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The Skoda Scala hatchback has made its first public appearance ahead of going on sale in Ireland in 2019. It replaces the Rapid model (Skoda's mid-size hatch, sitting between the Fabia and the Octavia in size terms and price), but the Scala is significantly larger and now represents Skoda in the ultra-competitive C-segment hatchback market.
Irish prices haven't been announced yet, but it is expected to go up against the likes of the Peugeot 308 (€19,550), Hyundai i30 (€19,995), Volkswagen Golf (€21,095), Opel Astra (€22,050), Renault Megane (€22,140) and Kia Ceed (€22,695), rather than the more expensive Ford Focus (€24,900) or Toyota Corolla (€26,370). However, Skoda has said that it is hoping to "attract and convert Opel Astra and especially Ford Focus customers."
The Vision RS concept car, shown at this year's Paris Motor Show, gave a heavy hint at the Scala's styling, and the production car isn't radically different. It features the same grille design as the concept, witha large air inlet underneath and side 'Air Curtains', as well as the same distinctive angular headlights, which feature LED technology as standard, though full-LED units are an option.
Around the back, on the tailgate, the Skoda logo is replaced by lettering and the C-shaped lamps also use LED technology. The full-LED versions will include dynamic indicator lights. There's also an aerodynamically optimised roof spoiler and a sporty(ish) diffuser underneath the bumper.
Wheel sizes consist of 15- and 16-inch steel rims as well as alloys ranging between 16 and 18 inches in diameter. The 16-inch Hoedus, 17-inch Propus and 18-inch Vega Aero wheels are brand new. All three come in gloss black, too.
Compared to the Skoda Rapid, the Scala is 58mm longer, 87mm wider and 12mm taller. This translates to a roomy cabin with decent leg- and headroom for all onboard. Thanks to a large rear overhang, the Scala has a boot capacity of 467 litres, which increases to 1,410 litres with the rear seats folded down. This eclipses what many of its closest rivals can offer, making the Peugeot 308, which can hold 470 to 1,309 litres, its closest competition.
The main focal point of the cabin is the tablet-style infotainment, which can be specced up to 9.2 inches (the largest screen size of its class). The display is slightly set into the dash to enhance the 'wing' design that mimics the leading edge of the bonnet. There's also the option of a 10.25-inch customisable Virtual Cockpit display (also the largest in the segment). The Virtual Cockpit replaces the standard instrument binnacle and drivers can choose between five different display settings. One is night mode, which reduces glare when driving at night by showing only the car's speed.
Like the exterior, the interior is influenced by the Vision RS concept car and "combines ergonomics, emotiveness and spaciousness" according to Skoda. Adding to this feeling of openness are large side windows, which let in plenty of light. If you want to flood the cabin with even more light, there is the option of a full-length panoramic glass roof.
The Scala carries on the Skoda tradition of being 'Simply Clever' and comes as standard with plenty of useful features like an umbrella in the driver's door, an ice scraper in the fuel filler flap and an easy-open cup holder. Another feature that many might find useful is an optional tow bar that folds up underneath the bumper when not required - and is released via a button inside the boot.
The Scala is the first Skoda model to be built on the Volkswagen Group's MQB A0 platform, which is the same as that used in the SEAT Arona and Ibiza and the Volkswagen Polo - and it will also be used for the next Fabia.
There will be a choice of four engines, three petrol and one diesel. All come with direct injection and a turbocharger as well as stop-start and brake energy recovery. Skoda reckons that the 95hp 1.0-litre TSI petrol option will be the most popular with Irish buyers. This is paired with a manual five-speed gearbox as standard. The other petrol options - a 115hp 1.0-litre TSI and 150hp 1.5-litre TSI - can be paired with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The 115hp 1.6-litre TDI diesel model is only offered with the seven-speed DSG automatic.
Skoda has another C-segment hatchback, the Octavia, but it is understood that the next generation of the Octavia will take a different position in the market.
Final pricing and specification for the Scala won't be confirmed until March 2019, but in Ireland, the new car will follow the familiar Skoda trim line structure of Active, Ambition and Style.
The new Skoda Scala will first arrive in Irish dealerships in June 2019 and will be available for the 192 registration period.