Review

Skoda Octavia Scout – Road test + Video

A man named Baden-Powel founded the Scout Movement over 100 years ago to support the development of young people with a strong focus on the outdoors and survival skills. This Skoda Octavia estate is also geared towards an outdoor lifestyle and guess what? It's called the Scout.

Skoda is one of a number of carmakers that spotted a 'quick-win' opportunity to grab a slice of the burgeoning SUV market by turning their estate cars into soft-roaders, adding rugged styling, increased ground clearance and four wheel drive. Volkswagen has its All-Track, Volvo its Cross Country, Audi its Allroad, etc, etc.  

We all know that Scouts are keen on their badges and this one is no exception. The Scout name appears on the grille, the tailgate, the sills, the seats, the gearknob, the steering wheel and even on the touchscreen - so there's little chance of you or anybody else forgetting which version of the Octavia you're driving. 

But there are a number of other Scout-specific elements that mark this car out including uniquely styled bumpers, sills and wheelarches, a Rough Road package with engine guard and underbody stone guard, 17" Polar alloy wheels, front fog lights and silver door mirrors.

I would describe it as handsome rather than beautiful. The basic Octavia's design is well-resolved and its chiselled features are enhanced by the rugged Scout-only addenda.

The interior has the typically 'junior VW' feel that you get in most Skodas - it's smart and functional, but generally finished in ever so slightly inferior materials. The clear exceptions, however, are the lovely Alcantara and leather upholstery and the elegant, shiny grey trim which features on the doors, centre console and steering wheel.

On the technology front, there's a touchscreen satnav, trip computer, cruise control and lane assist fitted as standard, but among £3,500 of optional extras, our test car also has the wifi hotspot, parking sensors and Bi-Xenon headlights with the brilliant Adaptive Frontlight System (AFS) which automatically adjusts your beams for driving on the Continent.

With seating for five, there's plenty of room to stretch out both up front and in the rear and bootspace is generous too, at 610 litres, rising to 1740 with the rear seats folded - more than enough to ensure jealous stares from your rivals at the local car boot sale!

A nice practical touch is the selection of pull-down hooks, designed to prevent your carrier bags from spilling the entire contents of your weekly shop during your short drive home.

The torquey 150hp 2-litre Diesel engine fitted to our test car has all the pulling power you need to cart you, your family and a boot crammed full of luggage off on a continental road trip. I know, because that's what I did!

The Scout performed ably over an extended test period across a variety of surfaces including carpet-smooth autoroutes, steeply snaking Alpine passes, poorly-maintained mountain B-roads and even little-used, rural tracks. In fact, it didn't put a foot wrong.

Given its high-riding stance, you might expect the Scout's ride to be a bit 'wallowy' - but it's actually very composed. It's neat and tidy around the corners and generally a relaxing car to drive. The steering, gear change and clutch are light, but the brake pedal is a bit on the heavy side for me - and could use a little more servo.

When the going gets especially tough, there's an off-road mode that will get you out of trouble in most situations, but it is worth remembering that you're driving an estate with extra capabilities as opposed to a purpose-built 4x4 so it's best not to be too hung-ho!

0-62mph is despatched in just over 9s with a maximum speed of 129mph but if that's not quite enough for you then you could go for the 184hp version which also comes with the sequential automatic gearbox.

For a car of this size fitted with permanent 4 wheel drive, I'm impressed with the official CO2 emissions of 125 g/km and combined fuel consumption of almost 59mpg and I was pleased to see an indicated average in the high forties over the course of 3,000 miles or so of intense activity.

There are more than half a million Scouts in the UK. Not the Skodas, no, the other kind, but there's no reason why this car shouldn't be just as popular.

The Scout motto is 'Be prepared' and this Skoda is ready for just about anything. It's practical, extremely versatile and good to drive, with very reasonable running costs to boot. It certainly seems to have earned its badges. I think Arkela would definitely approve.