The trouble with these pseudo-cars-trying-to-be-SUVs is that you lose all sense of the king-of-the-road feeling you get from sitting in a proper SUV. Sure, they’re raised up, but I challenge anyone to sit in one and tell the difference between it and an ordinary car adorned with plastic bumpers and other cheap faux-SUV addenda.
Skoda is obviously aware of the problem. So, in an effort to counter it, the wise bods of the Czech Republic have fitted a grab handle on the dash with the word ‘Scout’ emblazoned across it. Radical.
Not that you’ll ever really need to use it. Sure, the Scout is a genuine 4x4, but it’s only got an extra17mm of ground clearance over the standard Octavia 4x4, so climbing rugged hills looking for sheep is unlikely to be in its remit. Instead, it uses an electronically controlled set-up that can send drive to the wheel with the most grip. In normal driving, it’s just two-wheel drive.
And here, it does a fine job. The single most impressive aspect is the way the Scout rides. Normally, jacking a car up can either make it too stiff or too wallowy, but in the Octavia you get neither of these. It just flows over the tarmac really smoothly. Small bumps are ironed out easily and even larger holes are absorbed without much fuss. The normal Octavia rides pretty well, but there’s more compliance here, making the Scout even more comfy than its lower-slung brethren.
The Scout was never going to be an exciting handler, but the extra 17mm of ground clearance doesn’t translate into much extra body roll. It’s just secure and safe. Much like the engine. The 2.0-litre diesel is well-known as being a refined and punchy unit, and the Scout’s bulky four-wheel drive system doesn’t do anything to affect this. It does drop the fuel economy a bit compared to the standard estate, from 49.6mpg to 44.1mpg, and CO2 rises as well (from 154 to 173g/km), but then green-keen people are unlikely to be after a 4x4 anyway. Ahem.
The Octavia Scout is only available as an estate, so practicality is a strong point. And there’s no problem with interior quality these days – it’s not exactly interesting, but it’s so logical and funtional it’s hard to fault. All of which points to this being the best Octavia on sale, because the (lite) off-road ability gives an extra string to its bow, without reducing the appeal of the original.