What is it?
It’s a diesel engined example of Skoda’s new Scala, which we’ve already driven in flagship 1.5 TSI petrol form. If you missed the recent arrival of the new Czech hatchback, as a quick recap it’s effectively a replacement for the worthy yet rather rudimentarily engineered Rapid. The Scala aims to deliver VW Golf-rivalling looks and space, but at a price that’s more affordable. Based on that description you’d think it was a replacement for the even larger Octavia, but it’s not - and here’s why.
Unlike its bigger brother, which uses the same scalable MQB architecture as the Golf (and the Audi A3 for that matter), the Scala uses a stretched version the less sophisticated MQB A0 platform, which underpins the smaller VW Polo and Audi A1. So what we have here, in engineering terms at least, is very big supermini - big enough to have more than enough space for five adults and a cavernous 467-litre boot.
Still, it’s a classy looking thing, with bold creases and a prominent grille that gives it some serious presence. A particularly eye-catching touch is the rear window glass, which extends down past the rear lights and just above the number plate. This SE L version also gets LED headlamps, Audi-style sweeping indicators and 17-inch alloys.
The interior is arguably even more impressive, with slick design and fairly generous helpings of standard kit. There are some cheap and hard plastics to be found lower down in the cabin, but most of what you see and feel looks good and is soft to the touch. Further praise goes to the intuitive and clearly laid out 9.2-inch infotainment system that ‘floats’ on top of the dash, and SE L models have a virtual cockpit TFT instrument cluster as standard.
While its neatly executed exterior and interior might come as a surprise, the 1.6-litre TDI lurking under the bonnet won’t. It’s a fairly long standing staple of the VW Group and is currently the only diesel engine available in the Scala, but, with 113bhp and 184lb ft, it delivers competitive numbers and promises up to 57.7mpg when mated to a six-speed manual gearbox.
The rest of the package is pure MQB AO, which means strut suspension at the front and a torsion beam rear axle. However, our car also came with the optional adaptive dampers, which could go some way to sorting the standard car’s somewhat jittery ride.