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With downsizing all the rage, two of our writers pick their favourite Cat A-friendly models to see which is the cooler car in these expensive times!

16 Dec 2022

As COE premiums climb ever higher, manufacturers have begun introducing models with downsized engines, so that they fall under the less expensive Category A.

We asked two of our writers to pick their favourite Cat A hatchback and explain why their choice was better than the other. One chose the Audi A3 Sportback, which the other selected the Skoda Scala.

Both cars come equipped with a 109bhp 1.0-litre engine, courtesy of the Volkswagen Group
This debate is interesting because both Audi and Skoda belong to the Volkswagen Group, and not surprisingly, both hatchbacks here also have the same powertrain: A turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

The Audi A3 and Skoda Scala could not be more different, though, for one is a premium model while the other is mass-market. However, as we shall soon see, this contrast makes for an interesting feature.

Jeremy: Skoda has always been known for having cars that offer value for money. And while its models had relatively austere interiors before, this is no longer the case today. In the latest Skodas, you'll find their cabin quality to be on a par with Volkswagen. Case in point: the Scala 1.0.

The Scala has a boot capacity of 467 litres, which expands to 1,410 litres with the rear seats folded
It is underpinned by a stretched MQB A0 platform, giving this hatchback the dimensions of a car that's a class above it. And with a peppy, turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder under its bonnet, you'll get to your appointments on time, unlike my colleague.

Clarence is late because he spent too much on something more 'stylish' and thus must make do with less power…

Clarence: Hold on, hold on. First off, I've got as much power as you have here in my Audi. And secondly, I'm being fashionably late.

You'll get one of the best dashboard designs in the business with this Audi A3 Sportback
And speaking of style, the Audi A3 Sportback has one of the sharpest exteriors in its class. It's also classy because it does not try to look larger than what it really is underneath.

Have a gander at the sharp head lights, or the dramatic creases all across the flank of the Audi A3. And all this snazziness also carries into the interior. Look at my dashboard. The 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 10.1-inch infotainment screen are neatly integrated here, instead of plainly sticking out like a sore thumb.

And I reckon the leatherette upholstery here in the Audi A3 is nothing to be scoffed at as well.

Scala Style 1.0 is surprisingly fitted with 18-inch wheels and high-performance tyres as standard
Jeremy: Alright, so you have as much power as I do here in the Scala, but just how much did you pay for all that style?

Your Audi A3 Sportback swings in at $201,369, whereas the Scala comes in at $166,400. Despite costing less, I actually get a larger 467-litre boot, which is perfect for carrying out every day errands.

For those days when I'm feeling cheekier than usual, this Scala comes with a manually operated handbrake that let's me 'wiggle' the car's bottom. You can't do that with your fancy electronic parking brake.

My dashboard is just as modern as yours. Incidentally, just like A3, the Scala's instrument cluster here with selectable layouts is also called a Virtual Cockpit. And, varying the layouts is easier done here than in the A3 Sportback.

The Audi A3 Sportback (left) gets leatherette upholstery, whereas the Skoda Scala (right) gets seats in a leather/suedia combination
And since you mentioned style, I've managed to secure the Skoda Scala in its 'Style' trim, which means it rolls on 18-inch rims, a size larger than the ones on your A3.

And you want to talk deals? Okay, although this infotainment screen sticks out of the dash, it also comes in at a total of 8.0-inches. It's actually larger than the unit offered in the Scala 1.5-litre in 'Ambition' trim. Now that's a steal! 

Clarence: Ah yes, I'll admit that this Audi comes with a rather tall asking price. But here's the thing: If you're paying top dollar for a car in this climate, you'll want something that not only looks great, but also feels great to drive. And this Audi A3 Sportback delivers just that, being built on Volkswagen's well-praised MQB platform.

Which will you make you pick? The stylish Audi A3 Sportback (left) or the practical Skoda Scala (right)
But here's the best part: This all can be yours for a sizable $28,046 less than the 1.5-litre A3 Sedan, and that, I think, is even more of a steal (all prices as of 14 December 2022).

Those two factors alone leave me sure I've made the right choice, and you know there's nothing that leaves me feeling better than walking away with a good deal!

Different measures

Though they share the same powertrain and have some features in common, the A3 and Scala are still aimed at different segments.

But what this matchup has shown is that while downsizing is again in vogue, carmakers such as Skoda and Audi have managed to offer models that are still big on value, despite being part of the 'austerity measures'.

Which hatchback would you choose? Will it be the upmarket A3 Sportback with the its premium price, or the stylish Scala? Alternatively, if you've got a third option in mind, let us know in the comments below!

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audi  audi a3  audi a3 sportback  skoda scala  1.0-litre  cat a  coe