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Popular Czech brand wades into the fiercely competitive hatchback homeland

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It wasn't Skoda who first hit on the idea of putting a bigger hatchback body onto an existing supermini model platform, in order to deliver to market an equally spacious but better value car than the average family five-door. Technically at least, it’s the idea that the modern Dacia brand is founded on. 

But it’s what the Skoda Scala has been up to since it first came along in 2019; it's likewise what both the Skoda Rapid and Rapid Spaceback before it tried; and it's what the car continues to do now that it's had its major mid-life facelift for 2024. 

Wide-spaced rear model badging is nicked from the Porsche style book. It sits upon an expansive glass tailgate, which you only get with Monte Carlo versions.

The Scala fits into the Skoda range quite well, since the longer-lived Octavia hatchback has become a much bigger and pricier prospect, leaving plenty of room for something slotted in between that and the smaller Fabia supermini to flourish within.

It is, at heart, the same kind of spacious, functional, practically featured and good-value car that we're so used to seeing from this ambitious Czech brand; but, in this instance, Skoda would like to add something along the lines of ‘upmarket sophistication’ to the Scala's armoury too.

As much is evident from looking at the Scala, whose design borrows cues from the premium European manufacturers both inside and out, and whose two-box, C-segment dimensions place it right in the cross-hairs of the traditionally minded European buyer. With the Skoda Octavia accounting for the bulk of Skoda’s sales and its growing range of crossovers catching up, Skoda has never built a car that so directly rivals the likes of Ford’s Ford Focus, the Vauxhall Astra, and even its Volkswagen Golf cousin. 

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Of course, moving upmarket is never as simple as fitting an all-glass rear window and using Porsche-style model badging on the bootlid. The Scala need not handle like the best car in this class, but it must ride with a degree of panache that the Rapid never managed. Likewise, nobody is expecting Mercedes levels of refinement - but success in this class now certainly demands fairly sophisticated long-distance road manners, and a certain level of richness and digital technology within the cabin.

Time, then, to find out if that facelift has added any of the above - and precisely what difference it may make.

The Scala range at a glance

Skoda is good at keeping things simple, so there are only three trim levels to choose from for the Scala: SE, SE-L and the ever-so-slightly-sporty Monte Carlo.

The 1.0-litre three-cylinder motors will likely be the most popular among Scala customers, one of which has been updated; but there's a 1.5-litre four-cylinder for those who want better performance, which is the engine elected to test.


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The Scala has now had almost precisely the same mid-cycle facelift as the taller Skoda Kamiq crossover (to which it’s closely related), which means there are new headlights and exterior styling touches; new digital instruments and material cabin trims; a few new other bits of equipment; and a revised mid-range 1.0-litre TSI ‘evo2’ engine making slightly more power than the old one, and consuming slightly less fuel. 

The car’s new exterior styling certainly adds a bit of welcome intrigue. There's a fresh grille and bumper designs that add a little bit more detail to a design that was a little lacking in interest previously. But even now, the Scala suggests itself as a car intended to appeal to a more rational side of mind than an emotional one: a trait that has come to define the vast majority of Skoda’s products over the past few years, and which has brought it a good deal of success at that.

It is by no means unattractive, though, and its visual relationship to the purposefully styled and assertive Vision RS Concept revealed at the 2018 Paris show remains abundantly apparent. But next to the likes of the simultaneously classy and classless Volkswagen Golf and the more overtly dynamic-looking Ford Focus, there isn’t a great deal about the Scala’s appearance that suggests it’s much of a harbinger for a more daring, stylistically driven era in the marque’s history.

At 4362mm overall, the Scala's only marginally shorter than a Focus and longer than a Golf, yet it sits on an extended version of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB-A0 supermini platform – as opposed to the regular MQB architecture that underpins its internal rival.

The car also comes with a more rudimentary suspension set-up than we might think of as class-typical. Where the Golf (and higher-spec versions of the Focus) rely on MacPherson struts at the front and an independent multilink axle arrangement at the back, the Scala employs a simple torsion beam across its rear. Selective damping (which ramps up damping to a firmer 'sport' setting) is available optionally, although our test car went without. Meanwhile Monte Carlo models get lowered sport suspension, special badging, a very marginally more exciting cabin treatment, and a tailgate with extended glazing.

The engine line-up is now comprised of a range of three and four-cylinder petrol engines, the sold diesel now having been deleted from the range – all of which are mounted transversely and drive the front wheels.

Our test car made use of the range-topping 1.5 TSI petrol, which develops 148bhp and 184lb ft. It also came equipped with an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox in place of the standard six-speed manual. The mid-range 1.0 TSI 116 is now also six-speed manual as standard; the entry-level 1.0 TSI 95 still five-speed manual.


