Skoda have a certainly coma a long way since the dark old days when they were the butt of a lot of jokes. The brands steady resurgence since its 1991 acquisition by Volkswagen has been impressive and while there are probably still quite a few people who would never consider buying into the brand it may be time for these people to reconsider. I was about to write that they don’t make a bad car anymore but of course there is still the “Roomster” sitting in its line-up, which is clearly a truly hideous blot on the landscape (and number 2 in the MTI Ugly Top 10). But what of the new “Scout” an off-road version of the Octavia? Is it a winner or a roomster? We sent “Serman” out to test drive the new Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDi
What is it?
This is the facelift Scout, an off-road variant of the quite fantastic Octavia estate. Think Audi A4 Allroad but without the badge status baggage and nine-grand difference with the OTR. This, the 2009 model has received new tailored headlights, grille and wheels giving it a very handsome appearance than most of its more expensive rivals, whilst inside the main instrument binnacle has been completely overhauled with fresh, smooth lines and extremely upmarket dials and switches. From the outside the new Scout looks very appealing indeed, and if the standard Octavia is anything to go by, there’s a high expectation in waiting.
What’s it like to drive?
First up is the VW shared 2.0-litre 138bhp turbo diesel which is a fantastic performer. It has strong torque throughout the rev range which equates to great, low down pulling power. It certainly feels much quicker than the performance figures suggest (0-62mph 10.2 seconds) despite having to haul 1510 kg’s. The Scout’s motor is a very capable, flexible and fast diesel but relaxed and frugal when you want it to be with an impressive 50-plus mpg on a gentle motorway cruise. Mated to the fabulous six speed gearbox it feels very easy to navigate as you throw it through the gears and has a fabulous, direct feel.
Despite having a slightly higher ride height than the standard Octavia, its on-road ability hasn’t been compromised. Compare the two and the Scout has a tad more lean through the corners but still feels extremely tidy and neat but has a hint of stiffness in the chassis giving it a positive and somewhat pleasurable stature on the road. Comfort level are high thanks to the 17-inch alloys wrapped in thicker profile tyres and more forgiving suspension set up yet the overall ride is relaxed and very comfortable. But the Scout is a two-sided car. The chunky bodywork add-ons aren’t just there for aesthetic reasons. The Scout is a capable, and I use the word carefully, off roader. On the press day Skoda had a relatively tough off road course set up where the Scout easily managed high degree hill climbs and later on in the day uneven, very steep and slippery dips into muddy water pools. It also managed to attack high banked manoeuvres with ease. I was deeply impressed and sometimes forgot that it wasn’t a Land Rover. I have no doubt that the Scout can manage on its own even if it was put into an awkward off road situation.
Because it’s based on the brilliant Octavia, the Scout also boasts great interior comfort and space. The boot is huge and can swallow more luggage than most other estates. Although its designed to be rough and ready, it would still suit a large family or those who tow a horsebox and have to negotiate muddy fields during winter competitions. Whether you decide to stay on road or tackle a rough dirt track, you can’t help but be impressed with its mixed capabilities and it can certainly gives the Land Rover Discovery an unnerving run for what it’s worth.
Should I spend my money and buy one?
There are plenty of estates to choose from out there, but the Scout is a capable alternative and I wouldn’t hesitate ordering one tomorrow. As a rugged, towing car and not forgetting very suitable family car that is barely compromised in everyday on-road use, the Octavia Scout is an impressive, endearing and great value estate car (£20,530). If you haven’t tried a Skoda before and are in the market, make sure you put a Scout on your list. I promise you’ll be deeply surprised on just how good it is and it will certainly make you consider just how overly rated other similar cars are.