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Prototype drive proves promising for Rapid’s replacement’

PROS

  • Hugely practical
  • Impressive tech
  • Comfy front seats

CONS

  • We’ve only driven a prototype
  • It’ll be more expensive than Rapid
  • Rivals are very many, and varied

Verdict

Skoda’s next new model is the Scala, and Parkers has been for a prototype drive in the Czech firm’s home town of Prague to see if it should be on your shortlist when it arrives in 2019.

Skoda Scala badge

But it’s not actually a new idea. This is a rebranding of a car that never proved particularly popular in the UK: the Rapid. While that was offered in two bodystyles, the Scala only gets one: it’s the replacement for the Spaceback, which means it’s a Golf-sized car with a huge hatchback boot and decent interior space. The Rapid saloon will continue to be offered in other markets.

Skoda Scala 2019 rivals:

How decent? Well, rear occupants have as much kneeroom as in the current Octavia, the boot measures 467 litres (or 1,410 litres with the back seats folded), and there’s more than enough space for driver and front passenger. This is the longest car the VW Group builds on this platform, which is shared with the VW Polo and SEAT's Ibiza.

Skoda Scala side profile driving shot prototype

It also features many ‘simply clever’ features unique to Skoda, such as an umbrella in the driver’s door, an ice scraper on the fuel filler cap and an optional powered tailgate.

Skoda Scala: the engines

Its engine options are pretty simple. There are 1.0- (90hp) and 1.5-litre petrols (150hp) along with a 1.6-litre diesel (115hp), and manual or seven-speed DSG automatic gearboxes. You can’t have four-wheel drive, with engine output going exclusively to the front wheels, and there’s no option for a more sophisticated multilink rear suspension system.

Instead you’re stuck with a simpler and cheaper twist-beam set-up for the back axle, in this case enhanced by a hydraulic stopper to try to counteract some of the additional bumps a setup like this often produces on poor surfaces.

How does the Skoda Scala drive?

It’s a fine drive, considering its intended use as a practical family hatch, with supple ride comfort and steering you don’t have to be a weight-lifter to operate.

We tried versions with a new Sport chassis setup as well, and enjoyed this slightly less because what you gain in entertainment factor you sacrifice in comfort, and the difference is considerable – especially in the firmer Sport drive mode. This is likely to be optional in the UK, and we’d urge your own test drive to see if this is a box worth ticking when you order your Scala.

Skoda Scala prototype driving shot

However, one aspect of the Scala we really did warm to was the excellent front seats. They’re built using Skoda-specific dimensions and are among the comfiest we’ve tried in quite some time in a car of this price range.

Cars we drove came with an optional full-length glass roof that really makes the interior feel airy, though you can’t have one that opens, sadly. Let’s hope the air-con’s up to the task…

Technology on the Skoda Scala

In the cabin, there’s an entirely new cockpit design for Skoda, with screen size options ranging from 6.5-inch to 9.2-inches, and a surround intended for people to rest their wrists on as they use it, to make it easier to place your fingers in the right spots.

The best multimedia systems will come with a 4G SIM card built into the car, which means a permanent internet connection (subject to subscription) that can stream navigation, weather, traffic and music direct.

Skoda badge on rear of Scala

It’ll also come with an artificial intelligence (AI) feature that’ll gradually learn the driver’s voice commands, and will respond to ‘plain English’ rather than just to specific phrases.

Eventually, Skoda claims wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will make it to market, though if your car is already with you then it’ll involve a trip to the dealer to activate this.

Of course, the latest safety kit is also installed, with a more advanced blindspot detection system on board along with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking and optional self-parking.

Full LED headlights and tail lamps are optional, while a number of airbags around the car aim to keep occupants safe in the event of a collision.

The Parkers VerdictThe Parkers Verdict

While we’ve got a decent spread of information here, it’s worth remembering this was a short prototype drive and there’s still work to be done of the Scala – in particular fine-tuning of interior and chassis.

But early indications are that this is a far more capable entrant into the sector, with a much nicer cabin and more interesting drive. Whether it’ll make waves against the Focus et al is another question entirely, but it’s one we’re looking forward to investigating further once we know just how much the Scala is likely to cost…

Skoda Scala rear three quarter driving shot

Keep an eye out for the full Parkers Skoda Scala review coming soon

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