Crossovers and SUVs are all very well, but not everyone wants to drive around in an overgrown Tonka toy… which is where the Skoda Octavia Scout comes in.
It may look liked a jacked up version of the Octavia 4×4, but it’s actually a semi-serious off-roader with a big secret. I’ll come to the secret a little later. First, the clever stuff.
You see, the Octavia Scout uses the latest version of the Haldex 4×4 system, also used on the new Land Rover Discovery Sport, no less. It cleverly maximises traction by automatically transferring drive to the rear wheels when the front wheels are struggling.
Add to that the increased ground clearance (it’s 33mm higher than the standard 4×4), its plastic body armour and extra underbody protection and you’ve got an impressive package – on and off-road.
And here’s the secret – putting the performance VR5 to one side – the Scout is the most rewarding Octavia in the range to drive and the best looking.
This Scout is prepared for anything – whether it’s cruising on the motorway, tackling challenging country roads, tootling around town or off-road.
It’s available with two power variants of the same 2.0 TDi engine – a 150PS mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and a 184PS with a DSG auto. My test car came with the manual box.
The turbodiesel engine isn’t the most refined out there, though it settles down, but it does possess prodigious pulling power. No surprise that the Octavia is popular with caravanners.
It’s no slouch either. My car had a top speed of 129mph and can reach 62mph in 9.1 seconds, though it felt faster. Perhaps more importantly it’s extremely frugal. The claimed combined mpg is 55.4 and without any effort I managed to achieve close on 50mpg, which is impressive for such a big car.
There are three driving modes – Normal, Eco and Sport – which are self-explanatory. Clearly Sport is the most fun and the Scout passes with flying colours, whatever your style. The ride is fairly firm, but it feels assured and comfortable, while the grip is exemplary.
Inside there’s an air of quality, the instrumentation is straightforward and intuitive, there are lots of storage places and there’s an overwhelming feeling of space – front and back.
Pop open the boot and it’s cavernous with a 610-litre capacity. Lower the back seats and it could probably handle an IKEA wardrobe.
And let’s not forget those other unique Skoda touches such as the ice scraper located in the fuel filler flap and the double-sided boot floor – the carpet side for best and the rubber side for the dog, muddy boots and sports kit.
Skodas are well built and now regularly top reliability leagues. They also hold their value well and the Octavia is no exception. The Scout also received a maximum five-star rating when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP, so it’s safe too.
The car I drove came with a basic price of £25,315, but was loaded with extras, including Anthracite alloys, panoramic sunroof and rear view parking camera, bringing the total to £30,705.
If you decide to go for the Scout over its rivals, which include the VW Golf Alltrack, Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer, Volvo V60 Cross Country and new SEAT Leon X-PERIENCE, you’ll need to decide whether you need all the extras on offer. Equally you’ll have to work out if it’s worth paying around £2,000 more than the standard 4×4 Octavia estate.
At the end of the day it’s probably more load-lugger than mud-plugger, but if you’re looking for a car that’s somewhere between the two, take a look at the Scout.
All I can tell you is that the Scout is a fantastic all-round package and nothing short of a revelation – spacious, practical, ruggedly handsome, well-built, safe and and rewarding to drive.