Skoda Scala long-term test review: report 2
With its all-new Skoda Scala, the Czech brand is going head to head with some of the UK's most popular cars. Does it have what it takes to win over the youngest member of our team?...
The car: Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI 115 SE
Run by: Kris Culmer, sub-editor
Why it’s here: To provide a credible budget alternative to the Golf as the Volkswagen moves upmarket for its next generation
Needs to: Show that a budget family hatchback doesn’t have to feel its price
Mileage 4699 Price £18,585 Price as tested £21,085 Test economy 53.0mpg Official economy 49.6mpg (WLTP combined)
3 October – Troubleshooting
On my list of priorities when choosing a new car, infotainment ranks very highly, coming only after price, performance and efficiency. I must say that, from experience, the dial-controlled systems employed by BMW and Alfa Romeo are the very best, but Volkswagen Group cars currently come with the best touchscreen-based examples.
I was very happy, then, with my Skoda Scala and its glass-fronted, feature-packed 8.0in touchscreen system – until I tried to use it. On my first day with the car, I tried to set my iPhone as the default connection for the Bluetooth, but this completely crashed Skoda’s software, putting it into a cycle of turning the screen blank and then saying ‘Welcome to Skoda’ two or three times before simply freezing. It also ignored many of my prods and lagged quite badly. Not great.
I thought this was simply because it was the first time the car’s touchscreen had ever been used, but once I eventually got my phone hooked up and tried to play some music, the screen would randomly go blank and the sound stop halfway through a song. Nothing could revive it – not even following the ever-sound advice of Roy from the IT Crowd. Another odd fault was all my favourite radio stations disappearing while I was listening to them.
I thought I had been unlucky, but a chance conversation with one of our road test team revealed that the exact same issues had blighted both Scalas we'd used in recent group tests. A call to Skoda revealed a software update was required, so it took my car back to the garage and did this – which seems to have fixed all of the issues. It should be noted that my Scala was a very early one, so any car you buy now ought to come with the new software, and the update is quick and obviously free if it doesn’t.
While the Scala was in Skoda’s sick bay, I took the opportunity to borrow an example of the larger and better-known family hatchback, the Octavia. It has won numerous What Car? Awards over the years, and I must agree that it's a brilliant bit of work. The car I borrowed had a 148bhp turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine. So, 35bhp up but 70kg down on my 1.0-litre turbo Scala, meaning performance felt a little stronger, while an extra cylinder makes for a smoother sound. The main advantage of the Octavia, though, is the ride, which is noticeably more composed. However, the Scala’s suspension does a pretty good job itself.
In the few weeks that the Scala has been back with me, all has been plain sailing. The only thing that has gone wrong was my fault. You see, I hadn’t clicked shut the glasses holder in the ceiling (a very useful but certainly not guaranteed feature), so it had fallen open again when I turned to leave. The next morning, I got in the car and blindly smacked my head on it, causing a lot of swearing and the tray to fall out of the ceiling. Excellent. After several tries, I managed to get it back how it should be. I think so, anyway – but then I did once glue the wings of an Airfix Spitfire back to front.