You’d expect few bargain-hunting Scala buyers to stump up for the car’s range-topping petrol-auto powertrain combination, but those who do won’t get less value for money.
It’ll be the 1.5 TSI’s role within the wider Scala engine line-up to be the refined, slick, unobtrusive and well-mannered option in the range. Less so in this car, perhaps, will it be required to set a particularly sporting mark for outright acceleration – although an authoritative turn of speed clearly won’t hurt.
The range-topping Scala fulfils that remit pretty well, while even punching a little above its weight in terms of its fairly energetic pace – although it doesn’t entirely cover for the fact that it is, just like the Rapid before it, a full-sized family hatchback built on a stretched supermini platform.
In dry conditions the car had all the front-driven traction and smoothly metered automatic clutch actuation it needed to put all of its torque straight onto the asphalt from rest. It hit 60mph in just under eight seconds – which wouldn’t be too shabby a showing from a £21,000 hot hatchback in 2019, let alone for a practical family car of the same power and price.
The DSG gearbox delivers well-timed automatic shifts even at full power, but it can be a little bit slow and clunky when kicking down after big, sudden throttle applications. Likewise it seems a bit slow when you’re rowing up and down the ratios yourself in manual mode (for which there are no steering wheel paddles; instead, Skoda obliges you to use the gear lever knocked sideways into its sequential-style setting).
At a more typical everyday mooching pace there’s seldom any roughness or incivility about the workings of the transmission. It tends to take quite a high gear in town if you leave it in ‘D’, letting the engine’s turbocharged torque haul the car along easily enough – or it can be made a little bit more willing to hold a shorter ratio if you drive in ‘S’ mode, without ever risking any kind of ratio-shuffling hyperactivity. In both modes, drivability is very good.
Mechanical refinement is certainly competitive. Inside the car at 50mph our noise meter registered 64dB, which is only 2dB more than we found in our current class champion, the Ford Focus. With its engine under load the Scala presents a bit more resonance and vibration than we’ve found when testing this powertrain in cars based on the VW Group’s full-sized MQB platform, but the difference is small and will likely not bother the majority of drivers.