Skoda Octavia Scout: sounds a bit Dib Dib Dib?
It’s Skoda’s way of describing mildly tweaked ‘off-road’ versions of its cars. With this model, it’s taken the Octavia 4x4 estate and made it longer, wider and higher by raising the ride height and adding extra body kit. The result actually looks quite sensible. Lifting a car by four centimetres might not sound much, but it gives the rather bland Octavia a darn sight more presence on the road. And those chunky plastic body mouldings that run from front to back help, too.
What else have they done to it?
It’s got foglamps and silver-coloured skid plates to protect the underside from any errant kerbs around town. Inside, it’s like being in a top-of-the-range Octavia and then some. There’s a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather around the gearlever gaiter, too. There’s plenty of other kit such as automatic headlamps and windscreen wipers. And there’s a chunky grab handle in front of the passenger which, bearing in mind the car’s modest abilities off-road, may be taking the rugged 4x4 theme a bit too far.
Can it really go off-road?
To an extent, yes. It’ll probably do about as much in the rough as most people will ever need. But let’s face it, you’re never going to climb mountains in the Octavia Scout. But that raised ride height and four-wheel-drive will help you down the ruts of a muddy lane without getting stuck. Like the four-wheel drive Octavia Combi, the Scout uses a Haldex multi-plate clutch to transmit drive to the rear wheels only when it’s needed. We drove it round a bumpy and hilly snow field at a ski resort and it coped admirably.
But is it any good on the road?
On-road ability has had to be compromised in the transformation to off-roader. To counter the extra roll induced by raising the body from its wheels, Skoda has firmed up the suspension. This means lumps and bumps in the road unsettle the cabin more than in the standard car. You get extra wind noise at speed, too, courtesy of that lofty stance. Of course, air suspension would sort these niggles out but then it would become an Audi Allroad and cost about £15 grand more.
Presumably all the mods have added weight. Are the engines any pokier?
No. Scout buyers have a choice of just two engines. Both are 2.0 litres: one the VW stable’s FSI petrol, the other the 138bhp turbodiesel. We drove the petrol-powered model. The engine’s sound won’t get the heart racing and its performance is nothing more than adequate, but it’s well matched with the six-speed manual gearbox. The turbodiesel with its 236lb/ft of torque at just 1750rpm would be the preferred unit for anyone planning to use the Scout off-road.
Any other Scout versions planned?
Skoda will build a Roomster Scout, although without four-wheel drive it already seems like a bit of a waste of time. Don’t be surprised if we see a Fabia Scout in the months to come as well. Again, it won’t be all-wheel drive but marketing people seem to think people want to buy cars that look like 4x4s though have none of their talents.
You can view the Octavia Scout in two ways. You’ll either see it as a compromise too far; a motor that in attempting to open another niche actually makes the Octavia a worse car to drive. Alternatively, if you need a motor to do some off-roading but don’t want to be lumbering around town struggling to park an SUV in tight spaces it could make perfect sense. It is after all easier to drive and more nimble than any soft-roader around. One thing’s certain. For drivers who only want an off-roader for the kudos and illusion of extra security that sitting up high brings, the Scout is too car-like to satisfy.