I have in the past sung the praises of Skoda cars and with good reason. They are competitively priced, well made and always surprisingly commodious. The Octavia featured today is no different and is, in my opinion, just about the best all-rounder on the market regardless of price bracket.
The version here is the Scout. Now this is a name which conjures up visions of exploration and wilderness but the Scout is no serious off-roader, it’s simply a chunky full-fat version of the regular Octavia 4×4 and it is not much of a stretch to think that most buyers may well ask themselves why they should fork out an extra couple of thousand pounds for this beefed up model.Scout gets the automatic Haldex clutch system also found on the Octavia 4×4 estate. It’s mated to a 2.0L 150PS (148bhp / 236lb/ft torque) diesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox with well-spaced ratios that suit the car’s performance. Given personal preference my choice would be to go for the extra grunt of the 184PS 2.0L diesel which also comes with a DSG ‘box; but the less powerful motor still provides more than adequate performance on the road, reaching 62mph in just 9.1 seconds. Not bad.There’s a choice of modes to suit the purpose. Normal and Eco do as you would expect whilst Sport adapts the engine and steering to suit the ‘sporty driving style’. It suited me best in sport, yet on a very long trip on mixed roads with no attempt on my part to be in any way eco-minded, the Skoda Octavia Scout achieved a highly creditable 48.5mpg. Skoda’s official ‘combined’ figure for this car is 55.4mpg which I reckon with a bit of care is achievable.As mentioned, the Scout is practical, comfortable and versatile. The boot is immense and comes with a carpet lining that can be flipped to reveal a rubber surface for muddy boots, muddy dogs and the like. Our car had the optional space-saver spare tucked away beneath. With 17” alloys and a tyre profile suited to mixed surfaces, including a muddy field, the ride remains relaxing and comfy.The Scout’s modified suspension raises both the ride height and ground clearance over the standard version, and there’s some ‘off-road’ body additions that pump the car up a bit. This doesn’t make the car a mud-plugger but it would easily handle muddy camp-sites and the occasional farm track, for instance. My only problem with the test car was its brown-ness, or Topaz Brown metallic as Skoda call it. I do not like brown on any car but fortunately there’s a good selection of alternative hues available, all of them better, imho. A couple of lady passengers though it was fine and questioned my taste – not for the first time incidentally.Inside, the brown-ness continues with a brown/black colour scheme that is frankly a bit dull. Again though, there are choices. The cabin is restrained and unexciting, but it is well designed. Our vehicle had all the mod-cons including Bluetooth, Aux, USB, climate, cruise and so on with a old-school CD player tucked away in the glove box. Trim, layout and finish is good especially for the money. Seats are excellent, the dashboard clear and easy to use with lots of info available amongst the trip computer settings. The steering wheel is comfortable with some controls at your fingertips. I like the little touches; a chunky handle on the front passenger dash to hang on to when the terrain gets gnarly. There’s also a ticket holder on the windscreen, something that all cars should have as standard. Mind you, I’m easily pleased.The Skoda Octavia Scout is a very good car indeed. Out on the road it is a good driver. Our model had the optional ‘Lane-Assist’ which nudges the steering wheel if you change lanes without indicating because the car thinks you’re wandering. It’s a good safety feature that most people will appreciate.
As previously mentioned, I think you would only buy this more expensive version over the normal 4×4 Octavia Estate if you saw the need for a slightly higher ride and the ‘rough road package’ that adds underbody protection, model-specific front and rear bumpers and a two-mode ESC system that allows for improved driver control. If that floats your boat then I highly recommend this car as the perfect all-rounder for family and business use.Geoff Maxted