New Scala a step up

for Skoda

Skoda Scala, front action
Skoda Scala, side action
Skoda Scala, rear action
Skoda Scala, front static
Skoda Scala, front action 2
Skoda Scala, rear static
Skoda Scala, dashboard
Skoda Scala, boot 2
Skoda Scala, rear seats
Skoda Scala, front seats
Skoda Scala, dash detail
Skoda Scala, boot 1

LET'S get one thing straight from the off. The new Skoda Scala is not a replacement for the not very rapidly selling Rapid, which you can't buy new in the UK any more, although you still can in Russia and China.

Which perhaps tells you why the Scala is destined to fill a different, plusher and perhaps more profitable role in the UK than the Rapid, an altogether more down to earth proposition, now appealing to countries where plain is perfect still.

It also shows - as if the past several years had not demonstrated well enough - that a Skoda badge means something thoroughly worthy of your consideration at more than bargain basement prices.

And so to the newest object of its Czech designers' imaginations, a smartly styled mid-sized family friendly five-door hatchback, with prices starting at a £16,595 and topping out (for the moment) at a more ambitious £23,315.

It slots into Skoda's range, sizewise, between smaller Fabia and larger Octavia and competes against rivals like the Ford Focus and in-house VW Group names like the (slightly shorter but dearer) Golf.

Either end of the Scala price spectrum brings a car with pretty much everything the sales people say you need, from a rich set of standard equipment to the latest connectivity so you never need to miss a call or fail to know precisely where you are or what's playing on the sound system.

Because the Scala (Latin for stairs, since you asked) is a product of the VW Group you instantly notice similarities to other cars from the same stable, in an entirely beneficial way.

So, the looks are neat and modern but some distance from groundbreaking. You suspect that is precisely the way a potential Skoda owner would like things; solidly smart but a long way from flash.

Same inside, where a decently sized touchscreen sits centre stage in a dash that makes a virtue of neatness and ease of use. Plenty right with that approach, although some of us will miss simple buttons instead of a thumb press on a bumpy road.

Stay inside and you'll note the generous legroom in front and rear, with plenty of room for two tall chaps to sit in tandem without either complaining.

The sensibly shaped boot reveals a proper space saver spare wheel beneath a false floor that can hide valuables and also makes it easier to load awkward items without a troublesome lip to contend with.

Standard kit on the S spec entry level Scala and you'll find alloys, air con, DAB radio and electric windows all round; take the £1,185 dearer SE and it adds cruise control, parking sensors, uprated sound system and touch screen, auto lights and wipers and (a Skoda 'simply clever' touch, an umbrella.

Top spec SE L cars add another £1,800 for bigger wheels, full LED rear lights, privacy glass, keyless entry, sat nav and climate control and virtual cockpit dash display.

You can have your Scala with a choice of three petrol engines - two three-cylinder 1.0 litres jobs with 95 and 115 horsepower - a 150 horsepower 1.5 litre four-cylinder petrol or a 1.5 litre 115hp diesel.

Economy ranges from 56.4 to 68.7mpg with more than adequate performance, ranging from top speeds between 124mph and 136mph and the sprint to 62mph of between 10.3 and 8.2 seconds. Tailpipe emissions span the range 108/113g/km.

The diesel is expected to take a modest five or ten per cent of sales with the large majority of buyers opting for one of the smaller petrols.

They will have chosen wisely, as a demanding drive through the Croatian mountains demonstrated on the Scala's international launch.

Worked hard there was the enchanting, unflustered throb generated by all three-cylinder engines; reined in a touch and near silence descended, aided by a noted lack of tyre roar on the perhaps untypically non-UK smooth surfaces.

The car's common VW Group ancestry brings smooth and ideally weighted steering, clutch and gearchange, rounding off a dynamic package that also flatters with a controlled ride that correctly conceded this is not - or is not meant to be - a sports car.

You and your grateful passengers will sit back and enjoy a car that ought to fit in pretty neatly to family life and whose attractions continue to reveal themselves as the months roll by.

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