The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
There's a wide range of steering wheel adjustment and you get driver's seat height adjustment as standard. Adjustable lumbar support is added once you move up to our recommended SE trim. Some of our testers found the seat a little narrow and lacking in side support; seat comfort is subjective, though, so just try it out for yourself before you buy.
In the range-topping SE L and Monte Carlo trims, the conventional analogue instruments are replaced by a digital screen. This can simply show a set of digitised dials, but it also displays a multitude of other information in a clear and concise fashion.
And on the subject of clear and concise, Skoda has sensibly decided to keep traditional buttons and knobs for all the major features – including the climate control. That makes the Scala a breeze to operate while you're on the go, and it's so refreshing in a world where more and more rivals (including the Octavia and Golf) are employing touch-sensitive buttons or loading features onto their infotainment systems. Both solutions are far trickier to use without taking your eyes off the road.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Thanks to relatively slim windscreen pillars, front visibility is impressive. The rear pillars are thicker, but there's still an acreage of glass that makes your over-the-shoulder vision way better than it is in many rivals, including the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and, most strikingly, the enclosed rear end of the Mazda 3. Rear parking sensors are standard on all but entry-level S trim, and if you want to add front parking sensors or a rear-view camera, you can do so for a relatively small extra cost.
Another big plus is that all trims come with LED dipped headlights; full LED headlights, which include the main beams, are optional unless you go for Monte Carlo trim. LED headlights are far more illuminating at night than the halogen bulbs that cheaper versions of the Focus and Kia Ceed come with.
Sat nav and infotainment
We've already mentioned the problems associated with using touchscreens on the move in the 'driving position' section. It's for that reason that we like the Mazda 3's rotary infotainment controller, which is less distracting to use while driving than trying to hit the icons on the Scala's touchscreen. And while there are shortcut buttons around the Scala's screen that are helpful for swapping menus, they're touch-sensitive and not physical buttons that you can learn to find by feel. Beyond those issues, the Scala's infotainment is one of the better systems in the class – much better than the more expensive Golf's.
Entry-level S trim gets a small, 6.5in touchscreen with a DAB radio, Bluetooth and two USB-C ports. SE trim brings a high-definition, glass-fronted 8.0in touchscreen with SmartLink, so you can use your smartphone's apps, including navigation aids such as Google Maps and Waze, from the screen itself. That makes the lack of in-built sat-nav on our favourite SE trim less of a problem.
If you move up to SE L or Monte Carlo trim, you get a 9.2in screen with in-built sat-nav and Infotainment Online, which gives you access to online features such as traffic and weather reports. Whichever system is fitted, the software is quick and the menus are quite straightforward. All trims come with an eight-speaker stereo, but it’s a little tinny, with no premium upgrade available.
This is an area that demonstrates why the Skoda Octavia costs a little more than the Scala. There's a generous array of pleasant-to-the-touch interior surfaces in the Octavia, whereas the Scala uses far more hard plastic that, while robust, don't look or feel very swish. Some soft-touch materials are used on the upper dashboard, at least.
To get a feel for where the Scala sits among its key price rivals on quality, it's outclassed comprehensively by the Mazda 3's supremely classy interior, but it looks and feels a bit nicer than the Ford Focus's iffy insides.
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