A Fortnight at the Opera

A dodgy alternator in the author’s Octavia provides the opportunity of an unexpectedly long exposure to Škoda’s Scala

Skoda Scala SE – side profile (Source: orangewheels.com)

I won’t say much more about how I came to be the temporary user of a metallic black Škoda Scala 1.5TSI DSG SE (I think – no badging), except to say that it’s now almost four weeks since I left our Octavia at the dealership in Letchworth to sort what initially seemed like a simple problem.  However, taking a lead from my own New Year’s intention to look more on the bright side of situations, and, indeed, turn them into opportunities (I know…), I thought I’d share some impressions with the DTW followship.

Let’s start with how I feel about the looks. Externally … well, it does nothing for me. I would say it’s more a case of ‘avoid’, than ‘snog’, and, definitely not, ‘marry’. The overall profile and forms are a bit dumpy, yet there is the usual current-day overdose of feature-lines, creases and panel flares in an unsubtle attempt to szhuszh-up an otherwise dull design.

The main ‘over-bite’ feature-crease visually stumbles in the transition from the front wing to the front door, which spoils any effect the designer was trying to achieve, and I note the new Octavia suffers in the same way.  The way the lower edge of the DLO curves upwards towards the D-pillar gives a rather weak impression, contributing to a somewhat flabby look about the hind quarters.

Škoda Scala 1.5TSI SE in all it’s glory (Source: Arnold Clark)

The head and tail lamps also are in line with Škoda’s latest, more expressive design language – i.e. enlarged, fussy and noticeable; ditto the rest of the front fascia. The headlamps fan out at angles to the horizontal from the outer edge of the grille, and the lenses carry details that are clearly meant to look like cut-glass, but at first blush looked like they have cracked.

The rear lights are a lot broader, flowing over onto the rear edge of the tailgate and, in the other direction, along the side of the car. Their form is very three dimensional, looking rather like sculpted eyebrow. I find the overall effect less pleasing than the simpler, more functional and integrated look carried by our Octavia, and even the Rapid which the Scala replaced in Škoda’s range.

Inside, it’s dull, monochrome and unimaginative. The infotainment screen sits at the edge of a hollowed-out section of the dashboard; very much the craze. It works as well as any other I have used, with physical knobs for on/off/volume on the left and twiddle and press to scroll and select from menus if you feel a bit squeamish about smearing the touchscreen all the time (like me).

The plastics are hard and a bit scratchy except for the top-most layer (apart from the binnacle itself – which is hard). Mercy-be, there are simple, physical twist controls for the HVAC (although they feel a bit clunky to use), which is better than the wretched soft-slider interfaces on the new-version of the Octavia (and Golf/ Leon).

Decent if unadventurous dashboard – note the knobs for the HVAC (Source: Carwow)

The IP is also thankfully packed with nice analogue dials, with a small information screen in between. All good. Controls for wipers and lights are identical to those on our stricken Octavia, which I rate highly. The car also has a proper gear-lever to regulate the automatic (dual clutch) transmission, and the pedals are well weighted, albeit I found the brakes sensitive, with anything more than a mere tap capable of standing the car on its nose.

I’d say that space and comfort feature large on the Scala’s mood board. The front seats adjust in a number of directions, including seat height and lumber support. I found them high backed and comfortable, although I had to take a little while to adjust to the enhanced shoulder supports which are not there on our Octavia.

I am not very broad-shouldered and my guess is that they might niggle those thus blessed. The Scala feels notably taller but narrower than the Octavia, and interior space is excellent for a car this size, with the boot being of a very decent volume and shape – I reckon it comfortably beats a Focus, Mazda3 and Golf on these fronts.

The ride itself is quiet and well controlled 80%+ of the time. There is still that sense of stiction that comes with most Macpherson strut/ torsion beam set-ups, and the Scala never has the sense of flow and polish that a Focus or Fiesta achieve. Handling is acceptable and the steering feels direct if devoid of feel, or, at least, it does until the loathsome Lane Assist involves itself and literally tugs the wheel around in your hands, which I find most disconcerting. This is not a driver’s car, but it does play the easy, relaxed car role rather well, especially when one works out how to dump Lane Assist.

