From £18,0657

Popular Czech brand wades into the fiercely competitive hatchback homeland

Globally, Skoda has hit a chord with the buying public. Its products mean the same thing everywhere: they’re good value, they’re more spacious than you expect and they’re simply adorned inside. It is an image that has resonated in a crisis-ridden world.

That opening gambit for our road test of the now-retired Skoda Rapid applies as much today as it did back in 2012, although for its successor, the ambitious Czech brand would like to add something along the lines of ‘upmarket sophistication’.

Wide-spaced rear badging is nicked from the Porsche style book. It sits upon an expansive glass tailgate, which admittedly comes as an optional extra.

As much is evident from looking at the Scala, whose design borrows cues from the premium European manufacturers both inside and out, and whose two-box, C-segment dimensions place it right in the cross-hairs of the traditionally minded European buyer. With the Skoda Octavia accounting for the bulk of Skoda’s sales and its growing range of crossovers catching up, Skoda has never built a car that so directly rivals the likes of Ford’s Ford Focus, the Vauxhall Astra and even its Volkswagen Golf cousin. It is no wonder that a new factory in eastern Europe is planned with an annual capacity of 350,000 cars, although if the demand exists, that could double.

Of course, convincingly moving upmarket is never as simple as fitting an all-glass rear window and using Porsche-style badging. The Scala need not handle like the best car in this class, but it must ride with a degree of panache that the Rapid never managed. Likewise, nobody is expecting Mercedes levels of refinement, but in 2019 success in this class demands cosseting long-distance road manners and a certain level of technology within the cabin.

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If Skoda has achieved all of this while retaining its core attributes, that new factory may not need to double its capacity, but triple it.

Price £21,255 Power 148bhp Torque 184lb ft 0-60mph 7.9sec 30-70mph in fourth 9.3sec Fuel economy 41.5mpg CO2 emissions 113g/km 70-0mph 45.9m

The Scala range at a glance

Skoda is good at keeping things simple, so there are only three trim levels to choose from for the Scala: S, SE and SE-L. Prices start at £16,595, and increase all the way to £23,315.

The 1.0-litre three-cylinder motors will likely be the most popular among Scala customers, and it’s worth pointing out that the 1.5-litre engine fitted to our test car won’t be available to order until September this year.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Skoda Scala

Skoda Scala First drives