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Skoda Scala 2021 review: Monte Carlo

In some markets the Scala is referred to as a 'wagon', just like the preceding Rapid Spaceback was.

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5

Skoda’s retired nameplate list has grown to three in its 14 years in Australia under Volkswagen: Roomster, Yeti and – most recently – Rapid. Three interesting, offbeat sales losers. Replacing the latter for 2021 is Scala.

Based on the early 2010s VW Polo but stretched and packaged as a family small car, the old Rapid’s failure to fire against the likes of the Mazda3 remains a mystery, as on paper it represented an appealing concoction of pleasant styling, a roomy interior, slick powertrains and affordable pricing. Perhaps punters pushed back on the name – which has ties to the Czech brand stretching back to the mid-1930s.   

The all-new Scala – which, again, uses components shared with (today’s) Polo and is related to the popular Kamiq small SUV – builds on many of the Rapid’s virtues with more space, safety, technology and equipment. But it’s also more expensive.

We take a look at the Monte Carlo from $33,390 plus on-road costs (or $34,990 driveaway) to see if the newcomer has a fighting chance of staking a claim in the C-segment hatch segment.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Scala Monte Carlo might kick off from a tenner under $35K, but our test car is equipped with a $4300 Travel Pack that bumps the price up to $38,290 driveaway – perilously close to the larger VW Golf R-Line, as well as the company’s own Octavia.

On the safety front you’ll find seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee item), autonomous emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning, reverse collision warning/braking, lane departure warning/active assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, driver attention monitor, stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control, hill-hold control, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitors, front fog lights and a reverse camera.

The cabin features a ‘Virtual Cockpit’ electronic instrumentation/multimedia display ahead of the driver. The cabin features a ‘Virtual Cockpit’ electronic instrumentation/multimedia display ahead of the driver.

Note, however, for blind-spot monitor and rear-traffic alert, you’ll need to stretch an extra $4300 for the Travel Pack. More on that a little later on.

Skoda has worked hard to boost the Scala’s showroom appeal, with a ‘Virtual Cockpit’ electronic instrumentation/multimedia display ahead of the driver, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, voice control, app-link multimedia capability, wireless smartphone charging, powered folding and heated mirrors, centre armrest with storage and two USB chargers, ambient lighting, animated rear turn signals, remote central locking and a powered tailgate.

Being a Monte Carlo, the Scala scores extra razzamatazz in the form of extra exterior black trim, blacked-out 18-inch alloys, a panoramic glass roof, bolstered sports seats, LED adaptive front headlights, dual-zone climate control, drive mode selector, alarm system, metal pedals and a sports chassis that makes the car sit some 15mm lower compared to other grades.

The Monte Carlo scores blacked-out 18-inch alloys. The Monte Carlo scores blacked-out 18-inch alloys.

Our test car’s $4300 Travel Pack adds the aforementioned missing blind-spot monitor and rear traffic alert, as well as satellite navigation, automatic parking assist, heated seats front and (outboard) rear, upgraded audio, paddle shifters and wireless Apple CarPlay.

Metallic paint costs $550 while Velvet Red Premium will set you back another $1110. The spare wheel is a space saver.

The fact is, except for the powered tailgate, driver’s side door umbrella and additional storage aids synonymous with Skoda, our circa-$40K (driveaway) Scala’s equipment levels are approached, matched or even exceeded in some instances by C-segment rivals like the in-house Golf, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus ST-Line, Hyundai i30 N-Line, Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S and Kia Cerato GT Turbo.  

So, while the Scala is an advance over the Rapid, it also concedes the big pricing advantage the preceding model enjoyed over such fierce competition. In Monte Carlo guise at least, it is an expensive little car.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The Rapid was only sold in boxy Spaceback shape in Australia, and the wagon-oid look established by that elongated five-door two-box hatch silhouette has migrated to the Scala too.

The Monte Carlo has LED adaptive front headlights. The Monte Carlo has LED adaptive front headlights.

It's not unique to this brand of course, with Mazda’s BJ 323 Astina and (maybe more stylishly) the original Impreza wagon of the ‘90s espousing similar themes.

The differences between old and new Skoda are in the latter's more contemporary body surfacing and modernised nose and tail treatments that are all, frankly, a little fussy and too confusingly similar to other Skodas of today, especially the Octavia and Kamiq. We’re talking cookie-cutter clones of each other from some vantage points. Not unattractive, just samey.

The Scala has an elongated five-door two-box hatch silhouette. The Scala has an elongated five-door two-box hatch silhouette.

Germans love this sort of Matryoshka doll thinking when it comes to car design.

Still, the upshot is plenty of space inside.

How practical is the space inside?

The Scala might be built on a stretched Polo platform, but there is nothing short or skinny about this roomy little runabout. Long doors, wide apertures and a sense of space as a result of the six-window glass area means the Skoda squares up as a solid small hatch proposition.