This is helped in part by the model in our temporary care being a DSG automatic. I’ve not had the use of an automatic in such a small and non-sporting car before (my only ever DSG experience was in an R32 Golf, lent to me by a work friend – which was awesome). I have been finding it a bit odd and out of place, but, once I got over that, it’s a rather pleasant and relaxing experience. Maybe that’s a measure of my advance into middle age?

The gearing and shift pattern isn’t actually that great. First seems skippy as the front wheels are all too easily overwhelmed by the engine when leaving a junction (the DSC seemingly having gone AWOL), and the car holds onto gears for too long when slowing down. However, the change itself is quick and smooth.

Star turn on this Scala is the engine. I believe it’s the 1.5l, turbocharged, in-line 4. It’s very quiet, smooth and more than powerful enough. The display in the centre of the IP tells you when the car is coasting and when the engine has switched into 2-cylinder mode; it does this because, otherwise, you would not have known.

It’s also very economical on a longer motorway run. The trip to Birmingham and back to return my son to university garnered an indicated 51.2 MPG, which I thought was excellent for a petrol engine pulling a Golf-class car (the Octavia Estate, a similarly powerful diesel, however, will add another 20 MPG to that figure on the same run – the C6 will manage 40-ish MPG).

The fact that one can access this engine in the Scala, together with the added space over the Golf/ Focus/ Leon mob are the main reasons for potentially recommending this car. That and the price – looking at the lists, the Scala in estimation retails for £21,695, whereas the nearest equivalent I can find in the Golf’s range is a Match costing £25,010. They are closer matched than I thought they would be on price. The Scala is just over 13% cheaper; is that enough to overwhelm the greater desirability of the idea in the minds of many of owning a new Golf? Not sure.

Image: arnold clark

Thing is, I am not sure that most potential buyers of a Golf would think about buying a Scala in the first place. In my mind too, I’d say it’s in the same sort of ‘car-as-utility’ category as a FIAT Tipo, which only comes to the UK with a one litre, 99BHP triple attached to a manual gearbox, costing between £17,690 and £21,690 (the latter being the angry sounding ‘Cross’ version). I’d have the Scala over one of those.

My over-riding thought it how expensive compact cars have become very recently, and Škodas too. It’s a decent car and will serve the average family of four-point-something well, if rather doughtily. It does not get close to pressing the button labelled desirable, much as I enjoyed the relaxing drive and impressive engine.

And there you have it … I have no more words for the Scala. As fortnights at the opera go, this one did not get close to scaling any heights.

Author: S.V. Robinson

Life long interest in cars and the industry

39 thoughts on “A Fortnight at the Opera”

  1. That rear three-quarter view really is frumpy, isn’t it? And I say so as a happy owner of a Superb.

    1. Hi Andy. Yes, it seems to have inherited that slightly ‘hunchbacked’ look from the Rapid Spaceback:

    2. I actually think I prefer the way the Rapid looks over the Scala – it’s neater and more honest.

  2. Has the Scala got a rear centre arm-rest? No.

    The rotary knobs for the HVAC are there to repel buyers of more expensive fare, I would guess. I think they are a selling point – which leads me to the idea that VAG is likely very good at putting up subtle barriers between their market segments so that people with more money don´t stray into the bargain basement and discover their needs can be met at 60% of the price they are willing to pay. Even I am not immune to this: I know Back Tee blended whiskey is the nicest one I´ve tried but the label is horrible so I spend a bit more for something quite nice that creates a more festive mixing experience. So, I´d be attracted by the simple controls and frustrated by the lack of a rear centre armrest.

    “?What?Car?!” says this:
    “You rarely get something for nothing in this world, so while cars are becoming bigger and more sophisticated, they’re also becoming more and more expensive. Well, most of them are; the Skoda Scala is one of the potential exceptions to this dastardly, dosh-depleting rule.
    It’s a little longer than the Volkswagen Golf and is available with the VW Group’s latest tech. Yet it’s priced to undercut not only the Golf but also other big-name rivals, such as the Ford Focus, Kia Ceed and Vauxhall Astra.”

