The Skoda Scala is finally in Singapore. It’s a strong proposition for first-time buyers, with one warning…
Fun fact, Volkswagen Group Singapore’s managing director Kurt Leitner’s first car was a Skoda Felicia. It was brand spanking new, he remembers, and therefore a better proposition than taking his chances with a beat up used car, plus it didn’t cost much more.
That’s the sort of thing that sells Skodas, and is the general idea behind the Scala. The five-door, five-seat hatchback is a spiritual successor to the Felicia, and it’s easy to see it being someone’s first step on the ladder of car ownership. Not merely because “Scala” is Latin for “ladder”, but also because it offers so much car for the money.
ONE ENGINE, THREE TRIM LEVELS
Here in Singapore you can get your Scala with one drivetrain (a 150 horsepower 1.5 TSI with a seven-speed, twin-clutch auto) but in three trim levels. The price starts at S$115,900 with Certificate Of Entitlement for the most basic Ambition version, which comes with niceties like dual-zone air-con, keyless entry and engine starting, a reverse camera, a multi-function steering wheel and a wireless charging tray for smartphones.
There’s useful safety kit, too: autonomous emergency braking and stability control standard, plus six airbags if it all goes wrong.
Add S$5,000 for the Scala Style and you get quite a bit more. It’s identifiable by its black wing mirror caps, a slick swoosh of chrome under the windows and full LED headlamps which were inspired by Bohemian crystal. The taillamps have winky turn signals and are also full LEDs, while the car rolls on 18-inch alloys (up an inch from the Scala Ambition).
Those are easy giveaways, but an unmissable feature is the extended glass on the tailgate, which stretches eye-catchingly all the way down between the tail-lamps. Posh, innit?
Actually the Style variant is more than about, well, style. Inside, the driver’s seat gets power adjustment and the steering wheel comes with flappy paddles for the gearbox. Its touchscreen system is Skoda’s 8-inch Bolero unit (an upgrade from the more basic 6.5-inch Swing system), with all versions of the Scala equipped with the now-requisite Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
You also get digital instruments — Audi’s virtual cockpit display but reskinned in Skoda graphics.
There’s yet more: ambient lighting for the cabin, a powered tailgate, and driver assist systems such as lane-keeping, blind spot monitors and adaptive cruise control. There’s some mild autonomous capability here: with the adaptive cruise control the Skoda can stop itself if the car ahead comes to a halt (although thereafter you have to step on the brake to hold it in place), and if the rear radar sensors think you’re about to change lanes into another car, the steering intervenes to nudge you back into lane.
Getting back to cosmetics, if you want to get a bit racy with your Scala, there’s the Monte Carlo (S$124,900) — an homage to the oldest event on the World Rally Championship calendar, which Skoda won seven times. That gets a panoramic sunroof, gorgeous two-tone upholstery and a different, more sporty steering wheel, in addition to some tasty looking blacked out chrome.
Plenty to choose from, as you can see, but the bottom line is that you can have your Scala as tricked out or as basic as you like.
BIG AND BOOT-IFUL
Even in basic Ambition trim the Scala offers plenty of metal for the money. It’s built on the Volkswagen Group’s smallest MQB-A0 platform, which underpins the Audi A1 and VW Golf, but it’s big. Bigger than the Golf, as a matter of fact: the Scala is 4,362mm long, with a wheelbase of 2,649mm, meaning a whole 104mm longer than the Golf with 12mm more metal and glass between the axles.
The dimensions actually help with the Scala’s looks. The length means its proportions are a bit more sporty, whereas a shorter car might have ended up looking more boxy.
Crucially, all that real estate means the Scala is a usefully big car. Skoda says it has more headroom in the back than any rival, and it’s certainly an inhabitable place for rear passengers. Also helpful to comfort is the fact that there are rear air-con vents, something you can’t take for granted in our climate.
Meanwhile the boot is a ginormous 467 litres in capacity (for comparison, a Hyundai i30 has 395 litres), and if you fold the rear seats you can haul 1,410 litres.
The cabin’s basic architecture is straight out of the VW playbook, so if you’ve driven your share of the group’s cars you’ll know your way around it well. Here, the touchscreen system is mounted high up so it’s easy to see and read, and there’s a ledge for your wrist to make it easier to jab at. Its tile-based interface is as easy to operate as it gets because things aren’t buried too deep in menus, and the screen is flanked by capacitive buttons that let you shortcut to various functions.
We drove the Scala in April 2019 and had another short spin in it in Singapore at its launch, and the impressions are similar — if you’ve had a go at other MQB-A0 cars, you’ll know what to expect.
To break that down for you, it handles in a way that builds confidence, with enough grip to let it shrug off a sharp corner if you enter it a bit too hot. The steering could do with more feel, but it’s light and reasonably quick, so if you suddenly find yourself on a bit of twisty road you’re more likely to feel entertained than stressed.
The Scala isn’t pin sharp, but what’s more relevant is that the suspension does a good job of keeping things tidy. There isn’t quite the suppleness over bumps that you’d get from a Golf, but it doesn’t strike a jarring note if you hit a patch of bad tarmac.
That said, the Scala doesn’t feel as rapid as you’d expect a car with 150 horsepower to be. It’s certainly not slow, but there’s a palpable sense of effort when you’re flogging the horses, and at the top end of the rev range there’s a distinct lack of puff.
At least you get frugality, and some refinement with it. The engine is quiet when you’re cruising on the highway or surfing along with traffic (most of the noise in the Scala comes from the tyres), and it can deactivate two of its cylinders under light loads to save fuel. You’ll never feel it happening (a VW engineer who worked on the system once told me you might hear a click when the cylinder deactivation kicks in, but even then you have to listen hard and know what to listen out for), but you’ll like appreciate the end result, which is an admirably low fuel consumption figure of 5.5L/100km.
CHOOSE A STYLE
Our pick of the range is the Scala Style, which hits the sweet spot in terms of bang-per-buck. It reminds you that price is what you pay, but value is what you get.
But a word of warning is in order if a Scala Style or Monte Carlo is going to be your first car, like the Felicia was for VW Group Singapore’s Dr Leitner. It’s going to colour your view of what a car should be, and after that you’ll be expecting lots from your subsequent cars.
Skoda Scala 1.5 TSI
|Engine||1,498cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||150hp at 5000-6000rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1500-3500rpm|
|VES Banding||B / S$0|
|Agent||Skoda Centre Singapore|
|Price||S$119,800 with COE|