Amazing Faith

DTW’s Sheffield correspondent risks his eardrums for your benefit. 

A red bridge. Parking sensors on the blue car not to be trusted here. (c)

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.

Nope, can’t tell the difference. Put the cloth back on there for a sec, mate… (c)

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.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

10 thoughts on “Amazing Faith”

  1. The Scala is a kind of mid-sized hatchback. Ordinarily this kind of car would not have its own model name. It´s in the same class as the Focus and Golf but whereas their default format is two-volume hatchback this one is an estate and only and estate. While I don´t see it making any great contributions to the quality of life I don´t see it being something customers should avoid. It´s like another type of ketchup on the supermarket shelf.

    1. It’s hard to tell where an ‘ordinary’ hatchback ends and an estate begins. For me, the Scala is a standard 6-window C-segment hatchback (like the Focus was until the last generation), and not an estate. It doesn’t look estate-y enough. As a rule of thumb, the third side window should look about as long as the rear door in order for the car to classify as an estate*. Here the rear part looks considerably shorter.

      I think it also makes sense not to look at it as an estate, but as a compact complement to the Octavia line that already consists of an estate and a larger hatchback-saloon.

      * With the strange small window of today, sometimes the D-pillar has to be included in order to make the equation work. See for example the Mégane estate (especially the former generation; the current one wants us make to think of the pillar as an extension of the window. Of course, this doesn’t work at all).

  2. I like its unshouty looks.
    I suspect it does what it says on the tin.
    Will try to hire one for a week, and see.

  3. Another great read Andrew. I’ve not seen any Scala’s in sunny Leeds yet, but perhaps I thought it was the latest Fabia. I’ll keep a look out. 😂

  4. I think you summed up the Scala perfectly, Andrew, in saying that it left you “not exactly deflated nor massively elated”. It’s an inoffensive but bland appliance.

    I think that Škoda is taking a risk pitching the car so directly into the mainstream C-segment. The USP of both the Octavia and Superb (and, to a lesser extent, the Fabia) is that they offer more space than is the norm in their supposed segments, at prices that undercut their smaller competitors.

    It was difficult to make an objective case for the Scala’s direct predecessor, the Rapid Spaceback: it was both more expensive* and had a less capacious load bay than the Fabia Estate. Subjectively, the latter looked rather better too, not having the Rapid’s slightly odd, long and narrow “hunchbacked” look. The regular Rapid, with the longer “feedback” tail, made more sense with its large boot space and sold well to the minicab trade in the UK. Our local cab company operates a number of them and they provide a roomy, if unsophisticated, transport.

    * When the Rapid Spaceback was introduced in the UK, Skoda tried to charge a premium of around £1.5k over the larger “regular” Rapid! The company later realigned the pricing when the Spaceback didn’t sell.

    1. Surely some car company will name one of their models ‘Feedback’ going forward.

      It’s just so zeitgeist… surprised Ford doesn’t have a Focus trim line called ‘Group’, in order to win the hearts of those suburbanites who dream of being invited to a bland business park for an evening of snacks and directed conversation about a forthcoming consumer product.

  5. The Scala, judging by the renderings of the initial concept, was destined to turn out as a very muscular, sharp-creased and chunky ‘extended hatchback’.

    A sharper, less radius-rich version of the (iconic to my eyes) original A3 Sportback (8P).

    Why was the production version ‘endowed’ with a sadly sloping, weirdly curved roofline, instead, remains an utter and inexplicable mistery.

    The headlights’ unconcealed aggresive (decisive?) triangular shape, is a clear telltale
    of the original styling intention.

    Had it kept the (Fabia-style) slightly recessed glasshouse,
    and a more optimistic roofline convergence/
    curvature, it would’ve probably ended up a really dangerous competitor to a certain seventh-and-a-half gen.vehicle, to which it’s distantly related.

    Pity, as, when looked from behind, it has a certain (welcome) Volvo hint, rendering it the most avantgarde-looking rear end of (probably) the entire current VAG palette.

    1. You may have answered your own question there. Skoda, despite all protestations to the contrary, now appears to be playing a distinctly third fiddle to the Mittelandkanal. Mr Kaban’s departure is being keenly felt – and it’s not as if his departure has been to anyone else’s benefit. (And that is not a criticism of the former skoda design chief in any shape or form…)

  6. That’s a really telling picture.

    Luckily, the
    Fabia and both the K—Q named SUVs, are so competent and superior products, that I see no risks for the brand’s continuity.

    Current-gen Fabia is perhaps a tad wider than ideal, but it’s actually perceived as an advantage by many, and adds chunkiness, for want of a better word, to its styling/stance).

    Having said that, however, there’s a slight but worrying decline in fit and finish with some models (especially compared to the decidedly Piëch-standard-built Octavia Mk2), might put off some buyers that were aspiring towards the brand as a sanctuary of truly Tank-like feeling (yet affordable) cars.

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