The Skoda Octavia Scout is an Octavia estate that has had a suspension lift and a four-wheel-drive system grafted onto the chassis.
This makes it either a) much, much more useful, or b) much, much less useful, depending on what you need from a car.
Shall we walk through it to see if it might fit into your lifestyle?
A subtle, good-looking car
You can spot a Scout from its standard two-wheel-drive sibling by its rough-duty bodywork cladding and the ride height, which is an inch-and-a-half higher.
I don’t know about you but I reckon it’s a good looking car, with fewer off-road pretentions and styling cues than similar cars from other manufacturers.
It’s subtle, which I like, although that might lose it points on the school run if you live in one of the UK’s larger cities where the full-on conquering-Africa appearance of a 4x4 SUV.
An interior that suits the family
The interior is similarly restrained and all the better for it being well built, carefully designed, and a joy to live with.
No, no one is ever going to get in and start stroking the surfaces but this is a family car with a family car price tag. You can excuse the lack of exotic materials, sit back and enjoy the fact that what's there is easily good enough for the class in which it competes.
It’s commodious too. The rear-seat legroom swallowed our long-legged teenage son with ease, even when he was sitting behind a long-legged motoring journalist.
The boot is enormous and comes with some clever little flourishes that enable you to secure odd-shaped luggage and shopping; they might not help the initial showroom appeal but thoughtfulness on a micro-level makes living with a car so much more pleasant than it would otherwise be.
A car that does what it needs to
The Octavia itself is based on the VW Group’s MQB platform, which means that it is essentially the same as the VW Golf and the SEAT Leon under the skin.
This is a Good Thing, because both are very, very good to drive. The fifth-generation Haldex four-wheel-drive system is utterly unobtrusive in use, diverting drive from the front to the rear seamlessly, as and when it is needed.
I tackled muddy roads and tracks and didn’t notice any wheelspin at all. Of course, it’s not designed to wrestle its way across anything much more challenging but it did what it needed to do, which is all you can ask for really.
My car had the 180bhp turbo-diesel engine, which is a lovely old thing especially when mated to the automatic DSG gearbox.
Overtaking is easy and while the gruffness of the engine is a little more intrusive than I might ideally like, the nature of the noise means that it never becomes irritating. Nor does it detract from the civility of the overall drive: the Scout’s ride is very good and wind and road noise is muted, making this a fine long-distance touring car.
Of course, the bodyroll is a little bit greater than that of the standard Octavia, thanks to the increased ride height. It never becomes an issue but keen drivers will need to offset the increased versatility that the Scout offers against the drawbacks that are inherent with a higher ride and a heavier drivetrain.
I live in the countryside and am frequently either snowed in or surrounded by mud; for me the 10% fuel consumption penalty and slight loss of agility is easily worth paying but urban dwellers might – and probably should – disagree.
Solid value for money
At around £30,000 the Skoda Octavia Scout is solid value for money, especially when you factor in the 10% savings that are routinely being offered - and the fact that the Golf Alltrack, which is essentially the same car, would cost you around £2,500 more.
My car came with a £1,000 sat-nav/Wi-Fi system that I would imagine most could live without but I appreciated the Simply Clever Package comprising a double-sided boot floor, phone holder and waste bin, which was fine value at £85.
A welcome addition
The Winter Pack at £600 would probably receive a tick too; I do like a heated seat and windscreen, and I’d probably appreciate the heated washer nozzles when the thermometer dropped too.
Sadly, you have to pay £100 for a temporary, space-saver wheel and tyre, which galls as they only removed it in the first place to save weight and help them game the fuel efficiency testing cycle…
Should you get a spare wheel or use tyre sealant foam?
But I refuse to be cynical. The Skoda Octavia Scout was a very welcome addition to the family fleet, even if it was just for a week. It did everything we asked of it and did so without once irritating any of us. That’s a rare attribute, and one that you might like to bear in mind if you’re in the market for a medium-sized, all-weather estate.
Power – 180bhp
Torque – 280lb ft
0-62mph – 7.8 seconds
Top speed – 136mph
Kerb weight – 1,497kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 56.5mpg
Honest John real world fuel consumption – 44.2mpg
CO2 emissions – 129g/km
VED class – Band D
Towing capacity (braked) – 1,800kg
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 740kg
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £28,495
Price as tested - £31,415
The Skoda Octavia Scout is a very fine car indeed. It isn’t exciting but, like Jeeves, it just quietly gets on with delivering your family quickly, quietly, economically and, crucially, safely.
The best of the rest
The SEAT Leon X-PERIENCE is, if you can ignore the silly name, brilliant. It is also just about the same car as the Octavia Scout, so play the two dealers off against each other to see who will deliver the better deal.
The Skoda Yeti is boxier and so slightly more versatile thanks to a more usable interior. It is getting on a bit though, although that should be reflected in showroom savings.
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