Skoda Octavia Scout

4 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Skoda Octavia Scout

Skoda Octavia Scout

(October 2008)

Mount Buller, Victoria

What we liked

Roomy and practical for its footprint

Goes well, on the smell of an oily rag

Comfortable and quiet

Not so much

Needs automatic and dual range to compete with Outback

Tyres are not up to the job offroad

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0

Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 4.0/5.0

Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.0/5.0

Safety: 4.0/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0

X-factor: 4.0/5.0

OVERVIEW

Skoda’s Octavia Scout is a car that could have been designed with Australia in mind. It’s economical, dynamically capable and, at its core, more comfortable than a lot of cars with features ‘tacked on’.

Heavily based on the Octavia Elegance wagon, the Scout shares the Octavia’s 103kW 2.0 TDI diesel engine, six-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive, but rides approximately 40mm higher and is 9mm longer (due to the different bumpers fitted to the ‘ready-for-any-contingency’ Scout).

Skoda has distinguished the Scout from the Octavia by adding model-specific badging, front and rear underbody protection (including a sumpguard), plastic flares for the wheelarches, polished dual exhaust pipes and 17-inch Proteus alloy wheels, In addition, the Scout features revised side protection strips and door sills.

So-called ‘crossover’ SUVs, based heavily on all-wheel-drive wagons, have come and gone over the years.

Toyota’s Tercel and the AE95 Corolla provide two examples from the Japanese giant. Holden’s Adventra was a high-riding Commodore wagon and the Audi Allroad is an A6 Avant in workboots. But it was Subaru that was most committed to this type of car.

Indeed, the Japanese manufacturer has been building cars like this since the 1970s and the Outback is the car that has to be, if not toppled, at least tarnished, for the Scout to succeed here.

So what can Skoda offer to entice buyers away from the Subaru Outback, which can boast the ‘proof of the pudding’ from long years of development and clever marketing?

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT

The Octavia Scout is sold locally in just the one variant — priced at $39,990 — but comes well equipped for the money.

Features fitted as standard include: dual-zone climate control, remote central locking, electric windows front and rear, electric mirrors, reverse parking acoustic guidance, multi-function leather-bound steering wheel, cruise control, trip computer, eight-speaker MP3-compatible six-disc CD audio system with auxiliary input socket, heated front seats, follow-me-home lighting, electro-chromatic mirror, silver and grey floor mats.

In addition, Skoda offers the Scout with the following options: xenon headlights and electric glass sunroof (both priced at $1730), front parking acoustic guidance ($490), alarm system ($540), electric driver’s seat with memory ($1370), Alcantara leather seats ($2490), metallic paint ($630) and ‘Columbus’ satellite navigation ($2490).

As is often the case these days, the vast majority of the exterior colour selection will cost you an extra $630 for metallic paint. The colours available are: Candy White, Dynamic Blue, Corrida Red, Brilliant Silver metallic, Cappucino Beige metallic, Flamengo Red metallic, Artic Green metallic, Anthracite Grey metallic, Satin Grey metallic, Storm Blue metallic, Black Magic metallic and Aqua Blue metallic.

MECHANICAL

It’s very likely that the Scout’s 2.0-litre turbodiesel will be the last of the ‘pump jet’ [Ed: pumpe duse] diesel induction powerplants to be introduced to the Australian market by Skoda. The company is said to be planning for future diesel models to employ the latest generation of common-rail induction systems. But the Scout, whether old technology or not, still gets a diesel particulate filter and is Euro IV-compliant.

Developing 103kW of power at 4000rpm and 320Nm of torque between 1750 and 2500rpm, the engine uses just 6.6L/100km of fuel in the combined cycle test for ADR81/01. CO2 emissions for the Scout are 178g/km, according to Skoda.

Power from the front transaxle runs via a bevelled gear integrated with the front driveshaft to a Haldex coupling ahead of the rear differential. The coupling is an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch system that transfers torque from the front to the rear wheels as soon as slip is detected. Haldex, a Swedish company that also supplies Volvo, is an acknowledged expert in the field.

The suspension of the Scout has been toughened up over the standard Octavia specification and spring and damper settings have been revised. Skoda has fitted a different anti-roll bar with a range of movement in a ratio of 1:1 with the MacPherson strut lower control arms, providing lower limits on wheel articulation than in the case of the Octavia. At the rear, the Scout is suspended by a four-link IRS system, also coil-sprung.

As already mentioned, ground clearance for the Aussie-spec Scout is 40mm higher than that of the standard Octavia. That’s actually a further 20mm more than the Scout’s European specification, according to information provided by Skoda during our first drive in the Czech Republic earlier this year (more here 2936675).

The rack-and-pinion steering fitted to the Scout is assisted by electro-mechanical means and saves up to 0.2L/100km of fuel. As a side benefit in an offroad context, the system will remain operational even when the vehicle is being towed and the engine is not operating.

For its heavy duty role, the Scout comes with additional underbody protection and Skoda claims a braked towing capacity of 1600kg.

