The Skoda Octavia Scout is aimed at families who want occasional off-road ability and lots of practicality, but don't want to commit to the size and expense of a proper SUV.
To help it achieve those aims, every version of the Scout comes fitted with four-wheel drive, protective body panels underneath, and an increased ride height (it is 33mm higher than the standard car) to help it cope better with demanding, rough or slippery terrain. There is an electronic differential lock too, which can brake one of the wheels if it starts to slip, sending power to the other side until it can wriggle free.
Buyers can choose between two diesel engines. Both are 2.0-litre units, with either 148bhp or 181bhp. The low-powered version is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the higher-powered model comes with a DSG dual-clutch automatic 'box.
What’s the 2014 Skoda Octavia Scout like to drive?
The extra equipment, taller ride and four-wheel drive system in the Scout don't drastically alter the way the Octavia drives, which is a good thing, because the standard 4x4 estate is a very fine thing.
It does, however, mean it's notably heavier than the standard Octavia, which does have a knock-on effect on performance. It's most obvious in the less-powerful version, which is half a second slower covering the 0-62mph sprint than its 2WD equivalent.
However, despite this drop in pace, both engines still feel strong, and are flexible enough in-gear to pull the Octavia Scout briskly along, even from low revs. The high-powered Scout actually feels pretty rapid, because it shares the same engine as the potent vRS diesel hot hatch. It also promises to be a highly capable tow car, with a maximum towing weight of up to 2000kg on both versions.
Otherwise, it's much the same as other Octavias, which means a settled and comfortable ride. In fact, it's even better than the rest of the Octavia range, because the increased ride height makes the Scout even more adept at smoothing over imperfections, ironing out both small bumps and larger crests with ease.
Fortunately, body control has not suffered too much as a result, with very little body lean to speak of, even in high-speed corners or around tight turns. We briefly tried the Scout on a small off-road course. While it handled our pre-arranged circuit with ease, it does without hill hold or descent control, both features that makes the Yeti such a talented mud-plugger when the going does start to get tough.
The diesel engines are both a little intrusive when accelerating, but settle down nicely once you're up to a cruising speed. At this point a fair bit of wind noise does find its way into the cabin, but its better than most SUVs in this regard, while road noise is kept well within acceptable limits.
What is the 2014 Skoda Octavia Scout like inside?
There might be plenty of signs on the outside that this is the more adventurous 'off-road' version of the Octavia Estate, but there is very little inside the cabin that does the same. Apart from a few small 'Scout' logos on the seats, gearlever and steering wheel, it's no different to any other Octavia Estate.
That means plenty of high-quality materials, a simple, clearly labelled dash design and lots of space. The Scout comes with a choice of black or brown leather and Alcantara covering the seats as standard.
It has the same generous boot space as the standard estate. That means 610 litres with the rear seats in place, and 1740 with them folded flat, an operation that can be performed with a pair of handily placed levers in the boot. The front passenger seat also folds down, so you cancarry long, tricky items too.
That makes it larger inside than other all-wheel-drive rivals, such as the Mazda CX-5 and the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer, and more traditional estates such as the Ford Mondeo, and Volkswagen Passat. There are neat touches such as a reversible boot floor, with a wipe-clean side that's perfect for carrying pets.
Passenger space is generous as well, with a vast amount of head and legroom, whether you're sat in the front or the back. However the transmission tunnel does slightly impede footroom for those in the back.
There's just one trim level, which is based on SE specification but adds in several extra goodies. That means you get dual-zone air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, touch-screen sat-nav, a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and lane-keep assist. As well as the exterior cladding, 4x4 system and the increased ride height, the Scout also gets 17-inch alloy wheels.
Should I buy one?
With prices starting at £25,315 for the 148bhp 2.0-litre manual, and going up to £27,990 for the more powerful model with the DSG, the Scout is close to the very top of the Octavia's range. If you don't want the extra ground clearance and body protection, then the 4x4 Octavia can be had for £2450 less.
The standard 4x4 model also emits less CO2, and is slightly quicker, but the increase in standard kit, improved off-road ability and extra comfort from the retuned suspension will be enough to sway some buyers into choosing this higher-end Scout model.
Despite its high price, it still compares well with similiar rivals, as it's a lot cheaper than both the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer and rugged Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, and is much cleaner when it comes to CO2, so will be much cheaper to run as a company car than these rivals too.
What Car? says…
2.0 TDI 150 manual
2.0 TDI 184 DSG auto