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 interior

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

While all of our contenders have sizeable slabs of squishy plastic atop their dashboards and front doors, there are some clear differences. The Ceed’s switches, stalks and knobs all feel very sturdy, but when you look at the plastics below the level of the steering wheel, they’re shinier and have a coarser grain than those in the other two. On the other hand, while the Scala’s hard plastics look a little classier, thanks to a duller satin finish, there are far more of them to go with its lightweight climate controls, so it feels the cheapest of the three.

That leaves the 3 as the standout for quality. Even in a trim that’s only one rung up from entry level, the plushness of its materials almost challenges that of premium rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. You’ll find more plush plastic than in the Ceed or Scala, along with plenty of appealing leatherette and switches that operate with precision.

Mazda 3 interior

All these cars have pretty good driving positions, and in most respects the 3’s is best for ease of use and its armrests are well positioned. It’s just a shame that it’s the only one without adjustable lumbar support, because some people might find themselves with back ache on longer journeys. You get manual lumbar adjustment in the Scala and electric in the Ceed, but even so, neither car has brilliantly supportive seats. They all come with seat height adjustment and plenty of tilt and reach adjustment for their steering wheels, though.

Each car has clear dials, but the Scala’s are fully digital and can be configured in multiple ways. The 3’s are part-digital, and the Ceed’s are traditional analogue instruments supported by a small screen for driving data.

Skoda Scala interior

As for visibility, we’ve few complaints about the view through the windscreens of any of our contenders. However, the 3’s upswept window line and huge rear pillars badly obscure your view out the back, making its standard reversing sensors and rear-view camera more than just luxuries. The Ceed and Scala also get reversing sensors, while the Scala is alone in missing out on a camera, although it offers the clearest view out the back.

The Ceed has conventional halogen headlights, while the Scala and 3 come with brighter LEDs.

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