AFTER the runaway success of its range of SUV models Skoda has taken a step in a different direction with a new traditional hatchback.
The Skoda Scala falls between the company's Fabia and Octavia models in terms of size and has a tardis-like quality - larger on the inside than it appears from the outside.
The five-door, five-seater hatch is a classy looking model with a striking front - thanks to the dominant new Skoda grille and narrow LED headlights - and a slightly bulbous rear.
And it's that slightly voluminous bottom which affords the car one of the best carrying capacities in a car of this size.
With all the seats in place there's some 467 litres of boot space rising to a hefty 1,410 with the rear seatbacks lowered.
And that deceptively spacious interior also means generous head and leg room for rear seat passengers making it an ideal family car.
The interior is neat and purposeful with a bold, clean-cut dashboard with easy to read dials and an eight-inch centre-set touch screen for onboard features. This sits high up so it's easy to read with a quick glance.
The Scala in SE form is well equipped with standard features including cruise control, DAB radio, an eight speaker sound system, a chilled glove box and a hill holder clutch to prevent you rolling back on inclines.
On the safety front there are front and side airbags, lane assist to ensure you stay between the white lines and front assist which monitors the road ahead with a camera to reduce the risk of a collision.
The only thing lacking on the SE spec model is satellite navigation - standard on the top spec SE L models. And while you can link your smart phone to the touch screen to give you directions it won't suit everyone.
What is impressive is Skoda's list of "simply clever" features which seems to be getting ever longer, to the benefit of its drivers.
On the Scala these include the familiar on-board umbrella (located in the driver's door) a plastic clip on the windscreen so your parking ticket doesn't blow off the dashboard as you close your door and an ice scraper with a tyre depth gauge behind the fuel filler cap
To add to these there's now a funnel built into the lid of the windscreen washer tank so you don‘t get water all over the engine as you top it up. Brilliant.
The car driven here had a Â£425 tailgate design pack which in effect means an extended tinted rear window which adds more flair to the Scala, particularly as it's embellished with the word Skoda in chrome lettering across its full width.
As part of the pack you also get the scrolling rear indicators first seen on Audi models.
On the road the Scala does everything you require of it in style. It's punchy, holds the road well and has an impressively quiet interior.
At motorway speeds it feels stable and well placed on the road at all times instilling a feeling of confidence in the driver.
But the most surprising thing about the 1.6-litre diesel powered Scala was its fuel consumption or rather lack of fuel consumption.
Skoda claims an average of just under 58 miles per gallon but I was regularly recording journeys averaging 70-plus mpg and on one occasion even averaged 81mpg.