Oh dear. Everyone’s buying SUVs and crossovers these days, and the last thing you want is to look like some kind of follow-the-leader copycat. But you actually need a car with a little more ground clearance and the reassurance of four-wheel drive, because the country roads round your way can get treacherous when the winter weather turns nasty. This Skoda Octavia Scout could be just the ticket.
Part of a growing sector of jacked-up estate cars, the second-generation Octavia Scout combines Skoda’s no-nonsense build quality and value with a 33mm increase in ride height and a fifth-generation Haldex 4x4 system – the most sophisticated ever fitted to a Skoda.
Ooh, sophisticated. What else is different about the Skoda Octavia Scout?
Since a bit of extra wheelarch gap probably isn’t going to score you many points in the pony club car park, Skoda has helpfully kitted out the Scout with chunky black bumpers – complete with silver off-roader style accents – and fitted black cladding all along the sides. There’s also what the firm calls a ‘Rough Road’ package, which is to say additional protection for the underside, as standard.
The bumpers also serve the useful purpose of increasing the off-road approach and departure angles; it’s hardly going to chase a Defender across the countryside, but all this should help it clear rutted tracks and particularly high kerbs with a degree of impunity. And at least the Octavia’s occupants aren’t likely to arrive deaf and knackered – this remains a very easy car to drive.
Go on then, how does the Octavia Scout handle?
From a range of just two 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesels, we’ve tested the top dog 181bhp variant, which comes with a six-speed DSG transmission as standard (the 148bhp alternative gets a six-speed manual instead). This isn’t the most refined of engines in this application, but it revs out cleanly enough for a diesel, and with 280lb ft of torque 1750-3000rpm punches away from roundabouts with enough conviction to keep the four-wheel drive system awake when the weather’s grisly.
As long as you don’t mind managing a touch of extra body roll – there’s the downside of that raised suspension – the Scout is a comfortable way to quickly cover long distances. In fact, it moves faster than you’d probably expect, and with the automatic gearbox and the automatic four-wheel drive you can point and squirt with very little forethought. Heaven knows, you might even come to enjoy it.
There’s not a great deal of feel – and what there is comes through the ol’ seat of the pants rather than the steering. But once you deactivate the optional lane keep assist system it remains precise and predictable; with the lane assist on you get a strange sticky sensation around the straight ahead on occasions, as if the car’s assessment of the road ahead isn’t quite in sync with your own. It’s disconcerting, but at least there is an off button.
So far so practical. Any excitement on the inside?
They've tried. Skoda’s familiar black hole interior design ethos gets some brushed metal accents for added thrills, and a smattering of Scout badges, just in case you’ve forgotten what you’re driving. Build quality is excellent, the controls are all easy to manipulate, and you quickly feel very much at home.
However, the fancy looking leather and Alcantara seats seem a strange choice for such a functional vehicle – the leather’s ok, but Alcantara is hardly wipe clean now, is it? Still, the Skoda claims the Octavia boasts the greatest amount of passenger space in its class, including a generous back seat and boot space that expands from 610 to 1740 litres. Handy for accommodating all those outdoorsy lifestyle shenanigans.
It’s also good to know that the new Octavia Scout is 20% more efficient than the previous version. In the case of the 181bhp variant, that means 55.4mpg, 134g/km CO2 and annual tax of £130 at present levels. Being a Skoda there are also all sorts of useful touches, such as tie-down options in the rear and an ice-scraper lurking under the petrol filler flap.
It rides well, can be massively accommodating and has more character than your average Skoda – so if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous than a conventional estate, the Octavia Scout could prove the perfect all-rounder. At nearly £28k for this 181bhp version isn’t cheap, but you are getting a thoughtful and well-engineered package for your money.
Those of a less excitable disposition might also note that the 4x4 system is available on Elegance and L&K variants of the Octavia Estate without the Scout’s lifestyle bells and whistles. But you will have to make do with the 148bhp engine. Go on, live a little.