Apart from the badges, umbrella holder in the driver’s door side, cruise control stalk seemingly stolen from a ‘90s Audi 80, brand-specific graphics and there being no flocked door pockets, there’s very little that isn’t VW inside. German heft, precision quality, squidgy upper plastics and a premium ambience are present in abundance.

Take the driving position. It offers a pleasing amount of adjustment so taller or larger drivers can fit inside. The same goes for the steering rack adjustment (tilt and telescopic), firm and always supportive sports-style front seats, while the weight of the switchgear and the feel of the textures are all kin to the Golf.

The driving position offers a pleasing amount of adjustment so taller or larger drivers can fit inside. The driving position offers a pleasing amount of adjustment so taller or larger drivers can fit inside.

Drilling into them a little further, the Monte Carlo's front pews look wild. Tombstone-shaped, with outlandish shoulder flares and side bolsters, thick red striping and deep contours, they promise – and deliver – exceptional comfort and support. They're designed this way for improved body location during g-force-inducing hard cornering, speaking to this grade's athletic nature.

Both front seats offer multitude of adjustability, with lumbar support and height movement, as well as the obvious front-to-rear sliding functionality, for both front passengers. These are great chairs to travel in.

Being a Monte Carlo with Travel Pack, the (1.2-inch larger) 9.2-inch touchscreen is another expensive-looking addition, with its (fiddly and unreliable) gesture control, wide fascia, colourful look and elegant layout. It feels slick and smooth on the fingertips.

Five instrumentation panel designs are offered in the digital instrumentation, including a two-dial (speedo and tacho) approximation of an analogue dial and a full-screen map view, as well as a load of other-data related info displays. There’s bound to be one to suit everybody.

But the climate control is needlessly complicated and confusing (it takes a prod of a button in the multimedia system to access air-flow, fan speed and other controls; and what is the point of a glass roof if it doesn’t open? The fabric covering is OK but not strong enough to block out the hot sun. And how can a $40K Euro not offer digital radio nowadays?

The rear bench is comfortable, though a bit more thigh support from the cushion would be appreciated. The rear bench is comfortable, though a bit more thigh support from the cushion would be appreciated.

Take away the flashy add-ons, though, and you’re still left with a basically sound cabin layout. Large door bins make up for the small-ish centre console storage (with sliding fabric-covered armrest); there’s a sizeable glovebox, two too-small cupholders (it wouldn’t hold our standard-sized Keep Cup), while vision out is very respectable – even without the big camera view.

Some surprise-and-delight details abound, but perhaps not as many as you might expect from the off-beat brand. There’s the aforementioned umbrella that lives in the driver’s door, as well as a waste-bin that sits in the driver’s door card storage area. Generous rear legroom. You’ll discover four USB-C outlets (two under the back of the centre console) and rear face-level air vents. And the Monte Carlo’s racing-car style tombstone front seats, that afford excellent forward visibility for rear-sited passengers. Our Travel Pack-derived rear (as well as front) seat warmers are also nice to behold on a cold journey.

The rear bench is pretty comfortable, though a bit more thigh support from the cushion would be appreciated. There’s no level of sliding or reclining adjustability, however, while the lack of armrest (and subsequently any form of cupholders) is a disappointing omission in any 2021 car.

  • The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped. The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped.
  • The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped. The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped.
  • The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped. The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped.
  • The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped. The boot stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped.

Further back, behind the long and wide electrically operated tailgate is a big, deep cargo area, which stretches from 467 litres in five-seater mode to 1410 litres with the rear seatbacks dropped. Among other things, you’ll find a double-sided mat with fabric or rubber as required, sturdy bag hooks, a 12-volt boot socket, ‘Trunk Package’ with a net under the rear shelf and two hooks in the top tether), and a space-saver spare wheel beneath that low, low floor.

All-in-all, then, the Scala’s as spacious and practical as you’d expect from a Skoda.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

At the other end of the Scala is VW’s evergreen EA211 four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine. Turbo-charged and intercooled, this 1498cc 1.5-litre twin-cam unit with variable-valve timing and a Euro-6 emissions rating develops 110kW of power at 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque from a low 1500rpm to 3500rpm.

The Scala features VW’s evergreen EA211 four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine. The Scala features VW’s evergreen EA211 four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine.

It drives the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) VW calls DSG. Tipping the scales at 1215kg (tare), this gives the Scala a power-to-weight ratio of a healthy 90.5kW/tonne.

VW says it can hit 100km/h in 8.3 seconds, on the way to a 219km/h top speed, so it’s no slug.

How much fuel does it consume?

Tuned to operate on a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded petrol and aided by stop/start technology, the Scala’s official combined average fuel consumption figure is just 5.5 litres per 100km, which translates to a carbon-dioxide emissions rating of 127 grams per kilometre.

That’s impressive stuff for a non-hybrid small car of this amount of space and practicality. Fitted with a 50L fuel tank, over 900km between refills is possible.

What did we manage at the pump though? An OK 7.9L/100km, some 0.4L/100km more than what the on-board computer displayed.

