Confident that Skoda’s latest estate will spring no surprises, Charlie Flindt is shocked to find that he just can’t get going – or comfortable
Charlie Flindt expects no surprises from the Skoda Octavia Scout and indeed it is a great countryside car – but Skoda musn’t become complacent.
For more reviews on Skoda, read our review of the Skoda Kodiaq – an impressive new SUV that’s even a “like” with partying teens.
SKODA OCTAVIA SCOUT
Reviewing a Skoda Octavia estate is traditionally dead easy. There will be nothing controversial or complicated to write about and you end up praising its no-nonsense practicality and vernacularity – if that’s even a word. It’s also traditional to quote Octavia owners (like myself, of course) who say they talk loudly about how terrible their cars are to try to keep demand (and therefore prices) as low as possible.
So I had my mental template all ready as I climbed into the latest Octavia Scout but immediately hit a problem. I couldn’t get comfortable. There was something not quite right about the smart leather seats. I played with the multiple settings and adjustments, wriggled my bottom furiously (not easy on the high-friction suede) but just couldn’t get the thigh support and back angle I needed.
Problem number two came once I finally got settled and set off. The Octavia felt gutless. All six gears and a heavy right foot were desperately needed to coax any life out of the two-litre diesel. I’m used to the legendary 1.9PD Octavia engine, which lugs fantastically in any gear from low revs, even after six-figure mileage. Is this one of the side effects of the emissions-figures controversy? You’ll remember that certain traditionally whiter-than-white car manufacturers have been playing fast and loose with the MPG figures of their vehicles and have been caught out. Some cars that have been back to the dealers for software upgrades have come home as automotive eunuchs. Are the new cars being sent straight out from the factories also lacking in certain departments?
The same question arose when we’d finally got up to speed. The Scout was deafening. It wasn’t the engine or the extra drivetrain – it was the tyres. Were they special low-rolling-resistance (in other words, hard) tyres fitted to keep the MPG figures as high as possible? I confess that I’d be straight down to the tyre shop to swap for something a bit more pliable, even if trading-in tyres of any age is mighty hard – and expensive – work. If the vent spews are worn off, they’re classified as old.
The rest of the Scout is as to be expected. The outside has benefited from a slight makeover in the styling but it still looks handsome and purposeful with its bits of cladding, perfect for those brochure-filling, off-road adventures. It has the extra bit of ground clearance over the standard (and somewhat cheaper) Octavia 4×4 and the Haldex system still works to give confidence in muddy gateways – we had some very soggy harvest teas to prove that point.
The inside is as roomy and no-nonsense as ever (if and when you do get comfy), although some of the dials are beginning to think that clever-clever design takes precedence over practicality. As a rule, however, it’s still unflashy and sensible.
The Scout is still a great countryside car but Skoda needs to avoid complacency. When we talk loudly about the irritating niggles of Octavia ownership, we want to be making them up, not speaking from experience. Nice though it is to use the words “vent spews” in a public place.
Skoda Octavia Scout
♦ Engine: 1,968cc TDi
♦ Power: 150PS
♦ Max speed: 129mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 9.1 sec
♦ Combined fuel economy: 56.5mpg
♦ Insurance group (0-50): 20E
♦ Price: £26,685