Skoda Octavia Scout DSG

10 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Skoda Octavia Scout DSG

Skoda Octavia Scout

DSG

Byron Bay, New South Wales

What we liked

Well appointed, comfortable interior

Engine-gearbox pairing

Chassis balance

Not so much

Steering feedback

Monotone interior motif

Still thinking.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0

Price, Packaging and Practicality: 4.0/5.0

Safety: 3.0/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0

X-factor: 3.0/5.0

OVERVIEW

Better late than never

The Skoda Scout is another example of the Czech car maker’s modern day revival, a high-riding European wagon of the Subaru Outback’s ilk, powered by one of Volkswagen’s efficient turbodiesel powerplants and hooked up to a clever dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The Scout has been on sale in Australia since early 2010, but until now has not been offered with an automatic option. It won’t be a high selling vehicle for Skoda, but it does provide the carmaker with another rival for what it sees as a direct competitor, Subaru.

Matthew Wiesner, the head of Skoda Australia, revealed that Skoda dealers have had a good volume of enquiries from existing Subaru buyers.

We’re seeing Subaru people coming in that have had their third or fourth Outback and they’re now going ‘I want to now do something else’, said Wiesner. They love the concept of what they’ve got. but there’s room for two players there.

Plans are afoot to expand the Czech brand exponentially over the next few years. but the ‘steady and slowly’ approach that’s been employed thus far has been something of a necessity, in order to prove that the brand — which was the butt of many jokes in the 1980s — is capable of delivering not just good cars, but a class-leading line-up.

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT

Japanese price, European features

The entry-level model in the Skoda Octavia Scout 4×4 range is the six-speed manual model, which retails from $39,490. This is followed by the $41,790 six-speed automatic (DSG) model. Both are packaged with an impressive amount of standards features, starting with 17-inch alloy wheels, body protection around the wheel arches plus the front and rear bumpers, under body engine protection, front fog lights, hill hold control, stability control, plus six airbags, ABS and EBD.

Comfort and convenience features for the entry-level Skoda Scouts comprise satellite navigation, with an intuitive touch screen setup, a 30Gb hard drive, and eight-speaker CD/tuner. There’s dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, and reverse parking sensors, too. Based on that level of equipment alone, Skoda has the potential to see interest not just from Asian marques, but also European brands.

Priced at $43,490 for the manual and $45,790 for the auto, the Scout Premium model adds an electric glass sunroof, alcantara leather seats, privacy glass on the side and rear windows, electric driver’s seat with three memory presets and dark glossy accents on the 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels. All models come with a 16-inch steel spare wheel.

MECHANICAL

Modern technology for Czech bush-basher

Power is handled by a lively 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine that has seen active duty in a number of other vehicles from the Volkswagen fold, from Tiguan compact SUVs to Audi A4s. The updated four-cylinder turbocharged unit extracts 103kW at 4200rpm and 320Nm at 1750rpm, which is the same output as the 2010 model Scout. For 2011, fuel economy has been improved to a claimed 6.1L/100km, thanks to an updated common-rail diesel injection setup.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are likewise low, at just 160g/km. The car has a 60 litre fuel tank.

Acceleration from zero to 100km/h is rated at just over 10 seconds, and a top speed of 199km/h is not to be baulked at. Up to 75kg of weight can be loaded on the roof rails, and the Scout can tow an unbraked trailer weighing up to 650kg or 1600kg for trailers with brakes.

Scout tips the scales 1550kg and is sprung by independent suspension all round: MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-element IRS rig at the rear, consisting of one longitudinal and three transverse links. The rack and pinion steering is electro-hydraulically power assisted.

Disc brakes on all four wheels delivered adequate deceleration, with vented rotors at the front. Running gear consists of 17-inch wheels shod with surprisingly wide 225/50 R17 rubber. The door seals and sound damping materials must have been expertly executed because it’s a very quiet car to ride around in.

Compared to the standard Octavia wagon, ground clearance has been increased by 40mm to 180, and the Scout also gains a couple of upgrade packs as standard. The Exterior Design Package adds new front and rear bumpers, flared wheel arch guards and mudguard protectors, while the Rough Road Package brings under body engine protection and the aforementioned raised suspension system.

Skoda’s Octavia Scout makes use of the fourth generation Haldex coupling, a small unit which is located near the rear axle that allows all-wheel drive. It works by splitting power from the front axle and diverting it to the rear axle when needed, such as when travelling on dirt or sand, greatly improving traction on slippery surfaces.

Ostensibly a front-wheel drive vehicle with a part-time all-wheel drive augmentation, the Haldex coupling has come a long way since the first generation was launched in the late 1990s, and this was evident during our test. It worked seamlessly and there was no discernable ‘change’ that we could detect when pushing hard on rutted dirt roads. We threw the car into several tight corners (on the dirt) and it didn’t deviate from its intended course, a testament to the efficacy of the system.

The same system is used on the supremely rapid Volkswagen Golf R .

Older systems would shunt drive to the rear wheels when the front wheels slipped or lost traction, but the Scout’s AWD system takes information from several sources to determine when to engage AWD, which results in pre-emptive action. Throttle sensors, wheel speed, engine speed and even information from the stability control programmes are collated and processed by the car’s inbuilt computer systems to ensure optimum traction. Up to 97 per cent of torque can be sent to the rear axle if needed.

