Scout about for alternative 4x4

Want a chunky 4x4 estate? Check out the Skoda Octavia Scout, says STEVE WALKER.If you're having trouble deciding between an estate car and a 4x4 for your next family vehicle, Skoda's Octavia Scout could be manna from heaven or a family-sized fly in the ointment.

Want a chunky 4x4 estate? Check out the Skoda Octavia Scout, says STEVE WALKER.

If you're having trouble deciding between an estate car and a 4x4 for your next family vehicle, Skoda's Octavia Scout could be manna from heaven or a family-sized fly in the ointment. It depends on your point of view.

Mixing and matching the sensible qualities of the good old-fashioned estate car with elements of compact 4x4 design, this Octavia at once brings yet another layer of choice to baffled buyers and represents a handy compromise for the undecided. That's the concept anyway. How does it shape up in reality?


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What you get

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Unlike some of its rivals (but just like the ordinary Octavia 4x4), the Skoda Octavia Scout features a permanently available all-wheel drive system. This doesn't mean that the car runs in all-wheel drive mode all of the time, merely that its functioning is completely transparent. You don't need to press any buttons or manhandle any levers inside the car to switch to four driven wheels. In normal operating conditions, 100pc of the drive is directed to the front pair of wheels but as soon as the Haldex coupling system detects any slipping, a proportion of drive is shared with the rear wheels to offer improved grip. Full integration with the traction and braking systems mean there's no tiresome loading of the steering that many 4x4 vehicles suffer from during parking.

The generation of the Octavia estate that the Scout is based upon is a good deal bigger on the inside than the previous one. There's a huge 1,620 litres of space available and even with the seats in place, there's 580 litres. The interior also benefits from a jumbo box under the front armrest and upholstery exclusive to this model. There's even a passenger hand grip on the dashboard to help brace yourself when tackling steep descents.

What you pay

Scout versions of the Octavia estate were about �1,000 more than the standard 4x4 models when new and hold their value a little better. Prices start at about �9,500 for a 56-plater with the 2.0 FSI engine. The last of the 2.0 FSI models before the 1.8 TSI took over will be about �14,000 on an 09-plate. If looking at early cars, the 2.0 TDI engine is a better bet than the petrol. These kick off at �11,800 on 56 plates and rise to �17,000 of the last of the 09-plate pre-facelift models.

On the road

The 2.0-litre TDI 140 is the pick of the Scout bunch. With 320Nm of torque, the 2.0 litre TDI surges through 62mph in just under 10 seconds and a combined fuel economy around 42mpg isn't bad.

The 1.8-litre TSI petrol engine is another good one, using and a turbo to achieve its smooth free-revving performance. The full 250Nm maximum torque is available from 1,500rpm to 4,200rpm so between those engine speeds, a flex of the throttle brings instant results with very little trace of lag. The 0-62mph sprint takes 8.2 seconds.

The Octavia comes across as a very straightforward car to drive.

What to look for

Ask a Skoda dealer what goes wrong with Octavias and you're likely to have a short conversation. In the words of one dealer, Octavias are 'bulletproof'. Certainly, they're every bit as well put together as a Volkswagen Polo or a Golf - a fact confirmed by VW Group in-house surveys. Still, check for wear to load floors and make sure that servicing has been properly carried out. The average Octavia Scout won't have been driven with any vigour off-road so look out for the telltale scratches and scrapes and negotiate the price down if you find any.

Overall

A cross between a compact 4x4 and an estate, the Skoda Octavia Scout will be a good option for buyers who either like the standard Octavia but want something a bit more visually exciting or who occasionally need to undertake light off-road driving. Like the standard Octavia estate, the Scout is solidly built and very practical with a lot of thought having gone into adding value to the roomy load bay. The Scout's modifications do impact on the driving experience but not as much as you might imagine and the car is comfortable and reasonably responsive to drive.

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