The idea of a jacked-up station wagon with off-road cred like the Skoda Octavia Scout is nothing new, with the genre made famous by the Subaru 4WD wagons of the 1970s and 80s.
Such models brought a welcome balance of everyday liveability and dirt-road readiness in an era when proper four-wheel drives were still agricultural, truck-based behemoths.
However, Scout-like wagons have largely been superseded by SUV-bodied soft-roaders these days, which ultimately offer more interior space and now deliver acceptable levels of everyday refinement and dynamics.
Models like the Scout generally match the off-road ability of taller SUVs, but their lower bodies promise a dynamic edge.
Subaru may have partly followed this evolution with the Forester and the now-defunct Tribeca SUVs, but the mainstream family-cool Outback has been a constant success since it arrived in 1996.
The recent fifth-generation Outback is arguably the best yet, but the VW Group is currently the greatest bastion of the genre with no less than five wagon-based SUV models, spanning the Audi, Volkswagen and even Skoda brands.
Why a wagon-based SUV then? Models like the new Octavia Scout generally match the ground clearance and off-road ability of most taller SUVs, but their lower bodies promise a dynamic edge for those who enjoy corners.
The new second-generation Octavia Scout also brings a depth of engineering, drivetrain options and sharp pricing that should encourage many to consider the Czech brand.
The new Octavia Scout lineup kicks off a full $7000 cheaper than the model it replaces with the $32,990 110TDI diesel manual, which also undercuts the entry Outback 2.0D by a handy $2500.
The next-in line 132TSI petrol adds an auto transmission and Premium trim level for a still-reasonable $38,590, and the otherwise identical 135TDI diesel tops off the range at $41,390 – which is still $6900 cheaper than the single-spec Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.
All Scouts come with a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, leather steering wheel and 17-inch alloys. The 132TSI and 135TDI Premium models’ touchscreen grows from 5.8-8 inches, adds satnav, leather and Alcantara trim with heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and an automatic tailgate.
The 110TDI can be opted up to the same trim level as the upper two models with the $4400 Premium Pack, while a Tech Pack available on all modes adds lane guidance, automated parking, front parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights and premium Canton audio. The pack also brings adaptive cruise control for the 110TDI and 132TSI, but the radar-guided system is unavailable on the 135TDI, which reduces the price of the package from $3900-$3300.
Helping to curb any concerns with Skoda resale values, the Scout is available with the new Skoda Choice guaranteed future value plan. This offers owners a set resale value at the end of their predetermined ownership period when financed directly through Skoda.
Following on from the previous Scout, the new model continues the Octavia-based formula of adding extra ride height (31mm in this case), taller tyres, all-wheel drive, plus extra unpainted body cladding on the outside and undercarriage to back up its rugged persona.
Both trim levels offer a choice between silver or machined finish 17-inch alloys with no price difference.
The regular Octavia wagon is already considered an excellent choice among the mid-size segment, and rides on a stretched version of the same lightweight, dynamic and safe VW Group MQB platform as the Volkswagen Golf.
Both trim levels feature dark brown faux wood detailing on the inside, which offsets the family-friendly dark plastic surfaces that adorn the rest of the cabin. There are bottle holders in each door, and two cupholders in the centre console and rear armrest.
As with the Octavia, there’s ample room in the back seat, and both outward positions feature ISOFIX child-seat mounts.
The cargo area is another highlight, matching the segment-leading Passat Alltrack with 588 litres of storage with the seats up, and even exceeds the 556-litre Honda CR-V benchmark among mid-size SUVs. The boot area also features a rubber-lined reversible floor, Velcro luggage dividers and four shopping bag hooks.
Beneath the boot floor is a steel spare wheel with a proper road tyre, but is still smaller than the Scout’s other four hoops and therefore carries an 80km/h speed restriction. Note that the Outback comes with a full-size spare.
Engines / Transmissions
The 110TDI diesel, 132TSI petrol and 135TDI diesel 2.0-litre engines are all poached from the existing Octavia lineup. As per VW Group tradition, their names all reflect their maximum power outputs in kilowatts, and maximum toque outputs are 340, 280 and 380Nm respectively.
The 110TDI is available only with a six-speed manual transmission, while the 132TSI and 135TDI are exclusively fitted with a six-speed DSG dual clutch auto. Both diesels carry an impressive combined fuel figure of 5.3L/100km, while the Premium 95RON unleaded-demanding 132TSI manages a still credible 7.1L/100km. The diesels should be able to manage over 1000km on the open road between fills of the 55-litre tank, and all Scouts are also aided by a start/stop system and brake energy-recovering alternators.
All variants are paired with a fifth-generation Haldex all-wheel drive system that automatically directs up to 95 percent of drive to the rear wheels when needed.
Both diesel Scouts carry a maximum braked tow rating of 1800kg, while the 132TSI petrol is limited to 1600kg.
We spent time behind the wheel of all three drivetrains at the Scout’s Australian launch, and all are capable of hustling the circa-1600kg Scout with ease.
The diesels are impressively responsive and quiet in operation, with the 135TDI merely stepping overall performance up a notch or two.
The petrol 132TSI is expected to be the most popular of the trio, accounting for around half of all Scout sales. Backing up this expectation is an even more responsive operation, along with premium levels of refinement. Both diesels can produce max torque from 1750rpm, but are edged by the petrol’s near-idle 1350rpm tractability.
The 132TSI carries the same 7.8-second official 0-100km/h claim as the 135TDI, but for $2800 less and only consuming 1.8L/100km more, it’s the pick of the bunch.
Over the country roads on test, the Scout's extra ride height made no discernible dent in the Octavia’s excellent dynamics, with its taught but well damped independent suspension on all corners working well at all speeds.
The Scout’s setup is particularly impressive over mid-corner bumps at speed, with the front and rear working in harmony to maintain the driver’s chosen line.
This controllability continues onto the dirt, with the stability control leaving a healthy threshold before intervening and a welcome tendency to gently break away at the rear first. Safe, but entertaining at the same time.
Punching the throttle hard out of low-grip corners, the all-wheel drive system intervenes seamlessly and rockets the Octavia in its intended direction.
Modern SUVs are getting closer and closer to regular passenger car dynamics, but the Scout’s lower centre of gravity and seating position help for excellent stability that inspires confidence through corners and under brakes – regardless of surface.
The Scout carries the same standard safety equipment that earns the Octavia a five star ANCAP rating, with dual front, side and full-length curtain plus driver’s knee airbags, fatigue detection, multi-collision braking, among the usual variety of traction and stability aids.