David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

How does the small petrol engine of the Škoda Scala handle towing? We find out how well it performs in our full test.

Overview

The Škoda Scala hatchback sits between the Fabia and the Octavia. You can choose from two 1.0-litre petrols, a 1.5-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel. We drove the more powerful of the 1.0-litre petrol cars. The Scala comes in three spec levels; our test car is the mid-range SE.

Does the Scala deliver the value we expect from Škoda? How does the small petrol engine handle towing? And is the car roomy enough?

Towing

So long as your expectations are reasonable, the Scala's 113bhp engine tows well.

We matched it to a Sprite Alpine 2 with a MiRO of 1097kg. That makes it an 88% match for the Scala, working from the minimum kerbweight of 1240kg (including 75kg for the driver).

With 148lb ft of torque, the engine has sufficient pulling power for towing, but without a lot of performance to spare.

The engine's modest muscle is most noticeable making a hill start. On a 1-in-10 slope, it took a careful balance of clutch and throttle. Acceleration was slow and there was a burning smell from the clutch afterwards.

On the motorway, the Scala would hold 60mph in sixth gear on the flat, but we needed to change down to fifth to hold speed on a gradient or going into a headwind.

Heading off the motorway onto country roads, the Scala would keep pace with traffic, but there was little in reserve for overtaking, and steep hills required lots of gear changes and a heavy right foot.

For such a small, light car, stability was good, especially considering the size and weight of the Alpine 2 we were towing. In still air, the Scala felt secure, only moving around slightly when caught by the bow wave of a high-sided vehicle.

When we arrived at our campsite, the Scala was easy to manoeuvre, although we took care not to slip the clutch too much, given the Škoda's difficulty with the hill start.

A rear-view camera would have been handy when hitching up; buyers can specify one as a £300 option.

Unusually for a relatively affordable new car, the Scala's towing gear features a drop-down tow ball, priced at £775. Push a button in the boot and it lowers, although it has to be secured by hand. The 13-pin electrics are on the side of the ball, making them easy to reach without interference from the car's bumper.

Everyday driving

It makes a refreshing change to drive a car that's unashamedly focused on comfort, rather than a sporty drive.

The suspension smooths out rough road surfaces without fuss. Driven at speed over dips and crests, the Škoda feels a little floaty at times, but it's far from sloppy. Many drivers will see that as a small price to pay for such a comfy ride.

It might be no better than adequate for towing duties, but in solo-driving, the 1.0-litre engine is more lively.

Skoda seems to have done a particularly good job of minimising engine noise. In fact, wind and road noise are both kept low, making the Scala relaxing on a long drive.

The steering is accurate and cornering is balanced and tidy.

Space

There's a lot of room in the Scala. In fact, it's not far short of the larger Škoda Octavia in terms of passenger space.

The dashboard design is sharp and modern, and the build seems solid. There are some hard and unappealing plastics on the doors, but you can say the same of many more expensive hatchbacks.

There's a good range of adjustment to the seat and wheel, so most drivers should be able to find a comfortable driving position. The eight-inch touchscreen is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and easy to use.

There are two USB ports of the latest USB-C type to keep devices connected and charged.

Those in the rear have lots of head and legroom, although the stout transmission tunnel will get in the way if carrying three in the back. Air vents between the front seats should keep everyone comfortable, and there are two more USB-C ports (an £85 option along with a front centre armrest).

Luggage room is generous. The 467-litre capacity with the back seats upright compares well with the 375-litre capacity of a Ford Focus and the 380-litres offered by a Volkswagen Golf. Lower the back seats and space increases to 1410 litres.

Running costs

The Scala is affordable to buy and run, with healthy discounts available, according to What Car?'s Target Price.

SE spec includes digital radio, cruise control, air-con and rear parking sensors, along with a long list of safety tech and driver aids. Fuel bills should be fine, even towing - we achieved 32.5mpg towing the Swift.

Technical specs

Engine size999 cc
Kerbweight1240 kg
85% KW1054 kg
Towball limit75 kg
Maximum towing limit1200 kg
Power113.0 bhp
Torque148.0 lb ft
Official MPG44.8 mpg
Towing MPG32.5 mpg
CO2113 g/km

Verdict

The Scala is a practical and affordable lightweight tow car, with a surprising level of comfort for this price point.

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Conclusion

Pros

  • Good stability
  • Drop-down towball
  • Comfortable ride
  • Lots of space

Cons

  • Struggles with hill-starts and gradients when towing
  • Transmission tunnel affects third passenger in rear