► Rugged Octavia Scout tested
► Suite of subtle 2017 upgrades
► Still a diesel-only line-up in UK
What to do if you need some genuine off-road ability from a car but you’re one of about 10 people who is actively avoiding buying a crossover or SUV?
There’s a limited choice of proper off-roaders that aren’t covered in chrome, or you can go for a jacked-up estate car – like the recently facelifted Skoda Octavia Scout.
There’s an Octavia for nearly every occasion, and the Scout is the one you’ll be looking for if you need to drive over some rocks from time to time. Or just one to pose streetside with that more crossovery bent.
Further than you might think, thanks to a 30mm lift in ride height over a regular Octavia Estate, lashings of black plastic cladding and some extra underbody protection, according to Skoda. A smattering of badges around the car confirm this is the boy scout edition, ready for some woody derring-do.
Mechanically, a fifth-gen Haldex all-wheel drive system deals with power distribution and keeps you moving when you run out of traction, while a standard hill-descent function will stop you barrelling out of control down slippery slopes the other side.
The new 2017 Skoda Octavia Scout impressed us off-road. It doesn’t feel massively loftier than a regular Octavia, but it feels genuinely capable and rugged in the rough stuff. By no means is it a Land Rover challenger, but it’s not claiming to be – and the fact it’s so capable for a jacked-up load-lugger is commendable.
This is where the Scout will spend most of its life, with punchy (if not scintillating) performance on offer from the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine, which pushes out 251lb ft of torque.
It feels perky though, and it’s keen to rev which aids progress via the slick six-speed manual gearbox. If you want a DSG auto shifting ratios for you, you’ll need to stump up some extra cash and go for the 181bhp version.
In the bends the Scout rolls more than other Octavias owing to its softer, higher suspension set-up, but it’s easy to control and grip levels are high. The half-leather, half-Alcantara seats are grippy if you do find yourself getting a bit wayward though.
Settle into a more relaxed cruise (probably a smart idea) and the Scout is very refined indeed, with little noise finding its way into the cabin. It’s a great all-rounder in this sense and very easy to use day-to-day.
Probably, but that’s the case with any car that’s not fitted with an entirely rubberised interior that you can hose down… The Scout’s cabin is a very pleasant place to spend time in, so it’s unlikely you’ll want to wear your Hunters anyway. Rural types can spec a mostly brown interior which will go some way to disguising what you tread into the carpets.
The dashboard now features a larger, crisper, easier-to-prod touchscreen controlling the infotainment, and everything feels solid and durable like a Skoda should, plus there are plenty of toys to play with.
They’ve used nice materials though – it’s no longer a poor VW relation and those seats feel particularly comfy. As in all Octavia models, the Scout offers acres of space for driver and passengers, while a 610-litre boot means the pooch will be comfy, too.
With a list price of £26,685, the Octavia Scout sits very much at the top of the range, but its 61.4mpg claimed fuel economy means everyday running costs should be manageable. CO2 emissions of 130g/km aren’t excessive, either, especially when you consider the car’s off-road abilities.
Just don’t attempt any off-road courses that’ll challenge a mountain goat – then things will get expensive.
The Octavia Scout is very likeable. It’s not trying to be trendy, nor is it trying to be too flash. It goes about its business without fuss, and it does everything incredibly competently in that homogenous VW Group way.
It won’t excite you, but if you’re looking for this kind of thing, excitement probably isn’t high on your list of priorities. Unless practical storage solutions, a quality interior and all-weather capability are your thing, in which case you’ll be thrilled.