Be prepared! Skoda’s Octavia Scout was treated to a bit of a brush up earlier this year, Ian Robertson tests the facelifted soft-roader
The Scout movement has long used the motto ‘Be Prepared’, and this same slogan is quite apt for Skoda’s soft-terrain version of the Octavia – the Scout. Designed as a more accessible alternative to Audi’s A4 Allroad and Volvo’s XC70, Skoda has beefed up its Octavia Estate, adding chunkier bumpers, a raised ride height and four-wheel drive featuring a fourth generation Haldex clutch system. And rather than becoming an outright, hardcore off-roader like Land Rover’s Freelander 2, the Scout offers a package that can tackle all the adverse weather conditions that the British Isles can throw at it, and then some, in an affordable package. It’s a sensible decision, bearing in mind that few 4x4s actually tackle anything more strenuous than snow in the winter, or a muddy country lane. In any case, Skoda has its newly launched Yeti for that corner of the market.
When the Czech firm unveiled its facelifted Octavia range at last year’s Paris motor show, the vRS and Scout models remained unchanged. It wasn’t until earlier this year that the pair adopted similar changes to the rest of the range. This translates into a new front grille, a fresh headlamp design and tweaks to the interior, bringing the Octavia in line with the newer Superb and Yeti models in the range. And the improvements are welcome, though there wasn’t much wrong with the inside previously. The newly designed steering wheel is pleasantly chunky, while changes to the centre console have tidied things up nicely. The alcantara seats fitted to our test car are a £1,400 option, offering a plush and comfortable feel with lots of support – and there’s plenty of adjustment, too. The dashboard is neatly designed with soft-touch plastics and a durable, quality feel throughout. What hasn’t changed in the Octavia is the choice of powerplant – the Volkswagen Group’s familiar 2.0-litre pumpe düse unit, developing 138bhp.
While the majority of new cars launched by the Group over the past year have received the new 2.0-litre common-rail unit, Skoda must soldier on with the older engine until mid-way through next year, when the PD engines will be replaced. This will be a welcome change, as the commonrail units are considerably more refined and definitely quieter.
Out on the road, the Scout has plenty of punch, especially mid-range, thanks to six well-spaced ratios, with a smooth and positive gear change. The suspension is pliant, with good levels of comfort, while handling is tidy and grip strong. If there is any criticism to be made, it would be on the levels of steering feel, which could be better.
With 44.1mpg possible on the combined cycle, the four-wheel drive system blunts efficiency by around 15 per cent compared to the front-wheel drive version. This translates into a 28g/km deficit in CO2 emissions, resulting in a £50 road tax bill hike over and above the front-wheel drive model, so it’s worth considering whether you’ll actually need the off-road ability when buying.
RIVALS: Audi A4 Allroad 2.0 TDI quattro, Subaru Legacy Tourer 2.0DS
- Engine: 1968cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel with particulate filter
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 138bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 236lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,600kg
- Max speed: 122mph
- 0-62mph: 10.2secs
- Combined Consumption: 44.1mpg
- CO 2 Emissions (taxband): 173g/km (H)
- Bootspace: 580/1,620litres
- Insurance group: 10
Well priced, extra ability in the rough-stuff, generous boot space, good to drive, quality feel
Steering needs more feel, refinement and engine noise could be better, no steering wheel audio controls