Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There's a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that comes in two states of tune: 94bhp (TSI 95) and 109bhp (TSI 110). The TSI 95 is fine but, in a car this size, it can feel a little flat. So we recommend the TSI 110, which is a cracking engine. It has enough low-end shove to keep up with the general ebb and flow of traffic with relative ease, plus decent overtaking power when you stretch its legs; it can hit 62mph from rest in 10.1sec. It has the pace over the 1.0-litre Kia Ceed and is our pick of the Scala range.
That said, if you have a bit more money to burn, we'd completely understand if you stepped up to the 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 petrol. For those looking to carry lots of people and luggage, its added zip – it really is quite quick, with 0-62mph in just 8.2sec – will be just the ticket.
The optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox zips up and down gears quickly and doesn't really dull the performance.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Scala is one of the better-riding cars in the family car class. It's far better at isolating you from razor-edged bumps and potholes than the Kia Ceed, Mazda 3 and Ford Focus; you just have to put up with its soft and slightly wafty nature over gentler undulations. For the best results, stick to the versions with the smallest (16in) alloy wheels – one of which just happens to be our favourite SE trim.
For absolutely the best ride in this class, you'll need a Volkswagen Golf with optional adaptive DCC suspension. That combo is way more expensive than the Scala, though.
The Scala delivers more grip, come rain or shine, than the Mazda 3, and that grip is better balanced front to rear than it is in the Kia Ceed. There's a fair amount of body lean, so while the Scala handles tidily, it never flits through bends as keenly as the Ford Focus and Seat Leon, the benchmarks for enthusiastic drivers.
Still, there's a sense of precision to the Scala's steering and it builds weight progressively, giving you the confidence you need when guiding it along tight and twisty country lanes. Again, it just lacks the Focus's delicate and intricate sense of connection to the road.
Noise and vibration
Under hard acceleration, the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI engines transmit little vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel. They're less thrummy when pulling away than the equivalent in the Kia Ceed, though, and settle down once you’re up to cruising speeds. The four-cylinder 1.5 TSI 150 petrol is smoother and quieter.
The Scala is easy to drive calmly in traffic with a manual gearbox, thanks to the predictable accelerator, brake and clutch actions; the automatic gearbox can be a little jerky in parking situations.
You'll hear more suspension noise than you would in the quietest family cars, while higher levels of wind and road noise put the Scala even farther behind the best. If you fancy greater peace and quiet on the daily commute, try a Ford Focus, Mazda 3 or Volkswagen Golf instead.
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