Remember the Skoda Rapid?
No, not the faintly interesting rear-wheel-drive coupe thing from the mid-80s, the mid-sized hatchback-cum-estate thing from the early 2010s.
If you don’t, don’t feel too bad. Despite being on sale for seven years it never made much of an impact in the UK, lost in the shadows of the larger Octavia, as well as its more famous cousin – the VW Golf.
With the Octavia nominally in the same class as the Golf, Focus and Astra despite being a lot bigger, the Rapid was a bit of a spare wheel in the line up. But with the incoming new Octavia getting even bigger, there is once again a space for Skoda to offer a mid-size family hatchback.
Rather than burden a brand-new car with the Rapid name, Skoda has started with a fresh sheet of paper and created the Scala. New name, new platform and lots of other new things as well but an instantly recognisable formula.
Externally it’s immediately recognisable as a Skoda thanks to the corporate grille, sharp-edged lights and severe creases along the bodywork. The styling is going for bold, assertive lines found on premium German models but from certain angles it’s more austere than assertive and while it’s not ugly, it’s far from the best looking model in its class. Our test car was helped significantly by the £1,450 exterior design pack which adds an extended glass tailgate that blends into the full-length glass roof. It’s reminiscent of the old Volvo C30 and looks great.
That panoramic roof does wonders for the interior as well. It stretches virtually from edge to edge of the car and creates a fantastic feeling of space and airiness for everyone on board. It enhances what is already one of the most impressively spacious cabins in the class – a traditional Skoda strength cemented by a whopping 457-litre boot. It’s plenty big enough to carry four adults in comfort thanks to good head and legroom plus supportive but not too firm seats. However, like the outside, the interior design verges on the austere. Materials are of a reasonable quality but it’s the familiar Skoda story of a simple interior that lacks the sparkle of other cars, certainly in SE trim.
Skoda Scala SE
Price: £18,585 (£21,810 as tested) Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol Power: 114bhp Torque: 148lb/ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Top speed: 125mph 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds Economy: 44.8-49.6mpg CO2 emissions: 113g/km
That second-from bottom spec brings similar equipment levels to rival models, with cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist, LED headlights and manual air conditioning par for the course at this price. It also brings an eight-inch touchscreen with what remains the best media system in the class.
Much of the Scala’s equipment and running gear is the same as in the new Kamiq crossover, including our test car’s 114bhp 1.0-litre turbo engine. It’s not overendowed with pulling power but in most day-to-day conditions it does a good job of moving the Scala along without any fuss. There’s a bit of noise from the three-cylinder unit occasionally but it’s no less refined than the EcoBoost in the Focus or the Astra’s strangely weedy feeling three-pot offering.
On the road, the Scala is comfortable and easygoing rather than dynamic and engaging. The ride is pretty soft, helped by nice thick sidewalls on the sensible 16-inch alloys. It makes for smooth going on rough roads but is nowhere near the Focus or Mazda3 in terms of body control.
At the end of the day, the Scala is another worthy but fairly unremarkable entry in the family hatchback market. Its key strength is that traditional Skoda one of practicality – rivals can’t touch it for space, either for passengers or luggage. Besides that it’s a sensibly-priced and solid option but one that lacks the spark and polish of some other cars in the class.
This article first appeared on The Scotsman