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In a similar vein to its exterior, the supposedly new-age design of the Scala’s cabin doesn’t represent a big departure from what we’ve come to expect from Skoda.

Functionality and convenience continue to be prioritised, however, and they are epitomised by familiar ‘Simply Clever’ features such as the umbrella holster in the door, the ticket holder on the driver’s side A-pillar, the lined dustbin in the driver's door, and ice scraper in the fuel filler door. For the 2024 model year, you can add to that list an optional wireless phone charger that uses cooling air from the car's air conditioning system to prevent your device from overheating while charging. This focus on convenience has long been a big draw for the brand, and no doubt it will be for the Scala too.

I'm a fan of the light fabric dashboard decor that Skoda has just added to the Scala, which bring a note of warm informality to the cabin - though I worry about about how mucky hands and feet might make it look over time. Less so of the strange, rubbery-feeling, mock-carbonfibre trim that Monte Carlo models get.

The 8in touchscreen of our test car’s Bolero infotainment system is the standout attraction in what is an otherwise minimally populated cabin. It stands freely towards the front of a central recess in the dash fascia, within easy reach of the driver. The fascia itself is finished in textured silver panelling, which extends to the door panels and helps to inject a degree of colour into what is an otherwise decidedly monochrome driving environment. For the latest facelift, meanwhile, Skoda has broadened the material palette of the Scala's interior with some appealing cloth textiles.

Ambient lighting in various shades of colour are offered as optional extras and would be well worth having for the additional aesthetic lift they’d introduce. Elsewhere, simple dial controls for the manual air conditioning system sit towards the base of the centre stack, above a decently sized storage cubby.

The touchscreen comes as standard on Scala SE models, and is used to operate a modest roster of standard features that includes DAB and Bluetooth connectivity. Satellite navigation is not part of the package at baseline spec; you get it instead along with a larger infotainment installation, on higher-trim models. But the ability to connect your smartphone via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay means you can still access navigation apps such as Google Maps or Waze.

The system itself is perfectly intuitive and responds to your inputs in a relatively slick fashion. Its graphics don’t exactly stand out as being market leading in terms of their sophistication, but the screen is certainly clear and easy to read. The same could be said of the car's new digital instrument screen.

That extended MQB-A0 platform pays dividends when it comes to interior space. Although the Scala’s 2.65m wheelbase is shorter than that of the Ford Focus, Skoda has nonetheless been able to liberate an impressive amount of rear leg room. Cabin width is tighter though, again due to the restrictions of the supermini-grade model platform: a lot more comfortable across the second row for two occupants than three.

In a testament to Skoda’s nous for smart interior packaging, the Scala also offers plenty of boot space: with the 60/40 split-folding rear seats in place, this stands at 467 litres, extending to 1410 litres with the seats folded down. By comparison, the Golf and the Focus come up short, with respective seats-up storage capacities of 380 litres and 375 litres.


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Skoda's revised three-cylinder 1.0-litre TSI 'evo2' engine is the big mechanical ingredient of its midlife facelift, though it doesn't feel much different from the car's pre-facelift mid-range engine. It's got revised cam timing and turbo calibration, but still revs fairly freely, is reasonably refined, and produces a useful but not particularly sporty-feeling amount of accessible torque. 

Skoda's six-speed gearbox in this car is key to making the most of that engine, however. We wouldn't be keen to drop down to the entry-level 94bhp petrol engine, with its five-speed transmission, for fear of the longer-feeling gearing making the performance feel a bit ponderous.

Skoda's done a decent job of the mechanical isolation on this car. Drive three-cylinder Scala and Kamiq back to back, as I did, and you might be surprised to discover that it's the former with the smoother idle.

You might expect few Scala buyers to stump up for the car’s range-topping petrol-auto powertrain combination, but those who do won’t get less value for money. It’ll be the 1.5 TSI’s role within the wider Scala engine line-up to be the refined, slick, unobtrusive and well-mannered option in the range. Less so in this car, perhaps, will it be required to set a particularly sporting mark for outright acceleration – although an authoritative turn of speed clearly won’t hurt.

The range-topping Scala fulfils that remit pretty well, while even punching a little above its weight in terms of its fairly energetic pace. In dry conditions the car had all the front-driven traction and smoothly metered automatic clutch actuation it needed to put all of its torque straight onto the asphalt from rest. It hit 60mph in just under eight seconds – not at all shabby for a practical family car of such humble ambitions.

The DSG gearbox delivers well-timed automatic shifts even at full power, but it can be a little bit slow and clunky when kicking down after big, sudden throttle applications. Likewise it seems a bit slow when you’re rowing up and down the ratios yourself in manual mode (for which there are no steering wheel paddles; instead, Skoda obliges you to use the gear lever knocked sideways into its sequential-style setting).

