The word ‘Scala’ comes from Latin and means ‘stairs’, ‘ladder,’ or ‘scale’ representing that Skoda is elevating the game in the segment. This is a brand-new model to the Skoda range. Where it’s stepping up its game and creating something new to compete against the hatchback demand. This week, I’m testing out the Skoda Scala Ambition (entry) model.

It’s expected to make your everyday life easier with the “Simply Clever” features, though I’m curious if it can compete against the ever-popular Toyota Corolla.

The Range

Despite what some base model cars have, the Skoda Scala comes with a decent amount of higher quality features. To start off with, The Ambition model has a retail price of $29,990, whereas the Sport is $34,990 and the Style is priced at $38,990. Is moving up a model worth the extra $5,000? Upgrading to the Sport model doesn’t have as many different features than the Ambition model. So, if you are looking for an upgrade in this range, I would suggest going all the way to the Style model. The Sport model, only having a few extra features than the Ambition model, it would be better to go with the base model and save that extra $5,000.

The base Skoda Scala includes a 1-litre turbo, 3-cylinder petrol engine, putting out 85kW of power and 200Nm of torque. Standard equipment includes, central locking system with a keyless engine start/stop button, LED taillights with animated turn signal, Driver Fatigue Alert system for safer driving, cruise control, lane assist, a 6.5” touchscreen centre display, automatic headlights and wipers, the exterior mirrors are heated, reversing camera with sensors and 16” ‘Alaris’ Alloy wheels. Coming from a 2010 car, I can say each feature really made a difference to me. 

If you were to upgrade to the Sport model, you would get an extra driving mode selection and 19” ‘Stratos’ alloy wheels. For the Style model there would also be keyless entry and door locking, driving model selection with adaptable suspension, adaptive cruise control system, an 8” colour touchscreen centre display, ‘Sunset’ tint for side and rear windows from B pillar back, climate air con, front parking sensors, chrome detailing around windows, power-folding/adjustable/heated exterior mirrors, and 18” ‘Vega’ alloy wheels.

You can read more about the Skoda Scala on Skoda New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

To me, the 2020 Skoda Scala just looked like a normal car that would drive around Wellington. The exterior didn’t have anything special to offer. Not only was it silver like the majority of cars but it had that basic station wagon look which isn’t bad but don’t expect to stand out in silver or grey. However, there are 4 other standard body colours the Skoda Scala comes in which are blue, red, white and grey. There are also eight finishes in metallic. The headlight light shape I find unique coming in as a triangular diamond shape which curves the front in very nicely.

Also noted by the dealership, the rims of the wheels aren’t usually black but silver, although I can’t tell which I like more.  Having silver cars is not particularly my choice, but the black rims do add a bit of character to the Scala while the silver gives a classier look.

The interior

The interior of the Scala is what really shines. From the door handles to the stitching on the seats, you wouldn’t want to change anything about it. The door handles are stylish, and feel great to use. I wasn’t really expecting the interior to blow me away. Even the smallest detailing has shown the amount of thought that has been put into the design. The stitching on the seats have different colour threads, the patterns on the seats, the amount of detail adds all the much more to the interior. The dashboard also is a very clean design with few buttons and a small screen though I feel it suits the car well.

The boot of the car holds a spare tyre under the flooring, provides netting (as well as netting underneath the parcel tray), cubbies on either side and a spacious area that could fit multiple suitcases. You can flip over the boot mat and it’s rubberised on the other side, you can now put muddy stuff in the boot. It looks as if Skoda takes their storage and space very seriously.

Moving into the back seats, there’s generous spacing for legs for your tall friends and children, as well as USB charging ports and air conditioning vents. I didn’t expect to see those in a base model.

Now to the front which is where you want to be. This also has a great amount of space and storage compartments. The passenger glove box is deep and even has a felt lining. The centre armrest opens for another deep storage space, there’s a cubby to the right of the steering wheel under the dashboard which has a decent sized space for things like your phone, keys, wallet. There’s also generous storage space in the door. Up by the rearview mirror you have a cubby for your glasses too, and there’s the traditional umbrella holders in the front doors. In the Skoda Scala, you won’t be complaining about lack of space and storage.

