Skoda Octavia Scout crosses the line between station wagon and SUV
SKODA OCTAVIA SCOUT
Base price: $46,890.
Powertrain and performance: 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four, 132kW/280Nm, 6-speed automated dual-clutch transmission (DSG), AWD, Combined economy 6.6 litres per 100km, 0-100kmh 7.8 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4687mm long, 1501mm high, 2680mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 610 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Looks the part, handles well, super-spacious for a medium-sized wagon.
We don't like: Engine doesn't inspire, normal Octavia has better gearbox, 4WD adds thirst.
Skoda's "Scout" badge is not particularly well known in New Zealand, but in Europe it's familiar as a way of identifying versions of mainstream models with a little bit of off-road attitude. They're not necessarily full-on SUVs (Skoda's only just starting making those), but conventional hatchbacks and wagons with extra ride height and chunky styling.
Like this: the Scout version of the latest Octavia wagon.
Let's be honest: isn't this just Skoda's version of the Subaru Outback?
Given that Subaru invented the whole idea of a station wagon with raised ride height and a bit of extra styling attitude, you could think of the Scout that way if it helps. But lots of other (mostly European) brands also have similar models, including Skoda's upmarket sister Audi and of course Volvo (another early adopter of this concept in the 1990s).
If you want to be really accurate, you could say the Octavia Scout is a "crossover". This is a term never really embraced by Kiwis that denotes a cross between a conventional passenger car and an off-roader.
Are we talking fashion crossover/SUV thingie or family wagon?
There's just one Scout model (although you can choose between our petrol test car and a diesel) and it's pretty closely aligned with the top of the mainstream Octavia range, the Style. It has a big touch screen, nice leather/Alcantara upholstery, LED lights and all that biz, but you still have to spend extra for next-level luxury-car stuff like adaptive cruise control or a panoramic roof.
There's plenty of very practical stuff on the options list as well: automatic parking ($1000) or trailer assist ($1850) for example.
But they are still on the options list. Octavias of any kind are always going to be a value proposition . That's certainly true of this one.
It's a bit of a half-way house then. Why spend the extra over a normal Octavia wagon?
Well nobody's forcing you. It costs $2000 more than the Style wagon with the same 132kW engine, but you're getting AWD as standard (non-Scout Octavias are all 2WD in NZ) and that chunkier SUV-type look - if that's your thing.
The Scout is 0.3sec slower to 100kmh and 0.8/100km thirstier than the Style wagon, but then you have that traction/safety advantage of AWD for winter weather or gravel roads. The AWD system means you get a six-speed gearbox in the Scout instead of the Style's seven-cog shifter.
You're not losing much (if anything) in terms of driving dynamics. The 1.8-litre 132kW engine is a bit uninspiring and the dual-clutch gearbox is sluggish off the line in city driving, but that's the same for both cars.
The Scout tackles winding roads astonishingly well: turn into a tight corner at speed and the front end feels rock-solid, while that AWD system gives you lots of confidence. You could even argue that the extra compliance of the Scout's suspension makes it both more comfortable and more predictable in brisk driving.
Yes, yes. But shouldn't you just go and buy a proper SUV like a Kodiaq?
You could if you're really after extra ride height and space - although the Octavia is also a mightily spacious family wagon by class standards. With a 610-litre boot it's a great load-carrier, even if it's 100 litres shy of the Kodiaq (which is next-level enormous).
We do love the Skoda Kodiaq SUV and it does also offer seven seats, but to get the 132kW engine you have to spend $57k on the Style model and it's both slower and more thirsty than the Scout. The Octavia is more driver-oriented, while the Kodiaq is built for comfort. So it depends what your priorities are.
There's also the Karoq, Skoda's smaller SUV. You can have any one of those you want for Scout money. But it's smaller, and the petrol version is 110kW and 2WD. To get the grunt and AWD you have to buy the diesel, and that's not everybody's cup of fossil fuel these days.
Any other cars I should consider?
Would it surprise you if we said Subaru Outback? The Japanese car is hugely popular in NZ and the four-cylinder Premium model is loaded with gear, including Subaru's outstanding EyeSight driver-assistance system.
Other crossover-type vehicles of this size and type are surprisingly rare in NZ. There's Citroen's DS4 Crossback, but that's over $50k, it's a hatchback really - and it's pretty weird.
Other high-riding wagons like Holden's Calais-V Tourer, Audi's Allroad range and any number of Volvo Cross Country wagons are conceptually the same as the Scout, but all more in the luxury segment and all over $60k. Way over in some cases.