New Mazda 3 & Skoda Scala vs Kia Ceed

The new Mazda 3 and Skoda Scala could shake up the family hatchback market – provided they can beat solid performers such as the Kia Ceed...

Kia Ceed rear seats

Space and practicality

Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

In the front, each has enough space to keep the tallest adults happy. The dimensions quoted for the Ceed are for a car fitted with a panoramic glass roof, which reduces head room a little, but even then it’s okay. Instead, the biggest difference is that the Scala’s interior is narrower than both its rivals’, putting you closer to, if not actually brushing elbows with, your passenger.

Move to the rear and the Scala’s narrowness is less apparent (only the Ceed is significantly broader), plus it has bags of head room and by far the most leg room. The Ceed is still roomy enough for a six-footer to sit behind a similar-sized driver without feeling overly cramped, whereas they’ll find their knees in close proximity to the front seat and their head brushing the roof in the 3.

Even if you’re smaller, the 3’s acutely upswept rear windows make it the most claustrophobic, and it’s the hardest to get into the back of in the first place, due to relatively small door apertures.

If you need to get three adults in the back, all three can do so, with some squeezing of shoulders. Again, the Scala is the best, thanks to good head room for the middle passenger and a tall but narrow central hump that leaves enough room for the middle passenger’s feet. The Ceed again betters the 3, which feels the most confined. 

Mazda 3 rear seats

At first glance, the Ceed doesn’t look too shabby for storage space, with a couple of shelves in front of the gearlever, decent-sized cupholders behind it and some space under the sliding central armrest. However, the door pockets are small and the shelves are unlined, so your belongings tend to slide about in corners.

The Scala has larger door pockets and a rubberised coating for the big cubby in front of the gearlever to prevent things from rattling around. But, as in the Ceed, a tall drink can get in the way when you’re changing gear.

So it’s the 3 that has the best oddment storage, starting with the biggest cubby under its long centre armrest. Its cupholders are better positioned, in front of the gearlever, and there’s a handy tray that’s big enough for a phone, keys and other clutter.

The 3’s boot isn’t bad for the class, either. Its usefully square shape helps it swallow a solid tally of six cases, but in everyday use you might find the very high load lip, relatively narrow aperture and absence of an adjustable boot floor annoying.

Skoda Scala rear seats

As an aside, the 3 has a button on its tailgate to lock its doors and boot that’s clearly designed to make life easier. Except that we discovered it doesn’t register if the key is in the car, so you can lock yourself out. We’ve approached Mazda about this and have been informed that it’s a known issue that’s being looked into.

Like the 3, the Ceed has a uniformly shaped boot with a height-adjustable floor to give you extra flexibility, but with room for only five cases, it’s the smallest here. That’s because the Scala managed seven, and while that’s no match for the ludicrous 11 cases that the larger Octavia can swallow, it trumps virtually everything else in the class. A two-level boot floor is a reasonable £75 option, and in SE L trim you get an electrically operated tailgate as standard.

All of our contenders have 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and without the Scala’s optional two-level boot floor you get an awkward step when the seats are down. Both the other two provide an even surface, which makes it easier to slide anything cumbersome onboard. 

Kia Ceed

Kia Ceed boot

Although it’s the smallest, the Ceed’s boot is still around the same size as a VW Golf’s. It’s a square shape and the standard height-adjustable floor adds extra flexibility.

Boot 395-1291 litres Suitcases 5

Mazda 3

Mazda 3 boot

Six cases is a good tally for the class, but it doesn’t have a height-adjustable boot floor and the lip at the entrance is high. All our contenders have 60/40-split rear seats.

Boot 358-1026 litres litres Suitcases 6

Skoda Scala

Skoda Scala boot

Seven cases is highly commendable. You have to pay a nominal £75 for a variable-height boot floor; without it, there’s a step when the rear seats are folded down.

Boot 467-1410 litres Suitcases 7