Compact Family Car of the Year 2019: Skoda Scala

The Skoda Scala is the 2019 Auto Express Compact Family Car of the Year, with the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla commended

When it comes to factors that compact family car buyers prioritise, price and practicality are near the top of the list. The Skoda Scala is fresh on the market, with right-hand-drive cars having just hit the UK, and when it comes to balancing space, usability and running costs, it’s the new king of this class.

The range is currently compact, with two engine choices, but prices start from £18,585 for the entry-level 1.0 TSI 115 in SE trim – incidentally, the model we’d go for – so it’s incredibly affordable.

Factor in a 467-litre boot that dwarfs most rivals’ in the class and it’s a formidable package. That big load bay doesn’t come at the expense of passenger room, either, because even though the Scala is based on the VW Group’s smallest MQB A0 chassis, which also underpins the likes of the SEAT Ibiza and VW Polo, there’s plenty of room in the back seats.

The 113bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol unit isn’t fast, but with similar on-paper performance to rivals’, it’s adequate yet ultra-smooth and nicely refined. The 200Nm of torque means it’s effortless to drive, too, so you don’t have to trouble the six-speed gearbox; if you do, the gearshift is light but positive.

SE trim has 16-inch wheels, so the ride is compliant, without lumbering over rucked roads, but it’s not soft. There’s body control and grip, so while the steering is light, it balances comfort and precision well. It’s a slick package dynamically, and it’s easy to get used to.

Even with that affordable opening price, SE trim has lots of kit. You get an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Nav isn’t included, but most buyers will have a compatible phone, so they can access directions through their device. You also get parking sensors, cruise control, autonomous braking, lane assist, air-con, Bluetooth and DAB, so you don’t scrimp on kit in favour of the (low) cost.

Claimed economy of up to 49.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 113g/km should make it as cheap to run as it is to buy. Attractive finance deals are already available, which make the car an even more appealing package that moves this class on yet another step. 

Our choice

Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI 115 SE (£18,585)

The entry-level Scala in SE spec is the one to go for. It gets everything you could realistically want, yet only costs as much as a supermini from the class below. In conjunction with the 1.0 TSI engine, it’s refined, but there’s enough performance should you need it. Teamed with solid real-world efficiency and all the other Scala’s attributes, it’s a great pick. 

Commended

Mazda 3

Mazda 3 - front

Mazda’s new family hatch has kept its familiar name, but the chassis and cabin have had a thorough going over, with a great new infotainment system. The car rides and handles well, it’s refined, and the gearshift is great – but the 3 will be improved even further when the brand’s Skyactiv-X engine technology joins the range later this year. 

Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla - front

The famous Toyota Corolla nameplate has returned after 15 years on a new chassis that’s good to drive and comfortable. Plus Toyota’s proven expertise with hybrid power means that there’s plenty of economy, too.

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