What is it?
My nomination for one half of the ideal two-car garage.
The Skoda Octavia Scout is fundamentally an Octavia estate lifted by 31mm and given some underbody protection and exterior cladding. It’s an SUV-lite, if you will, with all that entails.
What’s it like?
In many ways, not so different from an Octavia estate, unsurprisingly.
There are a few Scout badges dotted around inside, but essentially it’s the same as the regular estate, with all the goodness that brings: lots of room for occupants front and rear and a cavernous boot (flat floor an optional extra). Material choices are good. The driving position and general ergonomics are sound and the cabin feels solidly built.
You can have a Scout with a 148bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine (like this one) and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, or a 181bhp version that comes with a dual-clutch automatic.
Both drive through a Haldex electronic four-wheel drive system that’s usually front-biased and punts power to the rear when you need it.
There’s no petrol option, which is the kind of sensible decision Skoda makes.
If you don’t want to tool around a bit on unmade roads or you don’t need to tow, a regular Octavia is available. If you do want to do those things, you’ll be wanting a larger-capacity diesel, right?
Right. Most of the time, though, the Scout feels like a marginally taller, slightly lazier-responding regular Octavia, which is no bad thing.
It’s a relaxing car to drive, with easy, steady control weights, a slick gearshift and steering that’s smooth and uncorrupted, as long as you switch off the over-sensitive lane departure assist.
The ride is compliant, thanks to the suspension’s extra height and 50-profile rubber on the 17-inch wheels, but handling remains composed and secure.
The latest-generation 4WD system doesn’t necessitate the front wheels completely losing grip before power is diverted rearwards, so traction is strong, even on lock out of junctions from a standing start.
All of which makes the Octavia Scout a more conventionally rewarding steer than most full-size SUVs, in a slightly old-fashioned, loping way. You can make a big SUV keener to drive than this, but usually that involves ruining the ride. The Scout strikes a good compromise.
Elsewhere, noise levels are low, interior refinement high and straight-line stability strong. Although its extra weight over a regular Octavia blunts the performance a little, the Scout feels quite fast enough. It’s the sort of car that’s remarkably easy to recommend.
Should I buy one?
You might well, what with it being so agreeable and all. What the Scout can’t do, of course, is go as far into the rough as a full off-roader, or tow 3500kg, but my bet is that on the right tyres it would go far enough for most buyers, while there’s a 2000kg towing limit on this manual model (200kg less on the auto).
Cars like this remain a niche in a market where the cachet and perceived qualities of a grown-up SUV win through, but truth be told, unless I was desperate for the increased towing limit, this is where I’d rather put my money, and it undercuts most rivals on price too.
Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDI 150 4×4
Price £25,315; 0-62mph 9.1sec; Top speed 129mph; Economy 55.4mpg; CO2 129g/km; Kerb weight 1451kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual
What is it?