2010 Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDI Road Test Review
IF YOU'D TRIED to convince me that a 'garden variety' Škoda would be one of the most attention-grabbing vehicles on the street, I’d have told you you’d flipped your lid. But so it was.
In a week of testing, the Škoda Octavia Scout turned more heads and received more comments from passers-by than many cars we've tested worth twice as much. That alone makes for an impressive start.
More so when you consider that the little Czech contender hardly breaks new ground visually or mechanically. But there’s more to the story; running the Scout through the test cycle revealed a beauty that was more than skin deep.
Sure, the visual argument is subjective; the more quantifiable factors: performance, specification, driving enjoyment... they’re the things TMR lives for.
While you couldn’t quite call the Octavia range cutting-edge, the styling of the Scout pulls it off visually.
To answer the call of the wild, the Scout adds beefier grey bumpers, wheel-arch flares and door mouldings to the bodywork of the Octavia wagon.
At the pointy end there’s a chrome-framed grille with blackened-out vertical bars. Beneath that, matte-finish plastic takes over for the bumper, with a slender air intake, fog lights and aluminium skid plate contained within.
The matte grey treatment continues over the wheel arches and along the sills, running into the rear bumper. Like the front, it's composed of chunky unpainted plastic mated to an aluminium bash-plate style finisher.
Above the bumper line, the standard Octavia look takes over with head and tail-lamps shared with the rest of the range.
The Octavia’s body coloured B and C pillars also make an appearance and the look is capped off with a set of silver finished roof rails.
Inside Škoda has chosen a less utilitarian approach.
Standard finishes include bolstered cloth-trimmed seats, silver frosted treatment for the door and dash highlights setting off the otherwise basic black throughout.
The dashboard design is a typical Volkswagen Group affair. That’s not a bad thing, with well placed, clearly marked controls and buttons.
Oddments storage is taken care of with lidded bins at the top and bottom of the centre stack, a deep centre console with a lid that doubles as a sliding armrest, a storage recess in the side of each front seat, well-sized pockets in each door and bottle-holders up front. The glovebox is also cooled to keep drinks and snacks chilled.
Leather trim covers the steering wheel, gear shifter and handbrake. Pedals are dressed in rubber-studded aluminium and door handles are chrome coated and rubber backed, to add to the tactile experience.
In standard trim, front seats come kitted in cloth and with manual adjustment. Optional leather trim and powered seats with memory function are also available.
Space-wise there’s little to groan about. The range of adjustment up front makes it easy to settle in.
Rear passengers also enjoy room to move, with adjustable head rests and three-point seatbelts in all three positions. That feeling of space is also enhanced by a clear view out the large side windows.
Moving further back the Octavia Scout will swallow 580 litres of luggage with the seats up and 1620 with the 60:40 rear bench folded flat (although "flat" is a slightly generous term - the folded bench leaves an 'uphill' floor). Folding is also a bit fiddly, requiring a two-stage, two-hands procedure to tuck things away.
Keeping things in place is a cinch though, with a variety of tie-down hooks in the boot floor, as well as shopping hooks on each side of the cargo bay. A removable cargo blind keeps prying eyes at bay.
Equipment and Features
Škoda’s single specification Scout comes loaded with a generous dollop of standard equipment. At its $39,490 entry price, the Scout is well-featured. There is also (natch) a reasonable options list for those looking to up-spec things.
Standard equipment includes heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a cooled glovebox and driver's storage bin, retractable cargo cover, rain-sensing front wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
Tinted windows are included, as are 17-inch alloy wheels (with a 16-inch steel spare) and polished dual exhausts. There’s leather trimming for the steering wheel, handbrake and gear shifter and a dash-mounted grab handle for the front seat passenger.
Rear park-sensors, front fog-lights and remote central locking also come standard, as does an underbody protection package.
Options include a powered driver's seat, leather seat trim, front park sensors, an electric tilt/slide sunroof, xenon headlamps, satellite navigation with a 30 GB hard-drive and an alarm system.
Just one engine and transmission combo is available for the Scout.
That single specification is a 2.0 litre turbo diesel engine mated to a six speed manual transmission and the Scout's Haldex all-wheel-drive system.
While it’s a pleasant setup to use (a nice shift through the H-pattern six-speed gate), the lack of an automatic or DSG option may hamper the Scout’s sale success in this market (where autos are favoured).
The engine produces 103kW @ 4000 rpm from its 2.0 litre capacity, utilising high-pressure direct injection and a single turbo. Torque is a useful 320Nm from 1750 to 2500 rpm.