PACKAGING

Inside the Scout, there’s plenty of headroom front and rear. Skoda markets the Octavia as a medium segment car, but the Scout (same body, basically), is marketed as a compact SUV. As a midsize car, the Scout’s rear-seat legroom doesn’t compare with larger cars in the segment, but up against compact SUVs, it’s comparable, at the very least.

Even with the front seats as far back as possible, there’s still proper legroom for larger kids and it’s worth noting that only the very tallest of front-seat occupants will ever need to adjust the seats that far back in practice.

With the front seats adjusted for the comfort of average-to-larger adults, there’s actually better than adequate rear-seat legroom for adults, although the difference between the Scout and a medium segment car rests in this truth: you won’t be able to stretch out in the back seat if you’re an adult. Still, adults will be comfortable enough on moderately long journeys.

The Scout makes up for what is still decent rear-seat accommodation with its cavernous luggage compartment, which is boxy, fully lined and tricked out with luggage nets and smaller sub-compartments. Users will benefit from the rubber pull-down strap to haul the tailgate closed from its high position when fully raised.

There’s an elasticised cargo net that clips and unclips from the floor at four points and there are two fold-down hooks just below the window line. We were especially impressed by the cargo blind which is easily deployed and retracted with the press of a button that releases a latch for the blind to roll forward.

External dimensions of the Scout are moderately larger than the figures for the Octavia. In length, the Scout measures 4581mm, a difference of 9mm over the Octavia. The Scout is also 15mm wider than the Octavia, and curiously, despite the 40mm gain in ground clearance, the Scout is just 17mm higher than the Octavia.

According to Skoda, the Scout will hold 580 litres of luggage, or up to 1620 litres with the 60/40 split-fold rear seat folded.

There’s a plethora of additional storage receptacles throughout the interior. A bin above the vents in the centre fascia would otherwise house the optional satellite navigation system and, in addition, the list of cubbies and crannies extends to an underseat storage tray, a lidded bin under the centre front armrest, a sunglass holder above the mirror and bottle-ready cupholders in the doors as well as standard-sized cupholders in the centre console.

SAFETY

As a ‘crossover’ wagon, the Scout is well specified for active and passive safety. Compared with more conventional compact SUVs, the Scout is streets ahead with stability control coming as standard equipment. Among its other standard safety features, the Scout boasts auto-on/off headlights, rain-sensing wipers, front fog lights and a seatbelt warning reminder.

In respect of active safety, the Skoda also comes equipped with four-wheel disc brakes, an electronic differential lock, ABS/EBD, traction control and automatic brake-disc drying — a fairly useful feature if you plan taking the Scout offroad.

And in keeping with Skoda’s commitment to offering the best available safety for the lowest possible price, the Scout also packs the following passive safety features: Seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters for all outboard seats, dual front airbags, side-impact and curtain airbags, active headrests for front-seat occupants and headrests for all three rear-seats positions.

COMPETITORS

There’s one game in town, where the Scout is concerned. Knocking off the Subaru Outback. Skoda presumably doesn’t expect to outsell the Subaru with the Scout, but has priced the Scout to fall between the Outback Luxury and the Outback Premium.

With its diesel engine, the Scout offers advantages in torque, fuel economy and emissions. Skoda’s anti-corrosion warranty for the Scout (12 years) is nine years better than the Outback’s. The Scout’s packaging provides 580 litres of luggage capacity (459 for the Subaru) and the Scout’s towing capacity (1600kg) is a 100kg improvement on the Outback’s.

Where the Scout suffers a little, for a start, is the lack of automatic transmission and dual-range transfer.

Subaru claims that the Outback provides more luggage space with the rear seat folded flat than the Scout does in the same circumstances and it’s a case of swings and roundabouts for trim-level specification — while the Scout offers many standard features that the Outback is missing (eg: trip computer, rain-sensing wipers and auto-on/off headlights), the Subaru does come with such things as electric seat adjustment for the front seats and standard leather trim at a price $3500 below the Scout.

Departing from Skoda’s POV, the Carsales Network would be inclined to cross-shop the Scout against traditional compact SUVs, including Volkswagen’s Tiguan, which is available with the same engine driving through a six-speed automatic for less money than the manual-only Scout. Bear in mind though that the Tiguan is smaller across the board and lacks the luggage capacity of the Scout.

If luggage capacity is all important, there’s the Kia Sportage EX CRDi, which is cheaper than the Scout and will haul more cargo by volume with the seats folded flat. It’s a diesel also, but lacks the Scout’s power and torque.

For the same money as the Skoda, the Nissan X-TRAIL TL offers substantially better output from its Renault engine and — as mentioned below in the ON THE ROAD section — can cope with more uphill and down-dale offroad work. As a bonus, the Nissan’s luggage capacity is greater and it will tow 2000kg. The downside is, frankly, it’s not as good to drive on-road as the Scout.

Renault’s Koleos Dynamique, with the same drivetrain as the diesel X-TRAIL, will tow even more, but won’t accommodate as much luggage as either the Scout or the Nissan.