    So, I´d guess some deliberate omissions on the feature front will keep the Golf club away. I´ve seen some Skodas around here and to some extent Skoda is “failing” to make them look a bit too cheap. In dark colours and with a bit of chrome tinsel, they look quite ritzy, especially the saloons.

    1. Hi Richard. Those HVAC controls look almost identical to the ones fitted to the 1999 Mk1 Fabia, where they worked just fine even if they felt a bit cheap:

    2. Richard, I do not know Black Tee either by taste or by label, but surely the solution to your problem is a decanter? Perhaps this would seem too anti-minimalist for a man who lives in Denmark?

    3. A decanter is a capital idea. I am not a minimalist even if I live in Denmark. Perhaps as a reaction I am for decoration and colour. The kitchen-dining room is orange and yellow. The hall-stairs-landing are done in ice-cream pink and deep red. I found the last stock of brass light fittings in Aarhus. It sounds awful -maybe it is – but I like it. If I was not answering to others I´d go further. I am rather fond of mid-70s opulence. I don´t mean the Anglo-Irish type but the German type with smoked glass, brass, brown, velour and the like.

  3. Very entertaining review, S.V., thank you. I hope you will share your Octavia alternator repair story too.

    I have one “like” and one “hate” about the Scala. I very much like the knobs, dials, and physical buttons of the dash and console. Even a real handbrake! (..although I am now quite fond of my Tiguan’s auto-electronic parking brake and auto-hold).
    But I HATE those wedge-shaped protrusions either side of the boot floor. I guess there is some engineering reason for them but I can only imagine how annoying they would be if I had the rear seats down and was sliding large stuff into the boot. (I pride myself on my packing skills and I would want to take a hacksaw to these offending wedges -aaargh…)
    Sometimes it’s the little things that hugely influence our car buying decisions.

    1. Hi vwmeister. Yes, they do intrude a lot, but it’s probably academic most of the time, given that the seats don’t fold flat anyway:

      They hide both problems on more upmarket versions by giving you a higher false boot floor (with space underneath):

      Of course, this makes the loadspace above the false floor shallower.

      Our 2005 Fabia hatchback had a ‘proper’ seat folding arrangement whereby you flipped the rear seat bottoms forward before folding down the backrests. This meant you didn’t have a step to contend with. So much for progress!

    2. Indeed: rear centre armrests, the location of the interior lights (is there one for the rear passengers, are there left and right side ones in the boot). Ashtrays. HVAC controls. But I also care about ride quality and steering. I get the feeling that if I was going to buy a brand new car I´d be very irritated that 20,000 euros would leave me short changed in all these areas.

    3. On the alternator failing on the Octavia, there is a bit of a story involving first charging the battery in case it was an instance of COVID-19 induced limiting of the car to short haul journey only duty, resulting in running the battery down, and then a visit from a nice AA man who swiftly diagnosed the alternator as the fault ans accompanying me to the dealer. But I won’t do all of that …

      Once at the dealership, they took the car in and promised to have a look the next day. I also made the point immediately that the car was less than six months out of warranty and I was not impressed – they promised to look into what discounts were available on the different ‘platforms’ available to them (no idea what that means). I received a call next day to say that they confirmed it was the alternator and had ordered a new part, and also that Skoda was prepared to pay 45% of the bill for the new part and its fitment – apparently, the ‘factory platform’ had refused the request for a higher discount as the warranty had expired … anyway, I accepted the 45% reduction.

      I then got a call from the same guy (almost obsequiously courteous and polite) the next day to say the alternator was fitted, but there was a problem with its ‘integration’ with the rest of the car and so they needed to go through a series of protocols via the factory to test what was up … but the technicians on the ground felt that the new part was faulty. This was just over two weeks before Xmas Day. I eventually got the car back on the 8th of January. They had had issues connecting the car first to the factory’s remote diagnostic system and then again with Skoda UK’s remote diagnostic system, but once that was done then they had both diagnosed … that the new alternator was faulty. So there had been another day’s wait for a new part, then another for fitting, and then, ta-dah, a working alternator!