At a more typical everyday mooching pace there’s seldom any roughness or incivility about the workings of the transmission. It tends to take quite a high gear in town if you leave it in ‘D’, letting the engine’s turbocharged torque haul the car along easily enough – or it can be made a little bit more willing to hold a shorter ratio if you drive in ‘S’ mode, without ever risking any kind of ratio-shuffling hyperactivity. In both modes, drivability is very good.

Mechanical refinement is certainly competitive. Inside the car at 50mph our noise meter registered 64dB for the 1.5-litre model, which is only 2dB more than we found in our current class champion, the Ford Focus. With its engine under load the Scala presents a bit more resonance and vibration than we’ve found when testing this powertrain in cars based on the VW Group’s full-sized MQB platform, but the difference is small and will likely not bother the majority of drivers.


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The Scala’s supermini platform imposes some dynamic restrictions on this car - but it's to Skoda's credit that, most of the time in normal daily driving, you wouldn't notice them.

The steering is lightly weighted and filtered-feeling, as Skoda's tend to be. But there’s enough precision and responsiveness about this car to give the Scala a relative selling point compared to the bigger, softer Skoda Octavia, and to make it competitive with the hatchback class’s prevailing dynamic standard. As far as average family five-doors go, the Scala conducts itself respectably well.

The Scala’s dimensions are on the limit of what the MQB-A0 platform can be adapted to. At times, you just get a sense of axles, bushings, steering and chassis metalwork carrying more weight, and being asked to work that bit harder, than perhaps they ought.

Even though this doesn't feel like an especially agile car, body control is contained, and lateral grip levels are moderately good. The car feels narrower within typical British lane-markings than an Octavia, too, and so it’s easy to place in a corner; and although it rolls a little bit as the chassis loads up, it stays true to a line and grips fairly well.

There's no dynamic selling point for this car in a class that still contains the Ford Focus and Seat Leon, but it’s certainly willing enough. Although steering centre-feel could be better, motorway stability is more than adequate, making this an easy car to drive at sustained speed.

The car rides better surfaces quietly enough, and smoothly. It’s when the surface of the road deteriorates that the car’s suspension begins to come up short of fine dexterity, and at that point the consistency of the connection between tyre and Tarmac declines, making the car seem a bit skittish – although generally always stable. It proved a little beyond the abilities of the Scala’s chassis to deal with the biggest gradient changes and toughest surfaces of Millbrook’s Hill Route with either the composure of a Volkswagen Golf or the poised immediacy of a Ford Focus.


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The Scala undercuts some of its rivals on price, but it's no bargain-basement hatchback. A Volkswagen Golf may be much the pricier, but a Seat Leon isn't; and either a Citroen C4 or a Dacia Jogger can be had for quite a few thousand pounds less.

Specification is fairly generous, though. Even the entry-level Scala SE comes equipped with DAB radio, cruise control, electric door mirrors and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers. Lane-keeping assist is also standard-fit. Mid-level SE L trim cars add a larger multimedia system with navigation as standard, 17in wheels and Virtual Cockpit digital instruments.

This being one of the Volkswagen Group’s newer engines, the 1.5 TSI scores well for fuel economy. We managed 52.9mpg at a cruise, equating a touring range of 456 miles – a fine complement to its strong performance. A 1.0-litre TSI might be slightly more efficient - but only by perhaps ten to fifteen per cent.


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The Skoda Scala was a bit of a damp squib as a statement of greater emotional appeal for its maker when it first appeared in 2019. Now, however, it's gained that little bit extra visual presence and cabin richness to draw the eye as perhaps it should have originally.

This is a dynamically respectable car which, with Skoda’s 1.5 TSI Evo four-cylinder petrol, has an engine that can deliver strong performance, good refinement and decent economy. Skoda's newer 1.0-litre TSI trades strength of performance for greater efficiency and value, and isn't quite so refined - but is still worth considering for the majority of Scala owners.

This car might be smaller than an Skoda Octavia but it remains more practical than plenty of its rivals. It might not have the quiet, rubber-footed ride of a VW Golf, but it handles tidily and is easy to drive. And the interior might suffer a sense of by-the-numbers anonymity, but it’s not short of equipment, practicality, clever features or tactile substance.

Considering the Scala’s price, and how much less rounded and complete a car the Skoda Rapid was (the last Skoda to use a supermini platform adapted for a larger market segment), we must recognise progress where we find it. For driver involvement, dynamic character or truly imaginative design, shoppers should probably continue to look elsewhere; but if what you want is a practical, easy-going hatchback that's easy to live with, it deserves your time.

Additional reporting by Matt Saunders

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Skoda Scala First drives