Not a bad outcome, given the at-times hard-revving and racy nature of this powertrain prompting us to put the pedal to the metal. In fact, we didn’t give two thoughts about saving petrol, driving our Skoda one or two-up with the air-con constantly on, and mostly in inner-city or urban areas.

 

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Scala was tested in August 2019 by Euro NCAP and scores a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating. The test vehicle was a left-hand-drive 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol version.

Each Scala includes seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee item), autonomous emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning, reverse collision warning/braking, lane departure warning/active assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, driver attention monitor, stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control, hill-hold control, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitors, front fog lights and a reverse camera.

Note, however, for blind-spot monitor and rear-traffic alert, you’ll need spend an extra $4300 for the Travel Pack.

The AEB system is set to operate from 4km/h up to 250km/h (where applicable). For pedestrians and cyclists, it works between 10km/h and 50km/h and operates day and night. The lane support systems kick in between 60km/h and 250km/h.

For child-seat security, the Scala is fitted with ISOFIX child-seat anchorage points in the outer rear seat section and a trio of child-seat anchorage points are fitted behind the back seats.

 

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Skoda has switched to an industry-average five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, while roadside assistance is free for the first year only.

Skoda has switched to an industry-average five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Skoda has switched to an industry-average five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, while published basic capped-price servicing is available. Prices start at $307 in year one, then change to $467, $452, $769, $452 and $542 in the subsequent years. This adds up to $2989 over five years and averages out to $598 annually. Prices are valid until December 31, 2021.

Scala owners can also subscribe to a pre-paid three-year/45,000km or five-year/75,000km pre-paid service regime, which works out to be a little cheaper again.

What's it like to drive around town?

From the moment you step inside and press the starter button, you’ll be taken by the spirit and effervescence of the Scala 110TSI’s powertrain.

Slick and speedy off the line, with a minimum of lag despite the inclusion of a turbo and DCT, the Skoda is a strong and consistent performer, with an eagerness to rev right up to the red line without fuss and plenty left in reserve when you need to overtake quickly.

Even in normal mode, throttle response is lively, but for extra snappy acceleration, there’s sport mode, as well as a handy set of paddle shifters for manual transmission manipulation. This is a naturally rapid little commuter... hang on, where have we heard that name before?

The engineers have also done a great job balancing steering effort and reaction, meaning tipping the Scala into corners, zipping through gaps in traffic or parking in tight spaces is no chore at all. You just need to get used to the turbo's thrust if you're coming from a naturally-aspirated car. The 110TSI's fiery nature can catch you by surprise.

There’s much to really admire here, and it is clearly designed for round-town commuting in terms of size, ease and manoeuvrability.

However, we wonder whether the Monte Carlo – with its sports chassis set-up and 15mm-lower suspension – is the right grade for you if you travel regularly over rough or uneven roads.

This is because the ride can feel stiff and unyielding, as well as loud in certain conditions. A set of adaptive dampers would help, as the Drive Selector Mode does not alter the suspension settings at all. Speaking of which, fitted with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear end, it’s clear that this Scala grade is tuned for the type of rippleless roads you find in more affluent areas of Europe. In Oz, it can get tiresome.

Out on the open highway, it’s a similar story. And you might also find the amount of road noise coming through the Goodyear Eagle 205/45R18 tyres might be wearing over coarse bitumen.

On the other hand, find a set of snaking turns, and the Monte Carlo really comes to life, drawing upon its muscular throttle responses, fast-shifting DCT and taut chassis set-up to gel together beautifully; precise steering brings involving handling and excellent body control, for fast yet secure point-to-point transportation.

This Scala isn’t quite up to GTI standards, but at least it has the dynamic capability to please the keen driver, as compensation for the terse and at times vocal suspension arrangement. Think of it as a warmed-over hatch, rather than a hot one.  

Note that while most of the driver-assist safety tech is right up to class standards, the adaptive cruise control will bring the Scala to a full stop but will not hold on to the automatic braking, meaning that after a few seconds, it will release and roll forward again. Unlike the best systems around nowadays, you need to consciously apply the brakes straight away, and it won’t resume afterwards. This is disappointing for a model that was all-new on the world market less than two years ago.

Over all, then, we rate the Scala 110TSI’s punchy performance, handling agility and smooth-road refinement, but reckon the Monte Carlo’s sub-standard suspension comfort is enough to have us gravitate towards one of the less sporty grades, given that they ride on a less-firm chassis tune.

In many ways, the Scala 110TSI Monte Carlo reminds us of the lower-line Mercedes-Benz A180 and BMW 118i in the way it blends premium European presentation with a sporty flavour. Seen in this context, the $15K or so you save going the Skoda instead makes it a winner.

However, the Monte Carlo’s stiff suspension is one trait shared with the above luxury brands’ offerings at base level that we can live without, so if you’re enamoured with the Scala’s looks and packaging, we suggest checking out the regular 110TSI with a couple of the option packs added, and enjoy a smoother and softer experience.

Or check out one of the latest VW Golf alternatives instead.

$33,390

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.