      On returning home, the next day it became apparent that both spare keys no longer worked due to whatever shenanigans had gone on in integrating the new alternator into the rest of the car, so that required another trip back to the dealer and 4 hours out of my life to have the whole lot reprogrammed again – adding a further ‘opportunity cost’ to the £415 the new alternator had cost me. The guy at the dealer was, again, incredibly apologetic about it, and, overall, he did his job as well as he could – but, blimey, did Skoda make a meal of the whole thing!

      I guess I did at least get to test a Scala for four weeks …

    4. I really hope there was as a good reason the rear seats could not be raised up. On my 205 the rear seat cushion consisted of a foam block and (I think) a semi-rigid base panel. You could pull the seats up to vertical; the seat folded down and there was a flat floor. My XM has a nearly flat floor. I suppose there might be a fuel tank in the way in the Scala. It might not reduce the amount of volume but it does offend one´s sense of tidiness that the floor is not flat from the boot aperture all the way to the front seats.

    5. These old seat designs where you flipped up the seat base and folded down the backrest had one big disadvantage: you needed room in the horizontal dimension to fold down the backrest and then enough of a distance between the formerly upper edge of the backrest and the front seat to put the vertical base in. With the advent of rear headrests and seat belts integral with the backrest these get ever higher, demanding more room to fold flat.
      Our Golf IV has these flip up-fold down seats and you have to remove the rear headrests first before you can fold down the backrest but at least there are holes in the seat base’s underside to stick the headrests in. But in the Golf the rear seat belts are attached to the C post and the backrest is relatively low/short. in my Audi the belts are in the backrest which as a result goes up to shoulder level, leaving no room in front of it when it’s folded down.
      When we have to transport really big items we use the Golf because it has the far bigger boot.
      It seems that nobody is using his car for serious transport purposes nowadays

  4. I completely agree, Richard. Even my 2002 Tribute had fold-flat rear seats with base cushions that folded forwards first. But maybe I’m being unfair comparing an SUV-type to a saloon.

    Thanks, Daniel, you’ve given me something to check carefully for when I come to change my car.

    I had a similar experience, S.V., with spare key replacement and reprogramming with VAG. They really do make things difficult for themselves and us.

  5. Sorry – they paid 45% and it still cost you £415 ? For an alternator ?

    1. Hmmm … I shall be locating a decent, local, recommended independent specialist ASAP for future servicing.

    2. The Skoda most probably has a combined alternator-cum-starter acting on what was once the fanbelt but nowadays is a high-tech poly-V item. This all-in-one device is integral part of the energy management of the car that’s necessary for controlling the start/stop system.
      The energy management triggers the starter part of the device using the CAN bus but has to make sure there are some appropriate keys somewhere in the car.
      This whole crap has to be ‘trained’ everytime something in the basic electrical system is touched. In such a car you can’t simply replace the battery because the energy management is sensitive to the charge/discharge characteristics of the battery (an expensive AGM item) which in turn are stored in a barcode on the battery that has to be entered into the cars electronic brain when fitting a new battery.
      You need a dealer or his diagnostic computer system to do this and the dealers always ask between 50 and 100 € for a couple of minutes work and some mouse clicks. That’s a reason to buy a software like VCDS or VCDPro that allows you to do these things on your own – the 250 € I paid for the software was the best investment in my car.

      The price of the alternator reminds me of my first Audi, a B6. The heater fan failed and a new one would have cost 1,000 € because there’s a control unit sitting on the fan for CAN bus integration and to prevent the fan from becoming a generator through the air flow passing through it at high speeds.

    3. Dave: you only remind me why I don´t want a modern car. I like being able to do basic things myself. That cars can´t be designed to allow basic maintenance is infuriating. I accept that there are advantages to the newer technologies. What I don´t like is the idea that the engineers don´t carry over the utility of the outgoing technology. I don´t believe that the laws of physics determine how tricky it should be to change a battery, replace a bulb or change a filter. That´s not “just the way it is” that´s the way somoene made it.

