By Nigel Wigmore
A mantra of mine over the years has been the paramount importance when buying a new car of making sure that you get the right specification.
Sounds obvious I know, but you can be sure that a fair few new car buyers end up with a vehicle that does not quite match up to their high expectations.
This could be because the breadth of specification available on most new cars today is quite staggering.
This week’s drive illustrates perfectly the joy of getting the right specification on a car that has proven to be totally satisfying during the time I have been driving it.
The Škoda Scala Monte Carlo is top of the range spec for the Scala model and therefore the most expensive.
But spending the extra cash on a car at the outset can pay off many times over. And remember, here is a comfortable, sporty, roomy car that even at its most expensive comes in at just over £25,000.
So what is it about the specification of the Škoda Scala Monte Carlo that makes it so special? Well, first of all do not be put off by the name.
As a boy I used to love watching the annual Monte Carlo Rally on our 12in black and white television set.
Sometimes model names that imply an exotic touch might distract the buyer but the Monte moniker has been well earned by Škoda.
First held in 1911, Škoda achieved some of its greatest motor racing successes in the Monte. In 1977, for example, the Škoda 130 RS took first and second place in its class.
Because of that kind of success Škoda gave the name to this version of the Scala as homage to this world-class rallying event.
I think what stood out for me when I first drove the Scala Monte Carlo was its agility. It seemed so light and easy to handle with an inbuilt willingness to perform.
Oliver Stefani, head of Škoda Design, summed the car up well when he said: “The Scala is an important step in the development of our design language. It is not just practical and affordable for everyone, which has been characteristic for our vehicles. Visually, the Scala is also particularly powerful, sporty and highly emotive.”
Designers can be rather liberal with their praise for a particular model that they have nursed from drawing board to production and I am sure Stefani is no exception.
But I think in this case he did not exaggerate. This car seems to fulfil all the criteria you might dream up if you were designing a sporty version of the Scala.
The specification includes Škoda’s Virtual Cockpit where all the information you need as a driver is easily visually accessible with the customisable 10.25in digital display.
Leather detailing makes this car immediately attractive when you get behind the wheel. This includes, a gear stick sleeve and handbrake handle, in black leather with red stitching.
Front sports seats in red/black upholstery and an instrument panel in Škoda’s exclusive Monte Carlo design.
Standard equipment also includes a multifunctional sports steering wheel in black perforated leather.
There is keyless entry and start/stop, which allows the car to be locked, unlocked and started with a button as long as the sensor detects the key is with the driver.
Adaptive cruise control controls speed automatically and maintains a constant distance from the vehicle in front at speeds of 15mph or more.
Blind spot detection monitors the blind spots allowing you to manoeuvre safely while front and rear parking sensors enable parking in the tightest spots with safety.
A panoramic glass roof comes as part of the Monte Carlo’s exterior design pack, also featuring extended tailgate glass, black rear spoiler and full LED front and rear lights.
The Amundsen SatNav system with 9.2in colour touchscreen offers great infotainment, with a display positioned high up on the dashboard, in the driver’s immediate field of view.
Familiar features include the ticket holder on the A-pillar on the driver’s side and the integrated umbrella in the driver’s door. The Scala adds useful new items such as the ice scraper in the fuel filler flap with a tyre tread depth gauge and an integrated funnel in the lid of the windscreen washer tank.
The Scala is available with four turbocharged direct-injection engine options – all of which fulfil the strictest Euro 6d-TEMP emissions standards.
All three petrol engines are equipped with a petrol particulate filter. The 1.6 TDI is fitted with a diesel particulate filter.
I have learned over the years that even when buying second hand you should sort out the specification you want in your mind before you start looking. With new or old go for the specification that pleases you and no one else.
Škoda Scala Monte Carlo
Price of test car (options fitted): £26,940
Engine: 1.5 TSI 150PS
Transmission: 7-speed DSG
WLTP combined mpg: 45.6-42.2mpg
Max speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
18in Vega alloy wheels in black