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Scala propels Skoda into C segment mainstream

By Glenn Brooks | 14 August 2019

Scala is 4,362mm long and replaces smaller Rapid/Rapid Spaceback, costs from £16,595

Scala is 4,362mm long and replaces smaller Rapid/Rapid Spaceback, costs from £16,595

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The European market's C segment has been good to SEAT and Audi, while in the class betwixt this one and the traditional D-sized models, Škoda slays all comers with the Octavia. Now, Volkswagen's high achieving Czech division has a new 4.4m long hatchback. Might the affordable Scala even do damage to Golf sales?

The first thing to know about Škoda's newest model is pricing. In short, it's quite a bit cheaper than the Golf. That obviously makes it even more of a threat to the Volkswagen Group's best seller than might otherwise have been the case. For the moment at least, the Scala is restricted to Europe although it's hard to believe that SAIC Volkswagen won't also start making it. Chinese production will likely commence within the next few months.

Built only in the Czech Republic for now

The Scala has been series production at Škoda's main Mladá Boleslav plant since February. In European countries, this 4,362mm long five-door hatchback serves as the replacement for both the Rapid and Rapid Spaceback. These bookended the usual class size norms, the smaller of the two being 4,304mm long with the Rapid stretching to 4,483mm.

One Scala versus three Rapids

The Rapid hatchbacks were quite successful in some markets and including the sedan, which is restricted mainly to India, the three Rapids represented a combined 77,700 deliveries in H1. That made these models Škoda's number four vehicle range worldwide a mere 100 units behind the Kodiaq/Kodiaq GT. China remains the main country for production and sales. However, as the Scala gains traction in Europe and the Rapids decline in China, things are changing, the cars dropping to fifth place behind the Octavia, Kodiaqs, Fabia and Karoqs to 11,100 deliveries in July. The new hatchback garnered sales of 4,100 last month, which was a record July for the marque worldwide, even with the downturn in China.

Powertrains - yes, there's a diesel

With the tide which turned so sharply against diesel vehicles now receding, especially in Germany, Škoda was wise to include such an engine in the Scala line-up:

The car I tried out was fitted with the higher output version of the Volkswagen Group's three-cylinder petrol engine. Having sampled it not too many weeks ago in an A1, I hoped it would be as engaging and zesty as in the smaller Audi. It was, while the six-speed manual gearbox is equally well suited to this car.

Torque, at 200Nm, isn't generous, and really, neither are the 85 kilowatts but they're enough. You don't have the thrash the thing to get adequate acceleration, the zero to 62mph time being a decent 9.8 seconds. Top speed is 125mph or 201 km/h so motorway driving is quiet with the engine not having to spin too hard at 70mph. CO2? That's 113g/km. I got 47.8mpg and the official WLTP economy numbers are 44.8-49.6.

Class leading space

Other things to admire about the new Škoda include the brand's usual extravagant amount of interior space. The back seat in particular would make Golf owners jealous but that will inevitably change once the Mark 8 model lands in dealerships next year (it will be revealed in October). It isn't just room for knees (73mm) and legs either, with 982mm of headspace available, so rear passengers who are well over six feet will be fine.

'Simply Clever' touches

Other nice touches include big door bins and a large glovebox, the ice scraper with integrated tyre tread checker tucked into the fuel filler flap, a pay and display ticket holder attached to the driver's side A pillar, an umbrella in one of the front doors and on the mid-range SE spec test car (the others are S and SE L), an expandable net underneath the boot's shelf. There are also four bag hooks in the 467-litre boot with two of these clipped onto the seat-backs' ISOFIX mounting points. There is something else. Something which many Volkswagens no longer have: four grab handles in the ceiling. Some people use these, so this stuff matters. Oh, and the press tester had a spare tyre. Hurrah.

No back-up camera

What's not to love? Hardly anything. Would you get used to the boring light and dark shades of grey with bits of black with Škoda specifies for SE trim? Probably. One thing I would really want is a reversing camera as they are so much safer in certain conditions than the colour-changing lines and beeps that you get with the Scala. Some people might also wish for digital instruments but really, there is nothing wrong with the conventional dials, and that's how the HVAC functions are controlled too. There is no fancy pants electronic parking brake, nor is there push-button start either: it's a hand brake and a key.

Claimed segment-firsts

There are a couple of claimed European C segment firsts with this new model: an optional integrated and electrically deployed tow bar (you push a button in the boot) plus electric closing and opening for the tailgate. Another novelty, although this time it's only for Škoda's place within The Volkswagen Group, is the use of MQB-A0 as the architecture. The Czech company says it specified the longest possible wheelbase (2,649mm) and rear overhang so as to maximise space for passengers and their luggage.

Conclusion

It's always going to be tricky for any model to trump the Golf. Even in its final months of production, the style, engineering, comfort and general obsessive attention to detail conspire to keep it not only at the top of the class but as Europe's best selling vehicle. Yet there is a price to pay for all of that. Suddenly then, there is now a car which for anyone who rates interior space and pricing as their highest priorities, beats the Volkswagen. That should mean we'll soon be seeing yet more sales records being set by Škoda.