      Imagine if you want to replace a battery and the choice is nip to Halfords to buy a new one (the old days) or to wait until Monday to go to Smeck & Chobham & Sons VW-Volvo-Hyundia-Fiat-Daihatsu-Chevrolet-Maserati to get a new one. And have them fit it. And wait for a tow truck… Oh my. Those thousand euro cars on sale at mobile.de look more and more attractive.

      By the way, a non-GTi 205 is still a cheap option.

    4. There are no more basic things to do yourself on a modern car.
      Change your own brake pads? Forget it. On the rear wheels with electric parking brake you need the diagnosis computer (or laptop with VCDS) to bring the brake pistons in a position that allows access to the pads at all and once you’ve put the new pads in you need the computer to train the control unit of the parking brake. If you try to fit new pads without the diagnosis computer your ABS and ESP will no longer work because a rise of the brake fluid level in the container on the master cylinder will be interpreted as a fault that leads to those systems switching off.
      Try to fit new wiper blades? Impossible without diagnosis system becaue the ‘hidden’ wiper arms can’t be lifted off the windscreen no matter whether the bonnet is open or closed. You need to bring the wiper arms into a ‘service position’ to be able to lift them…
      Fit a tow bar? You need to integrate that into the CAN bus because the ESP switches characteristics when it detects a plug in the tow bar’s socket and also the start/stop is then deactivated.
      On many modern cars you can’t even simply replace a wheel because the tyre pressure sensors are indivially coded into the TPM in the car’s brain.

      All that nonsense in combination with the ever more nannying nature of the cars and the disappointing and shocking slip in quality of VAG’s products makes sure that my current Audi will be my last one. I’m dreaming of a good Alfa – late model Alfetta of 90 as thr next and probably last car in my life.

  6. Interesting review -thanks. To my eye it’s one of the first hatchbacks that apes the form factor of its SUV brothers. It mostly looks like an Kodiak on coilovers.

    1. I think you are being quite generous, Huw – I think the Kodiaq looks pretty good (if a little plain), but I found the Scala looks busier and yet more bloated, especially around the rear end.

    2. I agree, S.V. On the evidence of the Scala and latest Octavia, is Škoda in danger of following Audi and just adding unnecessary design flourishes for novelty’s sake? The current Kodiaq and Superb, previous generation Octavia (your one) and current Fabia in pre-facelift form are great designs, the Scala, new Octavia and facelifted Fabia rather less so, IMHO.

  7. The Scala with its overdose of feature-lines, creases and panel flares looks like the usual design mush from VAG.
    Skoda as a poor-man’s Audi. One can like it. It’s not my cup of tea.

    But there is one positive thing I would like to note. At least the designers had the courage to place a large painted area between the main headlights and the fog lamps and resisted the temptation to place a fake air intake here – as is common today.

    1. That feature, Fred, is there to make the car look a bit less desirable than a more costly (busy) VAG offering. VAG want you to suffer a bit as the price of entry to Scalaland.

  8. When I saw the first photo, I thought ‘Wow, that looks smart’. The blocky / sharp crease styling appeals to me. And of course the interior looks much better if it’s in a different colour (at extra cost, no doubt).

    I’d still rather have something else, second-hand, if I were buying privately.

    Clearly, pricing and specifications are primarily aimed at the business buyer, who accounts for the vast majority of new vehicle sales. I wonder if things will change if companies become more price sensitive.

    1. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed that the photos I found and chose, whilst being accurate in terms of the spec and colour of the car which was at my disposal, manage to rather flatter the Scala’s looks. In the metal, and set against a real-world context of being parked in the street or on the drive, it looks a lot less acceptable. The side view from the rear door backwards is particularly unsuccessful – the flaring of the panel over the rear wheel provides unnecessary visual bulk, and makes the car look too big for the chassis. I know that the new Octavia deploys a similar effect, but I think the extra length, ‘bustle’ back (taking a term that used to be used on the MkIII Escort) and sharper angle to the rear section of the DLO mean that it works OK on that car, whereas it just helps the Scala to look ‘dumpy’.

