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Dyb, Dyb, Dyb, it's the Skoda ScoutBy: Tim Gibson

Skoda Scout

Okay. Enough of the Scout-related jokes. There’s only so many times I can pun on the Skoda crossover estate’s name before it all becomes rather tiresome. And if there’s one thing the Scout isn’t, it’s tiresome.

On the contrary, it’s one of my favourite cars at the moment. I’m not alone, either, as many motoring magazines have voted it among the best crossover vehicles currently available in the UK.

This reflects how far Skoda has come over the past 15 or so years. When I was a kid – a Boy Scout, in fact – Skodas were the butt of many a bad joke, of the "What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof? Answer: A skip" variety. Nowadays, the joke’s on anyone who thinks these cars are anything less than the very best on the road.

That’s partly attributable to their Volkswagen Group origins. But the input of VW shouldn’t detract from the giant leaps Skoda has made as a brand in its own right. With cars like the Scout, the Czech manufacturer offers something that will satisfy even the most discerning customer – and that’s not a claim every car maker can make with a straight face.

Skoda Scout interior

The Scout I had on test was a 1.8 TSI petrol derivative, which definitely wouldn’t be my first choice. It’s plenty fast enough, and in many ways delivers a more engaging drive than the 2.0 TDI that is my preferred engine option. But the best fuel consumption I could coax from the vehicle under mixed use was in the high 20s, and that’s a sharp contrast to the low-40s consumption I’ve had in tests with the turbo diesel.

Surprisingly, the petrol-powered Scout is only about £1,500 cheaper than the oil burner, but depreciation will be dramatically steeper. Add that to the annual road tax of £325 (versus £170 for the TDI) – plus higher BIK rates for company car drivers – and there doesn’t seem to be any contest. I’d go for the diesel every time.

Leaving engine choice to one side, the Scout is a formidable car regardless of what’s under its bonnet. The interior is classy and well screwed together, with a reassuring weightiness to the switchgear that makes you think it will handle the strains of family life. The dash is logically laid out, and I particularly liked the feel of the leather-clad steering wheel in my hand. Stupid, I know, but it had an appealing chunkiness, perfectly suited to the outdoorsy character of the car.

It’s this go-anywhere man-of-the-woods personality that sets the Scout apart from the standard Octavia on which it is based. In contrast to the conventional version of the car, the Scout has slightly raised suspension, and more aggressive styling set off by the occasional bash plate or body moulding. The overall effect would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so darn good-looking.

Indeed, if you want the rugged looks of an SUV without the associated running costs, the Scout is a good place to start. There are similar vehicles available, such as the Subaru Legacy, Audi Allroad and VW Passat Alltrack. And while all of them are brilliant in their own way, Skoda’s offering is by far the best. It delivers a compelling combination of quality, style and value – knocking the competition into the long grass.

Of course, that’s precisely where vehicles like this are most at home. The Scout is never going to compete with a full-sized 4x4 off-road, but it’s more than capable of traversing a rough track, or findings its way across a muddy field. Since that’s more than most owners will ask of their vehicle, it’s fair to assume the Scout will satisfy in this regard.

As it happens, it’s hard to think of an area where the Scout owner won’t be satisfied. The seats could be a fraction softer, I suppose, and the variable boot floor fitted as an option to my test vehicle was a distraction rather than an aid. But there’s plentiful load space overall and the interior is adorned with more cubbies and cup holders than the average family will know what to do with.
So the Scout is a winner, then. You could say it’s, uh, ‘uniformly’ pleasing.

Vital Statistics

  • On test: Skoda Octavia Scout, 1.8 TSI six-speed manual
  • Power output: 157bhp
  • Top speed: 131mph
  • 0-60mph: 8.1 seconds
  • Fuel economy: 36mpg (manufacturer’s quoted figure for the combined cycle)
  • Price: £21,260 OTR

About the author

Tim Gibson is a freelance journalist who writes for publications including The Daily Telegraph, Civil Service World and Total 4x4. He is a founding Director of The Writing Hut Ltd, a copywriting agency based in South Somerset.

Features August 2012

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