The Skoda Octavia Scout 4x4 is an often overlooked player in the crossover wagon segment. Does it have enough value and capability to earn its merit badge?
It’s the motto held by Robert Baden-Powell’s Scout movement for over 100 years. Fitting too that it works well with the go-places nature of the 2016 Skoda Octavia Scout 4x4 wagon.
The Scout too, is a proper crossover. All the size and friendliness of the wagon with the capability and rugged looks of an SUV. It’s not a new trick (as 20-years of Subaru Outback have shown us) but it’s still an underrated one.
The green badge itself isn’t entirely to blame. Skoda, while making solid inroads into the Australian market (sales are up over 25 per cent this year alone), are still considered to be a challenger brand, if they are being considered at all.
It’s not like a Scout to be lost in the wilderness, but we are always met with surprise when noting that the Octavia Scout has been on sale in Australia since 2008, the current generation since 2014.
Buyers in this segment naturally gravitate to the Subaru Outback, which outsells the Scout by a factor of 27-to-1. Leave the Subaru off the table though, and the Scout does hold its own against other crossover wagons like the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack and Volvo XC70.
It’s perhaps a bit conservative in its design, but generally the Octavia Scout is a smart looking thing.
The crossover trademarks of rugged features and black cladding are there. Slimline roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels hint at an adventurous lifestyle, even the seven-colour palette is diverse enough to suit most tastes. Our test car was in Quartz Grey Metallic ($500 option).
It’s a car that really deserves more awareness, with rationale being able to be summed up in one word. Value.
The mid-spec 132 TSI Premium starts from $38,590. That’s $3,000 less than the Subaru, plus the Scout brings with it a little dab of European exclusivity as well as similar levels of standard equipment.
Working from the power-operated boot forward, the Scout offers a generous 588-litre capacity that expands to 1718-litres when the seats are folded. There’s also a clever two-sided mat that can sit rubber-side up to help protect against wet clobber.
There are storage hooks, a ski-port, clever cubbies, even some Velcro barriers that can stick to the carpet side of the mat to help keep loads secured.
Even the cargo-blind can be flicked open quickly with one hand.
The rear seats have impressive head room and decent leg room, on the outer spots. The centre seat is quite thin however and with the raised transmission tunnel on the floor, makes the Scout a four-up maximum proposition for long trips with adults.
The bench itself is a bit flat but the materials are comfortable and there are air vents, map pockets, storage bins and cup holders in the centre armrest.
Up front, the leather and Alcantara seats are supportive and comfortable. The seats are heated but manually adjustable.
Being a higher-riding wagon, your outward visibility is good and you remain aware of the extremities of the car at all times. In typical VW-group form, the layout is clean and ergonomic, with many components familiar from other Volkswagen and Audi vehicles.
Baden-Powell himself would be impressed by the list of standard equipment on the Scout.
There’s an eight-inch colour LCD touchscreen with navigation (the newest cars even feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality), dual-zone climate control, nine airbags, reverse camera and rear parking sensors, even a collision-detection braking system that will automatically stop the car following an impact, reducing the risk that the vehicle may roll into oncoming traffic.
Our test car was fitted with the $3,900 Tech pack, which increases the equipment list to borderline top-spec prestige car levels.
The pack includes keyless entry and start, bi-Xenon headlamps and LED running lights, automatic parking, adaptive cruise control with lane-departure assistant and autonomous emergency braking.
This is all on top of typical ‘clever’ Skoda goodies like the GPRS mobile antenna in the phone tray and a device caddy that fits in the cup-holder.
It’s all well put together, even the touch screen software is as fast and responsive as the best on the market.
Before you you go anywhere at least, the 2016 Skoda Scout is holding true to that tested Scout motto.
The 132 TSI is the only petrol model in the three-car Scout lineup.
Powered by the familiar Volkswagen 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 132kW of power and 280Nm of torque, while mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Scout is a predictable performer.
It’s predictably smooth on the move, predictably punchy in the mid-range and predictably efficient when cruising.
The predication extends to the negative however, where the 132 TSI is a tad thirstier in real-world urban driving than it should be (we saw over 10 litres per 100km against Skoda’s claim of 8.2 litres per 100km) and where the combination of the DSG and start-stop system is predictably awful.
For starters the start-stop is quite aggressive, taking every opportunity to switch the engine off, particularly in heavy urban traffic. Getting things moving again though, is where the Scout wont be earning a merit badge.
The delay from ‘I want to go now’ to ‘OK we’re moving’ can be measured in seconds. When timing is key, turning right at a T-intersection for example, those seconds can place oncoming traffic within an ‘unsafe’ window and you are forced to jump on the brake, which turns the engine off… and the cycle begins again.
The way to drive the Scout then becomes a preemptive state, you inch forward ahead of when you think you’ll need to so that the car is prepared for action.
You can use the Drive Mode selection (included with the Tech Pack) to switch the car to Sport mode, which then disables the start-stop function and improves the inherent readiness of the Scout, but it tends to hold gears for too long and as such isn’t suited to slower urban driving.
Turning the start-stop system off minimises all this behaviour of course, but you have to do that every time you start the car.
We found we became more used to this over time with the Skoda, but it never became second nature. It’s the sort of thing that could likely be improved with software though, so hopefully Skoda address this in service updates.
It’s a shame as the rest of the driving experience with the Scout is very enjoyable.
The DSG handles gear changes on the move with seamless precision. The power band is wide enough to give the Scout enough pep in most situations and it’s particularly quiet and comfy at cruise on the highway.
The ride is helped by the slightly more compliant Scout suspension, which worked well over the mixed quality Melbourne roads. There’s not quite enough travel for hardcore off-road adventuring but unsealed roads and other minor excursions to your local Jamboree are more than achievable in the Scout.
The 2016 Skoda Scout has a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing of $358 for the first 15,000km visit. Service visits go up in price each interval and equate to $1,465 in total for a three-year ownership period ($488.33 per annum average). Strangely the new 2016 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack (which has the same 132kW engine as the Skoda) will cost $1,605 due to the noted requirement of additional filters within the three-year service window. A Subaru Outback 25i over the same period will cost $2,202.11.
Subaru’s continual success with the Outback shows there is demand for the crossover wagon. They really are a ‘best of both worlds’ solution, even if not quite as high-street trendy as a pure SUV.
The 2016 Skoda Octavia Scout provides a solid alternative to the Subaru, maintaining capability and value but throwing in a bit of Euro-chic into the whole equation.
If you can learn to live with the off-the-line delay and quite like the idea of something a bit different and clever at the same time, then the Skoda is worth a look.
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