Skoda Scala

Skoda Scala lr

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By Tim Saunders

First impressions of the Skoda Scala are that it reminds me of the first generation Kia Rio, in production some 20 years ago. It’s the dimensions of the vehicles and the overall look that are similar. The Scala’s major selling point is the fact that its boot is larger than that found in a Golf. It is a hatchback, not an estate.

This model is fitted with a £410 electrically operated boot, which can be opened by lifting a switch on the inside of the driver’s door but it cannot be closed from inside. It can only be closed by pushing the button on the underside of the boot lid. It’s flash and something well suited to a chauffeur or business executive but a young family? As an addled dad, speed is of the essence. After all I have three demanding and impatient children – yes no doubt my fault, it’s in the genes you know. But I do find many so called luxuries a bit of a pain. You see it’s quicker for me to open and close a boot myself without relying on a third party – it’s a bit like running a business, if you don’t do the job yourself it is not going to be done to your standard, I find. I always find that it’s necessary to double check whether the boot will shut, sometimes it won’t if there is too much inside or the contents are too near the lip for its liking. Then of course there are the children to worry about. If a finger or hand was on the lip of the boot as the lid was coming down, it doesn’t bear thinking about. What happens when it fails? How do you then get into it? A good thump of a traditional boot lid will usually always close it. In my opinion, manual is best. Keep it simple for the best results, just like with writing an article.

It is very helpful that the front passenger airbag can be switched off, so that one of our children can safely sit in the front. I find that in so many cars this airbag cannot be turned off.

When starting the car it takes time for the centre console to come to life, which is annoying. Driving an old car as I usually do I am accustomed to just getting in and turning the radio on. You can’t do that in the Scala. You have to wait for the system to initialise and it requires you to tap the touchscreen before you can get the music on. It’s a pain. When I inadvertently press the voice activation the car asks “What would you like to do?” The children love this. And as we are stuck in yet another long long traffic jam I say, to lots of laughter, “fly”. This seems to confuse the poor system.

A gripe that I have in common with a great many new cars is the position of the seatbelt sockets in the rear. While three car seats will fit, it’s a real pain trying to install one in the middle. Harriett (8) fortunately only has a booster seat rather than the cumbersome seats that Heidi and Henry have. We find that Harriett’s seat awkwardly sits on top of the seatbelt points. Not ideal at all.

We rely heavily on the sat nav during a trip to north London to attend my wife’s late uncle’s funeral. I had researched London’s low emission zone on AA Route Planner prior to leaving and was advised that our journey would not fall within it so we didn’t have to pay the £11.50 congestion charge. When using the sat nav it doesn’t seem to provide a route for the journey before we left the driveway and so we were none the wiser until we were on the M25. Before long the sat nav is guiding us through the low emissions zone. I find that the voice instructions are too late in coming when driving on the motorway particularly and these really help to ensure that the driver takes the correct route. I also find the voice difficult to understand on occasions; it’s as if a foreigner is guiding us. For instance, Fareham West is pronounced Fareham Waste. It makes us laugh and it’s just as well we know what they’re talking about because otherwise it could be very confusing indeed.

Our 80 miles journey takes the best part of four hours due increased traffic on the roads thanks to Southern Railway strikes.

It is only when we return home that we find that we can pay the congestion charge for the day at any point up until midnight that day without receiving a price hike (£14 for if paid the following day) or indeed a £130 fine for failing to pay (50% reduction is paid within 14 days). I duly pay.

The traffic delays mean that we cannot collect a piece of furniture prior to the cremation and we can’t do it afterwards due to a family gathering which means we have to revisit London once again on another day leaving our children with grandpa.

So Caroline and I trek back up to London on a Sunday to avoid the congestion charge. We then discover the Low Emission Zone and we stray into the Ultra Low Emission Zone. However on returning home I discover that because I was driving the Skoda I don’t have to pay anything extra, which is a relief. As an infrequent motorist in central London I find myself straying into a bus lane where of course there is CCTV and fines can be as much as £160 but as soon as I realise my mistake I change lanes. I must thank my lucky stars that we didn’t have an accident because there are so many signs to read all the while trying to concentrate on the directions. So many motorists are visibly confused and Sajid Javid rubs his hands in glee. We make to Caroline’s uncle’s flat and are able to collect his mum’s cumbersome and heavy old sewing machine, which fits in the Scala with the seats folded down. We’re also able to fit in some chairs and other items of sentimental value. It’s a good little workhorse.

Often names of cars have an exotic holiday feel like the Kia Rio or the Ford Fiesta but technology is increasingly providing inspiration such as the Citroen DS3 which sounds like a gaming system and now the Skoda Scala. Scala, I have discovered in my research is a programming language. All very 2019.

As with all Skodas that I have driven the Scala is comfortable and engaging. The seats are supportive but over a long journey my back aches, so more padding needed in my seat. it is refreshing to find a five-speed manual gearbox and a traditional handbrake. So often these days there will be at least a six-speed manual gearbox and an electric handbrake. Or paddleshifts and a ludicrous eight or nine speed multi-functional gearbox… Rev the little 1-litre petrol engine hard and there’s a lovely sportscar like growl. Trouble is the driver wants to keep doing it!

On a bitterly cold winter’s morning I find that the icy windscreen clears in five minutes with the heat up and the blowers on full. Impressive. But the wing mirrors remain coated in ice and water; they’re not heated. So I have to clean them with a cloth. Even my wife’s 17 year old Vauxhall Corsa has electrically heated wing mirrors.

Facts at a glance
Skoda Scala SE L
Price: £21,205 incl VAT
Top speed: 117mph
0 to 60mph: 10.9secs
Economy: around 45mpg
CO2: 114g/km

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