SKODA ended 2019 and started 2020 with major ‘family car' awards for its new Scala. Not that we should be surprised - Skoda has been making multi-award-winning cars for many years.
The new Scala is a little different though, sitting in the Czech company's range between the smaller Fabia and the excellent Octavia saloon.
It's also the first Skoda to be built on the Volkswagen Group's modular MQB-A0 platform, which means it has similar mechanicals to the Golf, the family hatchback reigning champ.
Be in no doubt the Scala is a proper contender. In the UK it comes in three flavours - S, SE and SE L. All three offer high levels of standard specification.
The SE featured here comes with a choice of 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen and smartphone connectivity, leather-trimmed steering wheeland gearknob, air conditioning, a front centre armrest, front and rear electric windows, cruise control andautomatic lights and wipers, height adjustable driver's seat.
The touchscreen is well placed high up on the dash so you don't have to take your eyes off the road for too long and the menus are intuitive, with big buttons so easy to use on the move.
SE trim also brings Skoda's‘Simply Clever' niceties such as aparking ticket holder mounted on the windscreen pillar,an umbrella stowed away in a compartment in the front door,an ice scraper/tyre tread depth gauge inside thefuel filler cap,and a cap for the screen wash bottle that unfolds and turns into a funnel.
Inside, the Scala combines high quality finishes with plenty of space, oodles of storage compartments and - at 467 litres - one of the largest boots in the segment. This increases to 1,410 litres with the split back seats folded down. The large glove compartment is also cooled so your Mars bar won't meltâ¦
Its generous wheelbase means there is loads of headroom and knee room in the rear. It will easily cater for four adults or a family of five.
There's a choice of four engine options - two petrol and one diesel - with power outputs ranging from 98bhp to 148bhp.
All, with the exception of the 98bhp 1.0 TSI, are available with an optional seven-speed DSG transmission. The four-cylinder 148bhp TSI 150ps is fitted with a six-speed manual as standard and but comes with the option of a seven-speed DSG.
All engines come with brake energy recovery and Stop/Start technology while the 1.5 TSI is also equipped with smooth and seamless Active Cylinder Technology (ACT). Imperceptibly, this system shuts down the two middle cylinders when engine load is low, reducing fuel consumption. Officially, this model returns as much as 45.6mpg, so I was reasonably pleased with the 38.6mpg I achieved.
With the new platform, the Scala uses a torsion-beam suspension set-up on the rear axle, which is a similar arrangement to lower-powered models in the Golf range. This makes it very comfortable on the move and, riding on those 16-inch alloys, the suspension and the tyres' large, soft sidewalls help cushion the worst of our woeful road surfaces.
The steering is light but accurate and there's plenty of low and mid-range zip from its more than necessary 250Nm of torque, alongside loads of grip so you can also be confident the Scala will go where you point it. Yet it does all this without you really noticing. It's a very pleasant car to drive.
As a family car, buyers can be confident in the Scala's Euro NCAP five-star rating. Occupants are protected by up to nine airbags. As well as the standard driver and front passenger airbags, curtain airbags and front side airbags, customers can also specify a driver knee airbag and rear side airbags. ISOFIX anchors on the outer rear seats deliver protection for younger passengers.
Autonomous Emergency Braking, lane assist and rear parking sensors are also standard.