Suzuki’s diesel Grand Vitara is a full $5000 less than the Scout, but output from the engine is sub-par and we wouldn’t expect the Grand Vitara to come close to matching the Scout’s packaging. In the defence of the Suzuki, it has approach and departure angles of which the Skoda can only dream. If you’re serious about your offroading, the Grand Vitara remains a hard act to follow.

And if you’re in no hurry to buy, there’s also the possibility that Ford will introduce the Kuga SUV to market sometime within the next 12 months or so. That car, with diesel and powershift automatic, may well undercut the Skoda on price and offer similar levels of capability in a range of environments.

ON THE ROAD

Skoda cites respective approach and departure angles of 16.3 and 16.9 degrees for the Scout. We didn’t really have the opportunity to test those parameters in the field (or breakover angle for that matter), but Nissan’s X-TRAIL, to use a less than analogous example, is good for an approach angle of 26 degrees and a departure angle of 22 degrees. Subaru doesn’t publish figures for the Outback, which suggests its approach and departure angles are not appreciably better than the Skoda’s — they may even be worse.

So in a roundabout way, we’re saying the Skoda is capable up to a point coping with boggy forestry conditions, but don’t call on it to tackle some of the harder fire access trails around the place. And without a low-range transfer, the Scout is probably going to struggle with some of the more demanding grades that medium SUV drivers will feel confident tackling.

To the Scout’s credit, the ride was comfortable, compliant and well damped on the road. There was no undue noise or vibration transmitted through to the cabin. The steering provided good feedback, particularly by the standards of a ‘crossover’ SUV — as opposed to a typical medium-segment passenger car.

At low speeds, the Scout’s steering was light, but struck a nice balance of weight at higher speeds and there was no sense of crossing thresholds or sudden and erratic changes in the way the steering operated.

On dirt, mud and other loose surfaces, the Scout was prone to understeer and what few attempts were made to break the tail loose proved futile. At higher speeds (60km/h and above), the tail would step out a bit, but even with the ESP switched off, the Haldex coupling would bring the car back into line almost immediately.

On bitumen, the Scout turned into corners quite promptly and the handling was (again) pretty good by the standards of a crossover SUV. There was some tendency to be knocked off line by mid-corner bumps, but nothing untoward.

Scout buyers would be well advised to swap the OE tyres (Dunlop SP Sport 225/50 R17) for something to suit their principal driving better; ie: if the car is to spend a lot of time offroad, get tyres that offer better traction for that scenario. As it stands, the OE tyres weren’t all that grippy offroad and they were the weak link in the chain for the Scout’s handling and roadholding on-road as well.

They were, however, commendably quiet on coarse bitumen and did contribute to the ride. One further word on the Scout’s ride; at a secondary level, it felt moderately firm over the sort of corrugations and undulations often encountered on sealed country roads that carry a lot of heavy commercial vehicle traffic.

In a straight line, the Scout was quick and stress-free, thanks to the torque from the turbodiesel engine and quite low NVH levels. The engine was utterly inaudible when cruising, but could be heard when working and then emitted a distinctly diesel rattle.

On the upside, the engine provides strong performance to go with the noise. A petrol V6 in a compact SUV will more than likely give the Scout a run for its money, but the Scout’s frugal fuel consumption compensates for that.

The gearshift was light and easy to use, for a transmission that must cope with high torque and also work hand-in-hand with an all-wheel drive system. Combined with the low level of turbo lag from the engine, it was relatively easier to heel-toe in the Scout than is the case for other turbodiesel cars with manual transmissions.

As noted there’s no dual-range transfer in the Scout, but the ratios for the six-speed manual are well chosen for economy and performance. At 100km/h in sixth gear, the engine is ticking over at 2000rpm, partly explaining the car’s combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.6L/100km and the figures achieved during the drive program.

Following about 15-20km of mild offroad work and some relatively typical country-road driving, we noted a figure of 7.0L/100km on the first day of the drive program. For the second day, which involved much more open-road driving at a steady speed, the Scout averaged 5.3L/100km.

From the driver’s seat, Skoda is generally to be commended for pedal, instrument and control placement in the Scout. Setting up the auto rain-sensing wipers and operating the cruise control couldn’t be said to be immediately and intuitively obvious, particularly with the two respective stalks obscured by the upper spokes of the steering wheel. Otherwise though, the instruments were easily legible, irrespective of the steering wheel height and reach adjustment prevailing.

The seats were rather European in character; a bit flat and hard, but the backrest held the upper body in place quite well. Other than the side bolsters at the front, which didn’t support the thighs as well as they might, the seat squab was fairly well-shaped. We found the driver’s footrest to be bordering on too narrow.

With Skoda not currently a household name, the Scout will struggle to dent sales of Subaru’s Outback. Deserving of sales success as it is, the Skoda has perhaps 12 months to establish a toehold in the local market. As an advance party, it better hope that the reinforcements arrive with an automatic transmission before the main body of Outback troops arrive with the big guns — a diesel ‘Boxer’ engine and all-new looks and packaging.

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Published. Wednesday, 15 October 2008

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