Rapid progress

Skoda’s Fo­cus ri­val is in­ally here… al­most. We drive a pro­to­type Scala

CAR (UK) - - FIRST DRIVES -

RE­MEM­BER THE RAPID? For­get it. That badge has been binned for this – the Scala. It’s a di­rect place­ment for the Rapid Space­back of yore, and the first Skoda to use the small-car plat­form that the VW Polo and Seat Ibiza use.

How­ever, this is the longest wheel­base the plat­form has spawned, so while Skoda still calls this a ‘com­pact’ car it’s got a boot big­ger than a Ford Fo­cus and as much rear legroom as Skoda’s cur­rent Octavia, leav­ing room for that to go fur­ther up­mar­ket in its next gen­er­a­tion.

The out­side has the Vi­sion RS Con­cept we saw re­cently as a sil­hou­ette. Key to this is a long roof that cul­mi­nates in the rear wing – which isn’t an op­tion and plays an im­por­tant part in the Scala’s aero­dy­nam­ics.

It’s cer­tainly quiet on the road, judg­ing from our first test on the 17-inch wheels the chas­sis has been de­vel­oped on. We tried two ver­sions – one with nor­mal shocks, the other with a 15mm ride height drop and two-stage shocks that firm-up in Sport mode. The nor­mals would be our pick – this isn’t a sporty car, so the ex­is­tence of a sharper mode feels more in­con­gru­ous than en­thralling. The Scala’s ride qual­ity se­ri­ously suf­fers too, mit­i­gated only slightly by its ex­cel­lently de­signed front seats.

There’s noth­ing new un­der the bon­net, though. The peppy 1.0 triple is the pick of the pow­er­plants, joined by a 1.5 TSI, while a 1.6 TDI is the runt of the lit­ter in terms of re­fine­ment. Man­ual and DSG will be avail­able.

A brief glimpse at a fin­ished cabin re­vealed a ‘wing’ mo­tif along the dash in­cor­po­rat­ing a 9.2-inch screen. A built-in 4G SIM card means a per­ma­nent in­ter­net hitch, un­lock­ing nat­u­ral-voice AI, route-learn­ing real-time nav­i­ga­tion, and wire­less CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

Our first drive showed the Scala is far more in­ter­est­ing than the Rapid, so the job’s 95 per cent done al­ready. GARETH EVANS

Quiet, peppy and al­to­gether much bet­ter than the old Rapid

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