Road tests

New Skoda Scala 2024 facelift review: an underrated gem

The classy Skoda Scala hatchback has been updated for 2024 with sharper looks and a refreshed interior

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4.5 out of 5

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The Skoda Scala is an underrated gem in the family hatchback class, offering more boot space than its key rivals and a comfortable, easy-going driving experience for similar money to a well-specced supermini. But the facelifted Scala’s sharper look and refreshed interior should allow people to see it in a new light. You never feel like you’re sitting in the cheap seats either, especially with the impressive tech offered onboard.

Life can be awkward when you’re the middle child, as the Skoda Scala can attest. We’ve proclaimed it to be among the best family hatchbacks around since it was first introduced in 2019, thanks to its impressive levels of space, comfort and kit. All the while costing significantly less than key rivals such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra.

So it ticks all the right boxes in our minds, and yet people often forget that it exists. Possibly because of its understated looks, or the fact that it’s sandwiched in between the much-loved Fabia supermini and the big-selling Octavia in the Skoda family. However, a mid-life refresh for the value-focused family hatch could be just what it needs to make more of an impression.

The styling changes aren’t hugely dramatic, but work together to give the Scala a sportier, yet elegant look. The new octagonal front grille is slightly larger, the headlights are slimmer, and the front bumper has been heavily revised. The rear end has received similarly subtle tweaks, including reworked bumper and LED tail-light design, plus ‘Skoda’ lettering across the bootlid. 

Matrix LED headlights are also available on the Scala for the first time, either as standard on top-spec cars, or as an optional extra lower down the range. Every Scala now comes with dual displays inside, but the mid-range model we drove in Germany featured the upgraded 9.2-inch touchscreen and 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit fully digital instrument cluster.

Both screens are very sharp, bright and snappy, but the Virtual Cockpit is a highlight. This isn’t a new addition to the Scala, yet it’s still impressive to see featured in a car at this price point, and delivers clear graphics and numerous layouts including full-screen mapping.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard fit as well now, along with USB-C ports powerful enough to charge a laptop. But we appreciate that Skoda kept things simple when it came to the new climate control panel, resisting the urge to add touch-sensitive sliders and panels – instead sticking with simple, easy to use physical buttons and dials. That said, certain functions like the direction of the fans are done through the touchscreen.

The Enyaq-inspired two-spoke steering wheel is another nice touch, as is the fabric dashboard that’s different from the usual faux-leather or dull plastics. The idea is to make the cabin feel more like a living room, although the black Alcantara-esque material in our test car admittedly doesn’t do the best job at illustrating this.

Aside from the cheap scratchy plastics on the doors and centre console, the facelifted Scala’s interior feels very well built and more premium than before, even if it isn’t quite up to the standards of established rivals like the Mazda 3

But the sheer amount of space inside continues to be one of Scala’s biggest selling points, and the cabin is indeed very spacious. Even with six-foot-tall adults up front, there’s more than enough head and legroom for another two adults to get comfortable in the back. There’s space under the front seats for rear passengers’ feet too, but the cabin isn’t particularly wide and the large hump in the floor means it’ll be a squeeze getting five inside.

Buyers with young children may like to know the Scala features three sets of ISOFIX mounting points for child seats – one for each of the outer rear seats, plus another on the front passenger seat – that are all easy to access.

In terms of boot space, the Scala embarrasses nearly everything in its class, offering an hugely impressive 467 litres – rough 90 litres up on a Golf or Focus, and 45 litres more than the Astra. The Scala’s luggage capacity grows to an almost estate-car-worthy 1,410 litres with the rear seats folded down.

The driving experience is just as multifaceted as the rest of the car. The remarkably comfortable ride and hushed cabin make it an ideal motorway cruiser, while good visibility and light controls help when you’re traversing through town. The Scala isn’t the most fun car to drive on a twisty road, but manages to remain composed and body roll isn’t excessive. Plus, no matter what situation you find yourself in, the brakes provide loads of stopping power with little effort.

The Scala we drove featured one of simpler engine and gearbox combinations available: a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission. There’s a decent amount of torque low down, which combined with the light clutch, makes it easy to drive in stop-start traffic. 

The engine is capable of getting the car up to higher speeds with ease too. The engine note isn’t the most pleasant when revved hard, however, which you’ll have to do when accelerating to join the motorway, for instance.

If you cover more miles out of town than in it, we’d recommend the larger and smoother 1.5-litre petrol engine, ideally coupled to the seven-speed DSG automatic. We got to try this particular setup in the facelifted Skoda Kamiq SUV, and think it would be an ideal match for the Scala’s refinement and comfortable ride.

The updated Skoda Scala costs from £22,095 – a whopping £6,395 cheaper than the most basic Ford Focus. Yet for the price, kit lists are pretty lengthy across the range. Buyers have a choice of SE, SE L and Monte Carlo trims, and even base models get an eight-inch instrument panel, 8.25-inch touchscreen, rear parking sensors, 16-inch alloy wheels, and full LED headlights, plus Skods’s signature ‘Simply Clever’ features like an handy umbrella concealed in the driver’s door.

But we expect most people will go for SE L, similar to the Euro-spec model we drove. This version adds the two larger displays, 17-inch rims, the ‘Lodge’ interior theme, rear privacy glass and a rear centre armrest. Monte Carlo models get a much sportier look, and luxuries like a panoramic sunroof, matrix LED headlights and a ‘Sport Chassis Control’ system with adjustable dampers.

Model:Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI 116 SE L 5dr
Price:from £22,095 / 1.0 manual SE L from £24,870
Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl turbo petrol
Transmission:Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:9.5 seconds
Top speed:125mph
Dimensions (L/W/H):4,362/1,793/1,471mm
On sale:Now
News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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