We’ve kind of done this one backwards. We’ve just had a taster of Skoda’s brand new compact SUV, the Kamiq, but now we’re following it up with the Scala hatchback – the car on which the Kamiq is based, and also one that was launched last year.
Have we devolved? SUVs are all the rage and conventional hatchbacks are a bit niche these days. But it’s doing the Scala a disservice to regard it as a mere engineering stairway (see what we did there?) to the Kamiq.
Scala has its own look and feel, and if it’s maximum practicality you’re after you might even want to take a good look at the low car before you assume the tall one is more suitable. Thanks to an extra 117mm of rear overhang, Scala has a much larger boot than Kamiq: 467 litres versus 400.
Read More: Skoda Kamiq Ambition+ on test
It’s not as tall of course, but a lot of the time length is more useful. Just don’t automatically discount the hatch, is what we’re saying.
In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find any small hatchback with as much cargo space. The Kia Cerato (which also has a Halley’s Comet tail) is close, but it’s only 428 litres. And Scala still has the clever bits from Skoda SUVs, like the storage net under the parcel shelf and moveable Velcro brackets for the boot floor.
Scala is mostly built for comfort, although the top Style version tested does have a few dynamic tweaks to sharpen it up. It rides on 18-inch wheels with 15mm-lower Sport suspension and gets Driving Mode Select as standard – not quite the full multi-stage system you get in sporty Volkswagens, but sufficient to switch between normal and firmer settings.
It’s all very polished, although the ride is firm even in normal mode – not a deal-breaker, but enough to make us think the $4000-cheaper Sport is potentially a nicer drive. You get the same excellent (and impressively powerful) 1.5l turbo engine with cylinder deactivation, but it does away with the lowered chassis and two-stage suspension.
The Sport gets the same fantastic Dynamic Sport front seats, although you do miss out on some other kit from the Style: adaptive cruise ($900 extra on Sport), bi-LED lights with corner function ($2250), front parking sensors and the large eight-inch touch screen are some of the most appealing upgrades for the top model.
But even the Style still rides on torsion-beam rear suspension, because the Scala range is based on the smaller MQB-AO version of VW Group’s ubiquitous platform. It’s still a confident handler and representative of a new generation of Skoda models, but it’s not supposed to be the last word in dynamic ability. Another reason why you don’t necessarily need the more dynamic chassis option.
That new platform and electronic architecture does mean you get the latest safety systems and infotainment tech, including phone projection and twin USB-C ports front and rear. No old-school (sorry Apple) USB-A ports, so if that’s what you use you’ll need an adaptor. It’s the future.
Scala and Kamiq are also compatible with “live” services and in Europe Skoda even offers a BMW and Mercedes-Benz style intelligent voice assistant; she’s called Laura, presumably a reference to Skoda’s origins as bicycle-maker Lauren and Clement.
We don’t have that high-tech stuff in NZ yet, but when Skoda importer European Motor Distributors gets its live infrastructure services sorted (it also handles Volkswagen and Audi), it’ll come.
Overall the Scala cabin is a happy place. The quality is good, the ergonomics impressive and the accommodation excellent. The front occupants enjoy those heavily bolstered seats and those in the rear enjoy a vast amount of space for this size of car. It’s enough to make you wonder whether you need an SUV.
SKODA SCALA STYLE
ENGINE: 1.5l turbo-petrol four with cylinder deactivation
GEARBOX: 7-speed automated dual clutch transmission (DSG), FWD