      Overall, one does get the sense that this car has been deliberately styled not to steal sales from the Octavia, or Golf. Of course, it’s built on the less expensive MQB-AO platform which is shared with the Kamiq (don’t like it), Polo (meh), T-Cross (shame), Ibiza (much more like it), Arona (no, just no), and up-coming new Fabia, and so can’t be expected to be as sophisticated as the Golf’s of this world. It drive rather well, though, and, as I wrote in the article, I found myself admiring the engine rather a lot.

    2. Hello S.V. – thanks – I’ve looked at a load of pictures online and I still like it, especially in the light green they do. There’s an interesting beige colour, too.

      I’ve noticed that some versions have a Volvo-esque black panel below the rear window, which I like. It does actually remind me of a V-series Volvo, a bit, especially the rising window line. Perhaps it just photographs really well.

  9. The Scala is a car. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s nothing there that’s exiting or interesting. It’s styling doesn’t appeal to me. Yes, there are too many feature lines, but that is rather common these days and the Scala isn’t nearly the worst in this respect. My main beef is that the proportions are a bit odd. When proportions are off, nothing can save the design.

    I wonder how the not so flat floor made it in the final version. Personally I don’t care about practicality all that much, but it should be very high on the list of a car like this.

  10. Alternators needing ‘integration’ through ‘protocols’! It’s high time the new Luddites took up their sledgehammers and mattocks against The Curse of Sophistication.

    The last time I replaced a VAG alternator was in ’92, the unit in my just over 3 year old Golf GTI prematurely knackered by gross overtightening of the drive belt when being serviced by an Arnoldae Clarkescu VW main dealership.

    The replacement took about five minutes of spannerwork outside the motor factor – I’d bought an exchange unit and didn’t want to pay a deposit against non-return of the failed alternator. Only ‘integration’ required was plugging in a connector block and tightening the belt correctly – a task beyond Arnoldae’s so-called mechanic.

    Talking of Arnoldae Clarkesu, this week he’s offering, from beyond the grave, a delivery miles pre-reg base spec Tipo hatch at £11,298.

    £19,995 gets you a delivery miles pre-reg Scala 1.5 TSI SE L, which suggests it’s not so unappealing as to be distressed merchandise yet.

  11. How do VAG manage a general strategy of using platforms and components optimized for smaller cars in larger Skodas without incurring robustness/durability penalties that the extra stresses resulting from increased size/weight would incur?

    1. Hello gooddog, they err on the cautious side and there’s quite a lot of overlap in each vehicle range. A well-equipped Polo or Golf won’t be much lighter than a larger model, so they’ll use the same clutches, etc.

      Also, they won’t all use the same components, as weights vary from 900 kg for an up! to over 2 tonnes for an SUV, so the components will be rated in weight and power bands.

      They tried down-grading some of the up!’s components as it was lighter, to optimise cost and weight, but soon went back to over-specifying, e.g. using Polo components which had a larger margin of durability.

    2. Thanks Charles. I thought I understood the original VW modular platform concept: A way to simplify manufacturing by standardizing certain dimensions that are largely a function of packaging needs regardless of the overall size or class of a vehicle, so MQB for transverse engines and MLB for longitudinal engines. In these cases the same dash to front axle distance might work as well for a Polo as a Passat. I suppose one probably shouldn’t read more into it than that.

    3. Hello gooddog. Yes – the platforms are really systems which allow a lot of interchangeability and therefore flexibility. Very little is actually fixed, it’s just all designed to fit together in endless different permutations.

    4. VW’s platform concept is different in two way.
      Theirs is the first (and still only?) platform where the dash to front axle ratio is variable, quite an achievement in itself.
      Then the specifications are not scaled up, but down. Thereby the Polo gets the heater matrix from the Passat and not the other way round.

  12. “There are no more basic things to do yourself on a modern car.”

    “Alternators needing ‘integration’ through ‘protocols’! It’s high time the new Luddites took up their sledgehammers and mattocks against The Curse of Sophistication.”