During braking, the Haldex coupling is disengaged and drive is sent solely to the front wheels to ensure stability.

PACKAGING

Functional, high tech, but plain

Compared to its nearest Japanese rival, the Skoda Octavia Scout delivers a higher quality tactile experience. Soft-touch dash plastics, a high resolution touch-screen sat nav and infotainment system, along with high quality plastics throughout create an upmarket look and feel. And being from the Volkswagen stable, the Skoda Scout’s interior decor is very similar to those of the VW Golf and Passat.

While this won’t win it points for originality, it does lend the car an ambitious (if conservative) ambiance.

The interior is very nicely finished, but is not overly flashy. Indeed the Scout could even be labelled a little dull by some — no contrasting colours, just good old black — but it is functional, feels great and is very presentable. All the controls are laid out in logical manner, though cruise control operation is a little fiddly (a tiny switch on the end of the indicator stalk).

The multi-function steering wheel allows for remote audio and Multi-Function Display control, while the instrument cluster is easy to read, if a little plain.

Rear seat room is adequate rather than spacious and the seats all feature relatively firm cushioning, which suited this driver to a tee. Boot space is impressive, with 580 litres expandable to 1620 litres when the 60:40 split-fold rear seats are collapsed.

SAFETY

Sure-footed in all conditions

Like many of its European contemporaries, the Skoda Scout doesn’t skimp when it comes to safe motoring, offering a range of passive and active features starting with six airbags – dual front and front side, plus full length curtain airbags. Three-point seatbelts for all five occupants plus whiplash optimised front head restraints are included, as are several electronic driving aids, such as an electronic stabilisation program (ESP), ABS, EBD and ASR, not to mention a hill hold control system. The AWD Haldex coupling system also improves traction on low friction surfaces, elevating Scout above standard FWD models in terms of safety.

The latest version of the Skoda Octavia Scout has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but the car it is based on, the Octavia, was awarded a four-star rating by both authorities. Things like an engine immobiliser, remote central locking and rear parking sensors are also part of the safety package.

COMPETITORS

Czech Outback

You could line up a number of wagons, mostly of Asian origin, as potential competitors for its Scout 4×4 model, but there’s one that stands out as a direct rival – the Subaru Outback.

During the national media launch, Skoda talked about the Subaru as a vehicle that it is actively targeting, and that dealer feedback suggested both current and previous owners were very interested in an affordable European alternative. Vehicles such as the Mazda6 wagon could also be considered a rival, but in terms of 4×4 capability only the Subaru really measures up.

ON THE ROAD

Balanced, stable and predictable

Belted up, and with the electric wing mirrors aligned for my line of sight, Scout’s engine fires with a minimum of fuss — and it’s surprisingly quiet for a diesel. It is also evident from the outset that the Skoda Octavia Scout is a much nicer vehicle to drive with the automatic gearbox. Even the gear shifter feels a little bit special.

And though the car is a touch heavier than the standard Octavia — felt during full-throttle acceleration — the diesel engine and DSG combination is a harmonious pairing.

The engine is willing and responsive and its hefty low end torque makes the car very drivable. Whether in everyday traffic or navigating a steep incline, the engine is unlikely to be overly taxed, the quick-shifting gearbox able to change gears in less than a second, should the situation require it.

Driving through Gold Coast traffic was effortless in the automatic equipped Scout, its ride quality equally pleasant, able to absorb the more pronounced pot holes and ructions in the road. When you combine that smooth ride with a quiet cabin, the result is a refined driving experience that will surprise many, especially those people who may still have outdated opinions of the Skoda brand.

We also had the chance to drive the car through some very twisty roads in the hinterlands of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, and despite its boosted ride height the Skoda Scout proved remarkably balanced when changing direction and attacking corners. Like many vehicles in the VW group, it has excellent body control; the suspension is very well calibrated for a variety of different road conditions.

Then came the dirt roads near Byron Bay where Scout really proved its worth. Gunning the diesel-powered Czech along seldom-used tracks beneath a dense canopy of sub-tropical rainforest was a real hoot, the AWD system providing the car with a sure-footedness that inspired true confidence.

Having seen the effect of heavy rainfall during the past few months, the track was peppered with deep pot holes filled with murky water, and every time I braced myself for impact, the dreaded thud never came.

The Skoda just rode over them almost as if they weren’t there.

Despite the electro-hydraulically power assisted steering masking much of the feedback through the front wheels, Scout was very predictable on the dirt (the AWD system is very effective) which allows the driver to push the car deeper into corners without trepidation. The raised ride height was most welcome on the uneven surfaces too.

At home both on and off the beaten track, the Skoda Octavia Scout is an improved vehicle when equipped with the six-speed DSG gearbox, the torque characteristics of the engine syncing very nicely to the intelligent transmission. Though the manual version was a good performer by and large, the DSG auto model feels like a more complete package, and one that doesn’t mind getting dirty.

It’s a difficult car to fault — even the price is hard to vilify — and will no doubt convert a number of Subaru Outback buyers with its refined driving characteristics, high quality interior and premium features list.

Some buyers may be put off by the badge, but if Skoda can get bums on seats for test drives, it could be on to a sleeper hit with the Scout, which turns out to be a surprisingly capable car.

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Published. Wednesday, 6 April 2011

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