The centre screen is surrounded with buttons leading to phone, media, app (Apple CarPlay & Android Auto), radio, menu, and car. The buttons don’t feel like cheap plastic – which is always a plus – with smooth scrolling buttons. Down low, there’s ports for Type C USB cables (which the dealership does provide but didn’t have any available for me at the time), hazard lights and a lock button to lock all doors.

Something of the interior features that I found out of place or confusing was the handbrake in between the front seats, which is separated from the driver’s seat by two cup holders. If you are having your large drinks sitting in those holders, pulling up and letting down the handbrake is a hassle.

The Drive

Coming from a 2010 Mazda Demio, I knew that it was going to take some time to get used to driving the Skoda Scala. When I first drove out of the dealership I noticed the brake was quite sensitive and was a little difficult to come to a stop without bunny-hopping. But in time, I got more familiar with the car and got that smooth drive.

This car has a small engine yet it drives exceptionally well. Going up hills barely showed any sign of struggle and zooming through winding roads felt like it was following the road nicely. Driving on the motorway was great too; making going up and controlling motorway speeds a breeze. Even though it’s illegal to go over 100km here in New Zealand, this small engine car can go up to a whopping 201km/h. Even for a base model, Skoda is giving us that speed-racer fantasy.

Getting familiar with the size of the car was rather simple. Although it’s a spacious hatchback, it didn’t feel like the Skoda was in anyone’s way especially being in Wellington with our tight, winding and steep roads.

One of my favourite things about the Skoda Scala and even other Skoda models, was the steering wheel buttons. Taking your hand off the wheel to change volume or songs can be dangerous as you lose your concentration and control of the car. Thanks to Skoda, they have really nailed the design and feel of the steering wheel controls. On the left side holds the skip button for songs as well as volume control. However, the volume control is not a button but rather a thumbwheel which makes it simpler and easy to use. There’s also your button to ‘speak’ for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. On the right holds your menus for the driver’s information display. This way you are able to scroll through mileage, oil temperature, average speed and other motor-related functions.

During the time of testing this car, I took a trip up to Masterton. Driving in wet weather worked really well with the Skoda Scala. When I was going over the winding Remutaka’s, I had control and didn’t feel the wheel tug me away from driving. It was easy to get comfortable, especially when I was driving back home, which was about a 2-hour drive. However, would I see this car as your vehicle of choice to take on long trips? No. I think a few hours max at a time is what you would be looking at with the Skoda Scala. If you aren’t those people who take road trips often, this car is a fantastic local car. 

What was also very useful was the auto engine off function. With most modern cars, when you come to a stop, the ignition turns off. Then when you go to take off, the ignition turns back on because that way you save petrol and it’s much better for the environment and the car. However, when being in rush hour or in backed up traffic, it can get very annoying when the car is turning off and on again. That’s why there is a button by your gear shift to turn it off in that situation. For some people, the auto engine off control might not bother them but for others they think it’s tedious. With the Skoda Scala, the auto engine off turns on every time you turn the car on. It does take some time getting used to but at the end of the day, it’s nothing big to worry about.

Another little feature that makes the difference is the window controls. Instead of having only the driver side window being automatic, the whole four passenger windows are automatic which gives good control for the driver. With my friends in the car, this was quite handy.

Something that does need improvement however is the rear-view mirror. It’s very narrow as sometimes I felt like I had to squint my eyes to see through it. During the time of driving this Scala, I had two kids in the back and I could barely see their foreheads. So, if you have young children there would be a struggle to see if they are okay or up to any mischief in the back. As I was driving this car, I wondered what age group or family it would suit most. I feel as if you have younger children, it might be better to wait until they are much older as you can keep your eye on them without having to turn around and see them. For teenagers, couples, young adults, I would say a very good starter car for that buyer.

