First drive: Skoda's Golf-rivalling Scala tested at home

Liz Dobson
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Photos / Liz Dobson, Supplied

It’s good-bye to the Rapid hatchback and hello to the Scala for Skoda New Zealand as it launches a new car and fun ad campaign.

The Scala, which launches here in the next few weeks, sits between the compact Fabia hatch and the Octavia liftback.

There are three models in the range including the Ambition, priced at $29,990 and powered by a 1L turbo petrol producing 85kW of power between 5000-6000rpm, plus 200Nm of torque (2000-3500rpm).

Skoda NZ is waiting for the Ambition to arrive from the Mlada Boleslav factory in the Czech Republic. But here soon will be the Sport ($34,990) and Style ($4000 more) and both have a 1.5L turbo petrol engine producing 110kW (5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm (1500-3500).

All three front-wheel drive models have the seven-speed DSG gearbox.

The Sport and Style come with driver mode select (eco, normal, sport, individual) with the sport function offering more sensitive steering and faster accelerator response.

The Scala is based on VW’s MQB A0, platform and the German carmaker’s latest tech.

Compared with the outgoing Rapid, the Scala is 58mm longer (at 4362mm), 87mm wide (1531mm) and 12mm higher (1471mm). But what makes it look bigger is the rear window that covers the boot space.

The Scala is a first for the company in a couple of ways. It’s the first to get the Skoda badge across the tailgate in large letters (rather than in tiny writing at the bottom of the back of vehicles). It has an updated infotainment system, dynamic rear indicators and LED lights as standard.

Competition in this hatch segment includes the Mazda3, Ford Focus, Kia Cerato, Hyundai i30, Holden Astra and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

The Scala has the largest boot in its segment at 467L with numerous stowage areas and nifty storage ideas, such as two Velcro L-shaped wedges to secure boxes in the boot. Skoda NZ says the Scala’s boot can fit an extra chillybin compared with some competitors.

So how is Skoda NZ going to promote the Scala?

Scala means “stairs” or “ladder” in Latin, so “it’s a big step forward in this segment”. Skoda’s global branding is “#NeverStopStarting”.

But Skoda NZ has stepped up its game with the marketing, focusing on turning hatch myths on their head, challenging popular belief that there’s not enough room in the boot, for example.

“Hatch-ually there is,” says Skoda.

Target customers in New Zealand are two core groups: couples 35-45 with no kids, and empty nesters.

But Skoda faces a battle: the New Zealand market is ruled by SUVs with the segment now accounting for a staggering 73 per cent of new passenger vehicles registrations. The hatchback segment is the next biggest at 22 per cent, with medium hatches, including the Scala, making up half of those sales.

Skoda sold 82 Rapids in 2018, and is expecting to double that figure with the Scala. So which — out of the Sport and Style — does the brand think Kiwis will favour?

Skoda NZ reckons the Sport will be popular but is curious to see how the Ambition fares when it arrives on our shores.

After Skoda NZ’s presentation on Monday, Driven took the Sport and Style on a road trip from central Auckland to Muriwai Beach via the Northwestern motorway to test the sport mode.

The steering and performance from the 1.6L engine is a step up and it’s eager to respond to extra power in sport mode.

On the winding roads down to the beach, the Scala cornered well, and was smooth across the bumpy track to the sand.

The interior of the Scala is full of soft touch materials and the dashboard has clean lines while the infotainment system is easy to use.

Like all Skodas, the Scala gets a number of “simply-clever” features — a parking ticket-holder mounted on the windscreen pillar, an umbrella in a compartment in each front door, an ice-scraper that doubles up as a tyre tread-depth gauge clipped to the fuel-filler cap, and a cap for the screen-wash that unfolds for use as a funnel.

Hatch-ually, those are clever features.


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