    …..and so on.

    Just horrible. This is why the majority of new cars are just not worth the botheration of purchasing. Unless…..

    ….make it a hybrid and rip all the crap stuff out and re-fit with decent reliable components, properly engineered.

    In Australia a friend purchased the final model Holden Commodore (ZB). The car was a complete flop. It was really nothing more than a slightly gussied up Opel Insignia. That meant no rear wheel drive, no V-8, insufficient power and performance, lack of accelerative capability, poor handling on low friction (sealed road) surfaces, odd handling anyway, inability to tow etc. etc. etc. Australians did not like this car much at all. John R didn’t either. The ending of availability of the V8 option did not help because, as all right thinking people know, Holden Commodores always have rwd and either a lusty six or better, the fast ones get a V8 mate.

    By the time John got around to buying his Commodore there were none of the outgoing V8 rwds left at the local dealerships. He was caught out. In the end he compromised and settled on a ZB Commodore. He drove the ZB for a while, then purchased an old Falcon (with 5.4 litre V8) for his daily tasks and took the ZB off the road. Presently he is about a third of the way through a comprehensive strip and rebuild of the ZB. He intends it to run with rwd and a V8 up front. Not just any V8 either but something rather special. He won’t say what he has got for it. I have some hopes it ends up a hybrid. Anyway, whatever the case, the ninny nanny integration faff about stuff will soon be gone and off the car. What’s not to like about that?

    Hybrids can be interesting. I’ve always liked them. Years ago a talented development engineer and circuit racer I know put a potent 351cid Cleveland into a VT Commodore. He cut a hole in the bonnet and fitted a shaker hood scoop straight from an early 70s Ford Falcon. There were 351C stickers on the bonnet to make it clear what was in under there. That hybrid effort got a lot of attention. On one occasion he thought it would be fun to take it to the dragstrip at Eastern Creek. Unforgettable. It ran solid 11s over and over, all weekend. Not bad for a streetable circuit car not optimised to drag race. Better though, was the response from some of the crowd. Plenty of yelling for a start. Some climbed up along the fence by the return road to yell and throw cans at the car. One or two fellows even tried spitting. Wish I’d photographed it. All in all, good fun days out.

    Digressing some. Even earlier (mid to late ’70s, early 80s) there were a few adventurous types who built hybrid engines. This is more challenging than a hybrid car. One example I saw in Los Angeles had Ford heads atop a small block Chevrolet. The owner had a sprint car similarly equipped. I understand some Australian and New Zealand sprint cars were also set up like this. Another example I came across had Porsche heads on a big block Chevrolet. Impressive.

    Cars are meant to be fun and enjoyable, even inspirational- certainly not a source introducing complex vexatious into life. How irritating that would be. No-one ought to be expected to put up with such.

  13. I’ve been reading your comments and now I feel terrified about doing anything more than replacing a light bulb (non LED, of course) on my car. I drive a 2018 Peugeot 308 1.2 Puretech with the 8-speed automatic, which has been quite nice so far, although I’m starting to miss driving a manual. Anyway, this car is obviously deep into the digital age, so yes it too has that now dreaded automatic parking brake that Dave mentioned, and a stop start feature that according to the owner’s manual means my car is equipped with a fancy battery that must be changed at the dealer. Oh dear! I did update the touch screen software and GPS maps following the instructions that Peugeot actually offer to the owners, voluntarily no less. They do recommend going to the dealer if in doubt, or if having cold feet about possibly making a software mess. In both cases the procedure involves waiting 30min approx. with the engine continuously idling the whole time, while the new software is uploaded and installed. Any tiny fuel saving of the stop-start feature vanishing in the meantime!

  14. The new cars’ complexity and headaches are only justified in models which are incredibly good to drive in return, such as eg. GT86, YGR, ND Miata, Golf GTI, Megane RS, CTR, MCS, TT RS etc.

    Putting up with such shocking reliability and brutal running costs,
    and experiencing a dull, lifeless drive meanwhile, is not something
    a wise man would opt for.

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