Apple CarPlay was something new to me. Don’t worry, there is Android Auto too. I was a bit unsure of how it would work but it was very easy to set up and use. The Skoda Scala has Type C ports which is annoying for iPhone users, me being one of them, and even though Skoda does provide the cords, I feel like it would be easier with just a ‘normal’ USB port. Apple CarPlay enables Siri to help you reply to messages, phone cars, navigation through voice control. I will let you know now, that your data needs to be on for Siri to work. Going into using this, I thought it wasn’t going to work well and that I would only be using it for the sake of this review. But I found this very useful and wish that I could use it every time I drive. My favourite feature about it was when I had something I needed to remember or in this case, a comment I wanted to remember about the car, I would just press the speak key, ask Siri to make a note and say what I needed to say. Using the messaging and phone call system was easy as well using voice control as well. That way you are never taking your hand off the wheel.

Navigation was also easy and very useful. Even on the way back home from my Masterton trip, Apple CarPlay was showing me how long it would take to get home even though I didn’t put that into the navigation. Apple CarPlay also notified me of a crash ahead. When I was on my way to Masterton, traffic slowed down and a few minutes later I got a notification that there was an accident and even showed where it was on the map. Then when I got to Masterton, hunger was creeping up on me and so I asked Siri to find cafes near me. It came up with a list of Cafes in Masterton with star ratings. All I had to do was click on the one I wanted and it would put the directions on the screen. Then, when I parked my car, Apple CarPlay sent the location of my parked car to my phone for those who might forget where we’ve parked our car. It was just the little things that helped on those trips.

For music, it was great because as a Spotify user, I can scroll through my music without having to go on my phone. There were some complications when trying to use Apple CarPlay, one of them being that the outside noise on the motorway and highway sometimes got in the way of giving a command to Siri. It’s not that it wouldn’t hear me but it would take more time to finish as it’s being caught up by the road noise. Other than that, no complaints about Apple CarPlay. I would love to see it in more cars.

Over my 650Km in the Scala, I averaged 6.3L/100Km of petrol. I think that’s pretty good!

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorquekW/NmCargo capacity, litresFuel consumption, L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Mazda 3 GSX FWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol114/2002956.2$36,595
Honda Civic SX FWD1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol104/1744206.4$32,990
Subaru Impreza AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol115/1963456.6$32,490
Kia Cerato LX FWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol112/1923857.4$31,990
Toyota Corolla GX FWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol125/2002086.0$29,990
Skoda Scala Ambition FWD1.0-litre, 3-cylinder petrol turbo85/2004675.3$29,990
Hyundai Accent FWD1.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol74/1333706.2$28,990

Pros

  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • Performance for such a small engine
  • Interior
  • Storage and space
  • Easy to drive
  • Quick heating
  • Great safety features
  • Good steering

Cons

  • Narrow rear-view mirror
  • Handbrake location
  • Exterior doesn’t stand out in silver
Vehicle Type5-door small-medium hatchback
Starting Price$29,990
Price as Tested$29,990
Engine1.0-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol
Transmission7-speed DSG
Power, TorquekW/Nm[email protected],500rpm/[email protected],000rpm
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,229
Length x Width x Height, mm4362x1988x1471
Cargo Capacity, litres (seats up/seats down)467/1401
Fuel economy, litres/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 5.3
Real World Test – combined – 6.3
Tank capacity, litres50
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked610/1200
Turning circle, metres10.9
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 year/150,000Km mechanical
12-year corrosion warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating5 Star
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
7
Performance
8
Safety
7
Styling
6
Value
8
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Being the daughter of a crazy-car fanatic, I got my license the day after my 16th birthday. While I’m not a seasoned motorist journalist, I love driving cars and seeing how they ride. It interesting seeing the small detailing and the big thoughts that go into designing a vehicle but I’m not going to lie, hearing the engine crackle gives me goosebumps. At the moment I have a bright-green 2010 Mazda Demio, which is my first ever owned car, which my mother calls ‘Kermit.’ I emphasize ‘at the moment,’ as who knows what my next car will be.

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