Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
We haven't tried the 94bhp 1.0 TSI 95 petrol, but we have tested the more powerful 113bhp 1.0 TSI 115. It's an engine we rate highly in both the Seat Ibiza and the Volkswagen Polo, and while it's less lively in the slightly heavier Scala, with a little stirring of the six-speed manual gearbox it'll dutifully carry out overtakes when required. It also has enough low-end shove to keep up with the general ebb and flow of traffic with relative ease, and certainly has more poke than the 1.0-litre Kia Ceed. It is our top choice of the range.
We'd understand if you stepped up to the 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol, though. It’s strong low down and has a punchy mid range, which is just the ticket for those who'll regularly be carrying a car full of people and luggage.
In a similar vein the 1.6-litre diesel (1.6 TDI 115) provides a good swell of low-end shove, but it's no quicker than the 1.0 TSI 115 flat out and, if you carry on reading, we'll explain how it's the least hushed engine in the range and only benefits those looking for maximum fuel economy.
Suspension and ride comfort
On standard suspension the Scala is one of the better-riding cars in the class. It's far better at isolating you from razor-edged bumps and potholes than the Kia Ceed, Mazda 3 or Ford Focus; all you'll have t0o put up with is its wafty nature over gentler undulations. That's the only reason the more composed VW Golf retains its position at the top of the class for comfort, and also why you might want to ask for an extended test drive if your kids suffer with extreme carsickness.
The optional adaptive suspension does give you the opportunity to tighten the suspension on demand, but puts a noticeably firmer edge on the ride.
The Scala doesn’t deliver class-leading handling — if you're a keen driver looking for just such a trait then have a look instead at the Ford Focus — but it’s not bad. It delivers more grip, come rain or shine, than a Mazda 3, and that grip is also better-balanced front to rear. It's less reliant on electronic interference from its stability control than the Kia Ceed, or the bigger Skoda Octavia, although you do have to put up with a reasonable amount of body lean on the standard suspension.
It steers well. Sure, not as brilliantly as a petrol Focus, but with enough precision and progressive weight build up to have you guiding it intuitively down even tight and tortuous country lanes.
Opt for the adaptive dampers, switch them to the stiffer Sport mode, and you can dial out a lot of the excess body lean. But for most people looking for something secure and easy to drive, the standard set-up is just fine.
Noise and vibration
Under acceleration the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI 115 engine transmits a little vibration through the pedals and steering wheel. But it's less thrummy when pulling away than a Ceed 1.0-litre, and settles down once you’re up to cruising speeds.
The 1.6 TDI 115 diesel is the gruffest engine, producing a noticable rumble along with some vibrations. All of which makes the smoother four-cylinder 1.5 TSI 150 the slickest engine in the range.
There's less suspension noise booming around inside the Scala than you hear in its pricier sibling, the Octavia. Wind and road noise are just as prevalent, though, so try a Mazda 3 or VW Golf if you fancy some real peace and quiet on the daily commute. Meanwhile, the Scala's predictable throttle, brake and clutch actions make it easy to drive smoothly in traffic.