Steering assistance is driven by an electro-mechanical power steering system. Braking comes courtesy of ventilated front discs with single piston floating calipers, while at the rear solid discs are used.
MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear with front and rear stabiliser bars and rasised springs provide on (and off) road control.
There’s a lightness at the wheel of the Scout that is synonymous with the Škoda range. It is best described as an 'ease of control' that combines a rewarding drive with effortless inputs.
At TMR, we hold the Octavia range in high regard for its on-road manners. Given the Octavia Scout’s all-wheel drive and tall suspension, we had our doubts whether it would offer that same composed and agile feeling at the wheel as its more-conventional front-drive stablemates. Fortunately, yes, it does.
Even with the extra weight of a tailshaft and rear diff, the Scout remains pert and perky. And there is still a well-planted feel on the road linked to well-weighted controls.
While power output alone may not thrill all takers, the meaty torque available from just a step above idle makes for strong, surge-free performance.
A manual can be a bit of a chore in city crawls, but the Scout's clutch provides ample feedback and is well-weighted for easy control.
We found the gate on the six-speed manual a little short of expectations; it's not as well-defined as we'd like and feels a little rubbery on some shifts. That said, it’s hard to miscue and provides a good balance with the interaction of the clutch.
With the city behind, the Scout comes into its own. On the open road it picks up its stride, and is quite deceptively swift and comfortable at the wheel with both wind and road noise well insulated.
Engine noise is barely detectable and only when working hard does it become apparent. Even then the sound isn’t off-putting and sounds vaguely like a large capacity petrol engine instead of a smallish diesel.
Put the Scout where it yearns to be, on gravel or mud, and the composure remains. On loose surfaces the Scout stays firmly planted on its intended path.
Throw some moisture into the mix and the road-biased tyres are the weakest link in the chain, otherwise the Scout is more than willing to head into ever-more demanding terrain.
Ground clearance, underbody protection and the quick-to-respond four-wheel-drive system mean the all-paw Octavia can head further off road than first appearances would suggest.
Its capability off-road is not its only ace in the deck. On winding tarmac, the Scout, despite rolling a fraction more than its front-drive siblings, stays impressively flat and with quite surprising tenacious grip to keep things secure.
While the initial feeling through the steering wheel is a little hefty at parking speeds, it feels more comfortable once rolling. Feedback is dulled slightly by the (relatively) high profile tyres, but any shuddering kickback we might have expected from mid-corner ripples is kept neatly at bay.
For cruising or negotiating the Saturday crush at the supermarket carpark, visibility from the wheel in all directions is clear thanks to large windows and slim pillars. The 'over the shoulder' vision is perhaps the only weak point (with the B-pillar at the shoulder), but no worse than most.
Claimed fuel economy sits at 6.6 l/100km - the Octavia’s ability to pull high gears with low revs can certainly help out here. We didn’t quite match that figure, but 6.8 l/100km over a variety of terrain was still a decent enough return (and within expected variables).
One thing the petrol-powered faithful might have trouble adjusting to, is the narrow power band. It can take a while to get used to the diesel. In the diesel-powered Scout, making the most of the torque means pushing the engine beyond 3000 rpm is pointless.
The engine stays smooth right up to the peak power point at 4000 rpm, but to really keep it on the boil the revs are best kept between 1500 and 2500 rpm. That of course can equate to some feverish shifting around town however.
With a full load stuffed into the rear though, the diesel mill offered no complaint. Added weight or not, the 2.0 litre turbo diesel pulled as faithfully as ever – barely noticing the extra demands placed on it.
Should you require something capable off the beaten track but don't want to be seen in the typical bloated SUV, then the Octavia Scout makes a strong case. Its mix of a frugal diesel engine, positive on-road behaviour, and a versatile and comfortable interior will win it many friends.
It is also - at $39,490 (plus on roads) - sensibly priced and well within reach of the family buyer.
Of course, the lack of an automatic gearbox and the unfamiliarity of the Škoda brand (to many buyers) might hamper the Octavia Scout’s efforts. If it does, that would be a damn shame.
The Scout, in our view, is ready to step in where Subaru's Outback stepped out. While the Outback has moved up in size and lost some of its former handsome, rugged appeal, Škoda's Octavia Scout is more than capable of filling its shoes.
Our time proved that there’s little missing in this strong, thoughtfully-conceived contender.
If the SUV market is on your radar, then consider what the Octavia Scout can do for you.
- Torque laden engine
- Clear and concise interior
- Enjoyable drive both on and off the tarmac
- Narrow powerband
- Lack of auto option
- Rear seats that don’t fold flat.