Good: rugged looks, real off-road ability.
Not so good: price tag, manual transmission.
The Skoda Octavia Scout goes beyond simply gluing on some extra body cladding by offering raised suspension and a proper all-wheel drive system. You will however, need to pick the right engine. If you're a lover of the outdoors, whether it is walks in the country or triathlons, there's a good chance that you're going to need to suitable vehicle to go with your leisure pursuits. The obvious choice might be to opt for whatever the latest SUV or crossover offering seems to be the most fashionable down at the school gates, but there is an alternative. Once the exclusive preserve of just a select few car brands, most notably the Audi A6 allroad quattro, there is now a glut of 'allroaded' versions of more popular models creeping onto the market. By this, we mean conventional estate cars toughened up and given the right tools to go (slightly more) off-road.
The Skoda Octavia Scout isn't quite one of the newbies, but this model is the latest version from the Czech car maker, and in its contrasting colour scheme of white paint and black plastic protective cladding, it really does look the part. It rides 31mm higher than the regular Octavia and gets some funky-looking five-spoke alloy wheels. Other noticeable features include some aluminium-like flashes across the bottom of the front and rear bumpers, while the roof gets some useful luggage bars.
Sitting inside the Octavia Scout there's a conventional layout that will be familiar to anyone that has already experienced the standard car. In a bid to reinforce the outdoor influence on the Octavia Scout the interior does feature a subtle brown trim that might not be to everyone's taste, though you can also choose to have it in the more conventional all-black scheme.
Equipment-wise buyers do get a good level of standard features in the rugged Skoda such as cruise control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic wipers. Engine-wise there is a choice of two variants of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel unit: a 150hp version that we're testing here and a more powerful 184hp option.
In the standard Octavia, this 150hp engine is more than sufficient for most drivers; however, in the Scout this engine's performance is hampered slightly by the addition of the Haldex all-wheel drive system, which saps some power as well as adding around 30kg to the car's overall weight. But, what it takes in outright performance it gives in increased levels of traction. The Octavia Scout feels impressively surefooted thanks to its new Haldex system. Normally it operates with a front-wheel bias of 96 per cent; however, on mud or snow this drive is split more evenly, with 25 per cent being distributed to each wheel. Should things get really slippery, it can adopt a more rear-wheel drive bias or in extreme situations can send 85 per cent of the engine's power to drive just one wheel. Provided you have some good tyres fitted, there are few 'soft-roading' scenarios that could trouble the Scout.
There's no option to choose lower gearing, but the system seems quick-acting, using information such as engine speed, the position of the accelerator pedal, the angle of the steering wheel and anti-lock braking sensors to inform its strategy. That raised suspension also gives a generous 16.7-degree approach angle and a 13.8-degree departure angle, should you be feeling adventurous - or didn't bother ticking the satellite navigation option box.
In regular and everyday driving the Octavia Scout powered by the 150hp engine does feel a touch on the sluggish side, giving you a sense that its all-wheel drive system is more tuned for the practical rather than performance side of things. In its defence, with 340Nm of torque it still does has enough pulling power to give it a towing capacity of 2,000kg, yet manages to return an official combined fuel consumption figure of 4.9 litres/100km (although not while towing 2,000kg!). It can also swallow up plenty of luggage thanks to its 610 litres of boot space, which can be expanded to a mountain bike-swallowing 1,710 litres.
However, if you're looking to have the most complete package in this car you really do need to opt for the more powerful 184hp engine, while the dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission gives a much smoother drive, especially in start-stop traffic. Both engines are a touch on the noisy side, but the extra grunt from the 184hp unit means it should rev a little less when driving.
There are of course some alternatives to choose from, most notably from within the Skoda range - the standard Octavia Combi is now available with the same all-wheel drive system, although you won't get the chunky cladding or raised suspension. You will save up to €2,800 depending on what trim level you go for, though. Staying in the Volkswagen Group, SEAT's new Leon X-Perience is the Octavia Scout's closest rival, using much of the same hardware and draped in an arguably more stylish suit. More importantly, when compared like with like in their range-topping 184hp DSG guises, the SEAT is €1,600 cheaper, for what is mechanically at least, the same car.