Skoda Scala launches in NZ

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Words: Peter Louisson
17 Sep 2019

Skoda’s Rapid is no more as it’s been replaced by the bigger, sassier Scala which will take the fight to Mazda3, Golf, Focus and i30/Cerato. Is it in the hunt?

After a day driving it we reckon it might well be. Where Rapid never exactly sped off the showroom floors, with just 82 sold last year, Skoda has greater expectations with Scala and rightly so. Based on VW Group’s MQB platform, it’s bigger and roomier than the Rapid it replaces. Like most in the class now, it has a torsion beam rear end. Skoda prides itself on maximising interior space and of this it doesn’t run short. And there’s another reason why Scala deserves to sell in greater numbers; based on the Vision RS show concept it’s rather fetching. Skodas of the past have sometimes lacked that certain styling something but this doesn’t. It has numerous good angles, and features the firm’s latest crystal design ethos.

Adding to the good news is a decent model spread, with three spec levels, and two powertrains, both hooked up to a seven-speed twin-clutch transmission.

The base Ambition model fires in with a 1.0L turbo three potter, delivering 85kW and 200Nm of power, and delivers mean fuel use of 5.3L/100km on the WLTP test. It’s said to hit 100km/h in 9.8sec. The five-seater hatch has serious load lugging capacity, at 467L, expanding with two-tier split folding to 1410L. That’s 100L more than its direct competitors. Ambition kicks off at $29,990.

Next up is Sport at $34,990 and the top grade is Style at $38,990. Both of these are powered by a 1.5 TSI four-pot turbopetrol, delivering 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. Zero to 100km/h is a claimed 8.2sec which we confirmed on the day, and even managed one run that squeaked into the sevens. It does 80-120 in 5.5sec so gets along rather well. Stopping power is impressive too. It feels light on its feet and evidently scales up at 1265kg.

The 1.5 also sports cylinder deactivation technology so fuel use is only 0.4L/100km more than the three-potter. We found overall use in the sevens on the day, and after a rezip, 3.5L/100km during two-cylinder motorway running. When we arrived back at the outset point in town the average was showing 4.5L/100km. It helps that 100km/h in top gear corresponds to just below 2000rpm. A pretty reasonable aero figure of 0.29 no doubt contributes as well.

We drove both Sport and Style variants and felt the lesser was probably the better buy. Okay, so the more expensive model gets fancier 18-inch aero alloys and smarter rubber, along with active cruise, but it also comes with adaptive damping and Sport mode is a shade overdone for our rumpty roads. Fortunately Normal is much better, and is appropriate for both town and country roads. But the fixed suspension and the 17-inch alloys of the Sport model impart a nicer overall ride and handling balance. Moreover, you can option in adaptive cruise for $900 and keyless entry for $400, bringing it near to Style spec. We wouldn’t bother with the adaptive LEDs that cost $2200 since the Sport comes with entry LEDs and DRLs anyway. Yes, Style does get other bits and bobs like dual instead of single zone AC, tints and chrome and the like, but Sport is where it’s at from an all-round dynamic and value standpoint. Skoda folk reckon this will be the best seller of the trio.

One other notable feature; it’s quiet on the go, with little tyre noise intruding, especially the Sport model with its slightly higher profile rubber.

Compared with Rapid, Scala is much more rounded. Even the name is more upmarket. It cannot quite compete with Focus for dynamics but it does on ride, and you’re paying into the $40k bracket to get a Golf that competes with 1.5 Scalas. Plus the Skoda has more interior and boot space than its rivals. Those just needing heaps of room and something economical might like to wait for the incoming $29,990 Ambition.

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