Skoda’s Octavia Scouts are sensible touring companions.
Story By Bruce McMahon
The Skoda Octavia Scout is a European wagon with subtle style plus a good deal of substance for Australian highways and byways. It’s an all-wheel-drive wagon with some rough road ability and decent comforts, a rival to the likes of Subaru’s Outback.
While the Skoda brand may not be the best known of the Volkswagen family here in Australia, the Czechoslovakian manufacturer has been in the business of producing motor cars since 1895. It’s now part of the VW Empire that includes Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley – a portfolio loaded with premium machinery.
Yet Skodas today are in essence cut-price Volkswagens. This does not mean the Czech cars are second-rate; rather these vehicles are often designed and built around older VW technologies and without so many bells and whistles.
There are seven Skoda models available here these days, from the compact Fabia to the larger Superb sedan. Among these is the Yeti wagon with an all-wheel-drive option and its big brother, the Octavia Scout.
The 2015 model is a handsome wagon, albeit with a raised ride height – up 31 millimetres to 171mm over a regular Octavia wagon and sporting higher profile tyres for the 17-inch (43cm) alloy wheels plus more rugged-looking bumper bars and skid plates.
It measures almost 4.7 metres long by 1.8m wide and has an elegant road presence. Now with more leg room, shoulder room and headroom than the previous generation wagon, the Scout’s cabin space is outstanding.
There are some hard plastic finishes to the dashboard, but these are countered by the good fit and Euro-style instruments for road speed, engine speed and engine functions. These are complemented by a digital speed readout, most handy these days when touring wagons such as the Scout are so quiet, comfortable and safe at European highway speeds, albeit speeds deemed illegal in most of Australia.
All the Skoda’s controls and instruments are sensible and easy to follow.
The driving position is good – there’s plenty of elbowroom for full-sized adults front and rear.
Down back, the cargo area in particular is quite generous, boasting 588 litres of space with the back seats up and 1718L when the seats are folded. All that’s on top of a full-sized spare wheel and complemented by a big rear tailgate. Here, too, are four foldable hooks for grocery bags and a 12-volt socket.
There are two turbocharged diesel engines on offer in the Scouts – a 110kW four-cylinder version is sold with a six-speed manual from $32,990 and a 135kW diesel comes with a six-speed automatic transmission for $41,390.
Then there’s the middle ground in the 132TSI Scout with its 132kW petrol version for $38,590. This is the more sporting of the Scouts with its turbocharged, 1.8L four-cylinder always eager to find gaps in the traffic or overtake a road train at highway speeds with assuredness and safety.
The Skoda factory claims this model should return a reasonable 7.1L per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. Both diesels are credited with 5.3L per 100km on that cycle.
All the Scouts are more efficient this time around. A lighter chassis and a 1.4-kilogram lighter Haldex four-wheel drive system bring the wagons’ weight down by an impressive 29kg, benefitting both fuel economy and on-road dynamics. All are good driving cars, whether running down a coastal highway or over the broken bitumen of inland routes.
The all-wheel drive system is quick and pretty seamless at distributing drive to the wheels when and where it is needed. The Haldex also features an electronic differential lock when there’s a real fight for traction on the track. There is no low range, but the Skoda could surprise some with its ability in rough off-road conditions.
All this is backed by the usual array of traction and stability controls plus a well-sorted suspension. The Scout is a pleasure to drive, especially when the weather closes in and the road ahead turns to rubble.
These 2015 Skoda Octavia Scouts are comfortable, safe and very competent touring wagons for all manner of roads. They would handle, for instance, the Birdsville Track.
The only question is the availability of service and spares in more remote districts.
Skoda Octavia Scouts are priced from $32,990. For more information phone 1800 607 540 or go to www.skoda.com.au.
This story excerpt is from Issue #105
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2016