Following a wait that was longer than Skoda Australia would have liked, the 2021 Skoda Scala has landed locally, and CarAdvice has the keys to the Launch Edition variant for our first drive.
As explained in our pricing and specification guide, three variants are now available in Australia – the 110TSI, the Monte Carlo and the range-topping Launch Edition we’re testing here. All variants get the same 110kW and 250Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. Scala is FWD and is available with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG.
Skoda claims a fuel use figure of 5.5L/100km on the combined cycle, and over more than 200km of testing, we used an indicated 7.6L/100km. Given the test vehicle we had, still had less than 1000km on it, it’s reasonable to expect that figure to drop a little once it’s properly run in as well.
|2021 Skoda Scala Launch Edition|
|Engine||1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power and torque||110kW at 6000rpm, 250Nm at 1500rpm to 3500rpm|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||5.5L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.6L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||5-star rating (Euro NCAP)|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf, Hyundai i30|
|Price as tested (excluding on-road costs)||From $35,990 drive-away|
Segmenting Skoda product is often tricky, due to the way the brand stretches and expands the skin that sits on the platform. Despite competing directly with stablemate Volkswagen Golf, the Scala is, somewhat quixotically, a Polo (MQB A0 Platform) underneath. Buyers won’t always shop within one segment of course, but it stands to reason, if you’re looking at Golf, you’re also going to take a look at whether the new Scala suits your needs and budget.
On the subject of budget, Scala starts from $26,990 and our test Launch Edition costs $35,990 drive-away. Launch Edition Scalas get the DSG standard. As is the case with most manufacturers now, the Launch Edition has been specified extensively with the options that Skoda reckon most Aussie buyers at that price point will want.
Standard equipment includes body-coloured door mirror caps, chrome grille and window trim, 18-inch Vega Aero wheels, leather/suede interior trim, heated front and rear seats, electric driver’s seat, auto headlights and wipers, and an auto dimming rear-view mirror.
Our test Scala also has the larger 9.2-inch infotainment screen, on-board satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and active safety such as automatic parking assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Impressively, Virtual Cockpit is also standard across the range.
The small car class is an interesting one, dominated by long-term favourites like Corolla and Golf, and getting more crowded by the year. This is happening at a time though, when Australians are moving back to larger – usually SUV – platforms in huge numbers. Skoda continues its promise to pack more value into its offering, in an attempt to attract buyers.
Value and practicality – two of Skoda’s strongest points of difference. For instance, if practicality is a main concern in this segment, it’s hard to go past Scala’s whopping boot – 467 litres – compared to 380 litres for Golf and 217 litres for Corolla. You also get Skoda favourites like the umbrellas in the door, a plastic tab in the windscreen for parking permits, and plenty of clever storage.
The styling is interesting in that Scala looks more like a low-slung SUV type shape than it does a conventional hatchback. The slightly boxier styling still looks attractive though, with the added benefit being more cabin space. Opinion was mixed in the CarAdvice office on the aero wheel design – some loved it, some didn’t. We’ll let you be the ultimate arbiters of that one. Scala certainly cuts a sharp figure out in traffic.
Skoda’s information explains that the Scala is longer, taller and has a bigger footprint than Golf and is only marginally narrower. It’s the narrower profile, which probably does the most to give it the high riding look that it has. Scala does illustrate though what’s possible with the multi model platforms that so many manufacturers are moving to. Moving the tyres out to the corners of the body also has benefits in terms of security and balance on road as well, so it’s not all about styling.
The cabin is a pleasant place to be, thanks to the seat comfort, and the general layout of the controls and storage. The seats are comfortably trimmed, seat heating is a good inclusion, and the electric driver’s seat has a solid range of movement.
While there are some small elements that grate – like needing to access the infotainment screen to adjust the AC fan speed – the cabin is otherwise, to use Skoda’s marketing phrase, simply clever. The tallish glass house means there’s plenty of light, it’s airy and visibility is excellent, even for taller drivers who won’t feel like they have to hunch over. There’s room in the second row for adults, no matter who is up front driving, and into the luggage space, the clever array of nets and storage pockets mean you can secure anything you need to carry back there.
The bottle holders in the door are useful, the aforementioned umbrella is there as expected, and there are centre console cupholders ahead of the arm rest. There’s actually less storage than we’re accustomed to with a Skoda, but it’s easy to forget that the Scala is quite a compact car.
Wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay worked well for us on test. Wireless CarPlay was a little fiddly to set up initially, but once paired it connected quickly every time we got back into the car. Up front, you get two charging ports as well, but keep in mind they are both USB-C, illustrating the future move that manufacturers are starting to make.
The overall drive experience is, as we’ve come to expect from Skoda, impressive. Scala is refined, balanced, sure footed, and comfortable. It rides competently over poor surfaces, soaking up bumps with ease, and also feels agile and planted on the road if you do push on. Some of our testing took place on pretty wet road surfaces, and the Scala isn’t remotely fussed by slippery conditions. It’s a beautifully easy and practical hatch to drive under any conditions.
The steering is light and responsive too, even at low speed, and you’ll find it incredibly easy to run the Scala around town either in traffic, or when you’re working your way through tight city streets. On the flip side of that argument, it doesn’t mind a longer highway run either, offering up a duality of character that makes the small car class so appealing and sensible to one-car families. When you do roll up to highway speed, the Scala feels nicely planted, and the steering doesn’t ever feel light or floaty. Our brief use of cruise control showed that it worked reliably as well.
The engine feels punchy beyond its capacity. 110kW and 250Nm are more than enough for this segment, and the Scala gets up and moving sharply from standstill. The DSG isn't perfect, but as we've seen with other, newer examples, they are getting better with each iteration. Still, the Scala's can't match the smoothness and refinement of a conventional torque converter auto. That's mainly the case at low speed, in traffic when you're crawling slowly. On the move and working through the gears, it's snappy.
Scala is covered by Skoda’s familiar five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with capped price servicing available every 12 months, and the option to purchase pre-paid service packages for either three or five years to save money.
Buyers can therefore access a three-year/45,000km scheduled service pack, which costs $800, or a five-year/75,000km scheduled service pack, which costs $1400. Those packages represent a $339 and $801 saving respectively, compared to paying for the services individually.
Scala enters the market in Australia at what you could argue is a pivotal point – our tastes are getting larger and the segment is getting more and more crowded. Will it get to the level of Corolla, Golf, not to mention all the others in terms of public awareness? It might not, but you should definitely be test driving one if you think a small hatch makes sense.