slightly different pair of socks.

Same chassis, same engines. What is there to review?

Tell them to get lost, Autocar, and stop wasting your time and ours.

FMS 24 October 2018

eseaton wrote:

eseaton wrote:

It is just a VW wearing a slightly different pair of socks. Same chassis, same engines. What is there to review? Tell them to get lost, Autocar, and stop wasting your time and ours.

 

So disdainful of mass market cars and their buyers...so what unique, individual car did you buy and now drive?.

jason_recliner 24 October 2018

FMS wrote:

FMS wrote:

eseaton wrote:

It is just a VW wearing a slightly different pair of socks. Same chassis, same engines. What is there to review? Tell them to get lost, Autocar, and stop wasting your time and ours.

 

So disdainful of mass market cars and their buyers...so what unique, individual car did you buy and now drive?.

 

What do YOU drive?

No, scrap that; who gives a damn what a loser pommy git drives?  More poignantly, what is the point of you being here?  You contribute precisely nothing to any conversation.  Your comments are just more spam the rest of us have to scroll though to get to something worthwhile.

Don't take this the wrong way - you're a waste of space.

FMS 28 October 2018

jason_recliner wrote:

jason_recliner wrote:

FMS wrote:

eseaton wrote:

It is just a VW wearing a slightly different pair of socks. Same chassis, same engines. What is there to review? Tell them to get lost, Autocar, and stop wasting your time and ours.

 

So disdainful of mass market cars and their buyers...so what unique, individual car did you buy and now drive?.

 

What do YOU drive?

No, scrap that; who gives a damn what a loser pommy git drives?  More poignantly, what is the point of you being here?  You contribute precisely nothing to any conversation.  Your comments are just more spam the rest of us have to scroll though to get to something worthwhile.

Don't take this the wrong way - you're a waste of space.

 

I bought and drive a mass market hatchback. Let's hear your biting wit rip that to pieces, while you make up some nonsensical story about your amazing wheels.

 

"pommy git"?. Guess you're another downtrodden mass market anti-colonial red neck plebian, who cannot use the English written word to promote your views, as you have little vocabulary and no skills to use what you do possess. Incorrect context for "poignantly"...shame as you must have taken ages to look that up. If my post is spam, why on earth did you spend so much effort to respond to it?...oops, bit of a moment for you now.

 

Your response is eagerly anticipated...

Thekrankis 24 October 2018

Skoda is losing it’s way.

Over priced, less reliable and increasingly dull. What happened to great cars like the Yeti?

I have gone from two Skodas to one and maybe soon none, especially as Skoda seem unable to fix the electrical gremlins blighting my Citigo....

FMS 24 October 2018

Thekrankis wrote:

Thekrankis wrote:

Over priced, less reliable and increasingly dull. What happened to great cars like the Yeti?

I have gone from two Skodas to one and maybe soon none, especially as Skoda seem unable to fix the electrical gremlins blighting my Citigo....

 

The Yeti (maybe not yours) had many issues, including high oil consumption, DSG gearbox woes, clutch failures, just read the forums. Most cars have thier problems, but VAG cars have an unfair reputation for above average reliability.

Marv 24 October 2018

Looks no more interesting than the Rapid

I had hoped the Vision RS Concept would present a more interesting design than the Rapid Spaceback, but that, and from what I can make out of the styling of this prototype, the Scala is due to look as dull and oddly proportioned as the Rapid Spaceback. A missed oportunity in my mind.