Skoda Octavia Scout First Steer
– Paul Maric
After a bit of a bumpy plane flight into Albury, we arrived to a gorgeous sunny day (quite surprising when you consider the weather we have been having of late!).
Waiting for us at the airport was a fleet of Skoda’s latest model, the Octavia Scout. Based on the Octavia Wagon, the Scout receives a number of enhanced features, including a four-wheel drive system, along with 180mm worth of ground clearance.
From the outside, the Scout gets plastic clad wheel arches, along with full under body protection from the elements. The Scout’s main intention is to go anywhere with the family and their belongings in tow.
It’s a bit of a far fetched statement, but in the grand scheme of things, how many people actually go off-road that often? The Scout offers enough clearance for a bit of bush bashing and enough protection from the odd rock that’s lying about.
It’s certainly not a serious off-roader, but seems to cope well enough with regular and typical conditions we face in Australia.
The cabin’s sturdy design ensures that it will cope with kids and other nasties for some time to come. Rear leg room is quite impressive, even for an adult.
There was some intrusion from the driveline though which ran through the centre of the cabin floor.
The cup holders in the centre console weren’t big enough to fit the regular sized water bottles supplied with the cars for the launch. Seeing as they aren’t typically oversized bottles, we were a bit confused as to what bottles or cups would actually fit inside them.
RNS510 is now also offered across the Skoda range. If you’re not familiar with the system, it’s Volkswagen’s all new multimedia system which uses a hard drive to store navigation data, along with music and video. The touch screen also facilitates an SD card reader, along with a reversing camera (although no launch cars were fitted with one).
The boot’s many anchorage points and cargo blind offer peace of mind, while a 580-litre storage capacity with seats up and 1620-litres with seats down eclipses the competition.
Subaru are the only manufacturer that offers a competing vehicle in this price range. The Octavia Scout sits in between the base model Outback and the luxury version. It out-specs the Subaru both in terms of features, torque, acceleration and luggage carrying capacity.
Our test route from Albury to Mt Buller allowed us to cross a number of roads of varying condition. This included a section of frightening looking mud ruts which had one set of journalists stuck (it wasn’t me either – for a change!).
After attacking the ruts with a bit of speed and vigour, the Scout ploughed through without a worry in the world. Not bad when you consider our road biased tyres.
The twisty road based stretch of the launch drive allowed us to see how versatile the Scout was through a typical country winding road. The steering is accurate and responsive, allowing enough feedback for the average punter.
Body roll is good at the best of times but sometimes catches the car out when changing direction in a hurry. Row through the cogs and the easy going clutch and rather tight gearbox offer no resistance.
The brakes were tough enough for a brisk dash up Mt Buller and offered great feel and impressive stopping power on sealed surfaces.
After passing through Mansfield, we drove up Mt Sterling, which allowed us to try the Scout on a selection of snowed-in roads. Although the road biased tyres were a bit fussy at times, the all-wheel drive system coped well with power delivery and torque.
We lined the Scout up on a section of snow covered grass and tried a number of tests to see how well the all-wheel drive system reacted. Using a Haldex coupling, the system can begin sending torque to the rear axle in a fraction of a second.
Even slight levels of acceleration, which caused the front wheels to slip immediately, brought the rear wheels into attention. The ESP system coped well on the snow, allowing enough slip to get moving, but not enough to start hanging out the rear end.
One point of concern – not only with the Scout – is the ABS calibration. It works well on dried tarmac but on both dirt and snow, the system doesn’t operate dynamically. Jam the brakes on in the snow and the car takes an eternity to come to a stop.
Sure, you’re not meant to use your brakes aggressively in the snow, but you would have thought adequate adjustment would be required to tailor the system for the snow. Likewise with dirt roads, the system doesn’t allow the tyres to dig into the dirt to slow the car up enough.
Powering the Scout is a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre, diesel engine that produces 103kW of power and 320Nm of torque. At this stage, there is only a six-speed manual gearbox on offer, but Skoda is hoping for an automatic version in the future.
The engine’s power delivery is brisk and precise, but it runs out of breath pretty early on. Expect to see combined fuel consumption figures of around 6.1-litres/100km.
Only one grade of the Scout is on offer and priced at $39,990, it slides in to compete with Subaru’s Outback.
Standard features include: dual-zone climate controlled air-conditioning; central locking; power mirrors; power windows; heated seats; heated external mirrors; auto dimming rear vision mirror; rear parking sensors; six-stack CD-player; cruise control; automatic headlights; automatic windscreen wipers and cargo blind.
Standard safety features include: six-airbags (two front, two side, two curtain); Electronic Stability Control (ESP ); ABS brakes with EBD and BA; engine immobiliser and anti-hijack protection.
The Skoda Octavia Scout is an interesting one. It’s versatile enough to go camping, but also practical to tootle around the city. It’s big in room, yet small in size. It wins my vote. Don’t take my word for it though, take one for a test drive, you may be surprised at this frugal all-rounder.