REPLACING the relatively short-lived and somewhat mis-named Rapid in Skoda's line-up the Scala has arrived with some seriously big-hitters in its sights in the ridiculously congestedfamily hatchback class.
Slipping between the Fabia supermini and larger Octavia hatch in the Czech car maker's range, the new model counts the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Group relatives the Golf and SEAT Leon among its key rivals.
Crucially, though, with prices starting at just £16,595, the Scala undercuts all those cars and most of its other competitors by quite a margin, which could give it a bit of an advantage.
In keeping with the brand's current design language, the crisp, sharp lines are clean and modern but also conservative enough to ensure this car will appeal to a broad range of tastes.
Well-equipped S, SE and SE L grades are soon to be joined by a Monte Carlo version, with more sporty styling touches, while engine options are a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol unit kicking out either 95ps or 115ps, a four-cylinder 1.5-litre producing 150ps or a 1.6-litre diesel that also develops 115ps.
All are frugal and efficient and can be mated with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission except the entry-level three pot, which gets a five-speed manual.
Our car had the latter, but any fears that this modest unit would feel under-powered were largely unfounded.
Sure, acceleration wasn't the sharpest, with a modest 10.9 seconds claimed for the 0-62mph sprint, but motorway speeds were handled without protest and it proved responsive and versatile in town traffic.
Light, accurate steering and good body control mean that the car handles well, gripping solidly and staying pretty flat through bends, while a nicely cushioned ride make it a comfortable proposition on all road surfaces.
You couldn't call it exciting but the Scala is certainly a car that is neat, tidy and enjoyable when driven in the manner it is intended to be. This is a functional hatch rather than a hot one - and in this role it really comes into its own.
The cabin is bright, airy and very spacious for the class, with the impressively generous rear head and leg room particularly worthy of note. The quality of the fit and finish is also surprisingly good for the price point, with some nice textures and soft-touch surfaces dotted around the place.
At 467 litres, the capacious boot is huge for a hatchback and rises to 1,410 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down, although this does leave a slight step in the loadspace unless you add the optional £155 variable floor.
Equipment levels are good across the range, with all cars getting alloy wheels, LED headlamps, a touchscreen infotainment system, air conditioning, digital radio, electric windows, lane keep assist and automatic emergency braking.
Our SE L car additionally boasted such niceties as cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, navigation, rear privacy glass and a configurable digital driver's information display and, at less than Â£20,000 with the entry-level engine, represents a great value package.
The Scala also gets plenty of those simple but clever little features we've seen in other Skodas that just help to make life a little easier, including the ticket holder on the driver's A-pillar, an umbrella stowed in the driver's door, the ice scraper in the fuel filler flap plus a lid on the windscreen washer tank with turns into a funnel to avoid spills.