DTW’s Sheffield correspondent risks his eardrums for your benefit.
The invite arrived by electronic mail some weeks previous; a chance for a trip out to the East Midlands and barring my fuel cost, a free afternoon out. With food. Chores fulfilled, leash slipped and Mansfield here we come. Well, just me, for my better half had found at least thirty-six other more pressing matters to attend to.
Understanding that mention of the Winged Arrow can elicit various forms of abuse from childish schoolyard comments to outright and snobbish denials – most unwarranted and to the great British public, still stemming from Škoda’s wayward seventies products. With Volkswagen’s serious cash inputs from the early 1990’s, the Czech brand has gained much strength, garnered popularity and has become a valuable asset to those in Wolfsburg.
Credible vehicles, covetable vehicles, silly names as Yeti, Roomster and the latest offerings that begin with K (but have a meaningful background) aside, Škoda has stolen a march on several competitors mainly due to aggressive pricing in keeping with being Simply Clever.
Like so many other manufacturers though, the Winged Arrow hit something of a bump stop. The Audis of this world just added more aggression, VW found new panels to add more surface areas, even Seat to some extent believed more creases and angles forwarded the marque. Škoda sensible-shoes joined the party with the updates for their top selling Octavia and not too far behind Superb with angled headlights and that corporate nose. Not bad, but not for me.
And then they introduced (in Israel) the Scala. Just where does this latest Czech offering lie in the primordial soup that is the Europe-box sales fest?
Scala does away with the Rapid which isn’t highly popular in my neck of the woods. Nor anywhere I’ve seen. Bigger than a Fabia, not quite that of an Octavia. Is it an estate, a fastback? I can’t be certain Škoda is sure either for whilst inoffensive in the grand scheme of things, neither is the Scala a stand out, ‘by George gotta get me one of those’ kind of car.
I like Škoda’s deference; my Mark 3 Octavia is a paragon of virtue. Swift, handles, economical, handsome, swallows the shopping and holiday gubbins with ease. With the 1.5 petrol engine, comfortable overtakes occur. Owned for nearly four years now.
To the field then just outside Mansfield and greeted by many parked Škoda’s and a glass of orange juice (Prosecco for non-designated drivers) and through a hall to glimpse a cricket match being played outside. A poster informed us that “Amazing Faith” a Paloma Faith tribute would be entertaining us later. Plates of something covered by aluminium foil. Children wanting to peek under the silver foil.
Outside lay the Octavia Land Speed Record holder from the Salt Flats, a rally bred Fabia in pieces (careful now) a wheel change challenge and a car covered in a green cloth. Actually, two of ‘em. This was my local Škoda dealerships 50th anniversary tied in with the Scala’s British reveal. Tension in the air (or was that the trepidation at hearing Amazing Faith fire up her pipes..?) the free ice cream flowed as easily as the right arm in-swinger of the obviously talented bowler, opposite.
The compare announced the order of proceedings which meant the five hundred gathered folk needed feeding immediately. Chaos averted by getting to the burgers about seventh in line I retired to watch the game unfold, just as AF began. I have nothing against Ms Faith or her tribute act but maybe it’s a being a Yorkshireman thing; watching a game of cricket being far preferable.
And so to the great reveal. With all the pomp and circumstance that a broad northern accent could muster, Britain’s very first (two) Scala (Scalae?) was proudly de-covered to a round of applause. With grease covered fingers we could now investigate, prod, poke and clamber over the car whose name means scaling new heights, apparently.
Letting the exuberance die a little, my first sit was in the passenger seat whilst a mature driver turned to me asking what that “bloody row” was; oh, Ms Faith. Managing to operate the radio, I luckily found Classic FM who were playing Vaughan William’s “Lark Ascending” which shouldn’t be played at high volume but was. We both smiled.
The cars interior is eminently VW, sorry, Škoda and easily navigated along with the ubiquitous touch tablet screen. Flattish bottomed wheel aside, in essence no different to my five year old Octavia. Was I expecting such? Not really though any slight change would’ve scored a few more points. Distinctly average then. Not at all earth shattering but Škoda doesn’t aim that way, vRS versions excluding. Several vRS’d K-word vehicles sat outside: no test drives were available. Scala orders or enquiries of, unknown.
I found the cricket match and another ice cream were in order for another hour afore returning home not exactly deflated nor massively elated. And from this early July revealing I have yet to see a Škoda Scala other than on the web. A sign of more K-word sales? Or a failed LBW appeal in Italian? I don’t see a promising future for the Scala. Not a great shame.