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Car reviews - Skoda - Octavia - Scout 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Long overdue DSG automatic, fuel economy, good ride, commodious interior, fit and finish
Room for improvement
Diesel engine is a bit tardy, steepish pricing

Skoda logo4 Apr 2011

UNTIL now, Skoda Australia has not been able to access a two-pedal variant of its Skoda Octavia Scout from Europe, where they still prefer manual gearboxes.

Skoda Australia boss Matthew Wiesner says it was part of the learning curve, namely which models would Australians like.

Well, more than 80 per cent of customers who rocked up to Skoda showrooms were only interested in buying one if it came with a self-shifting transmission. Few Australians, says Mr Wiesner, wanted to buy a manual wagon.

Now, the problem has been solved – the six-speed twin-clutch DSG is here to answer the call at the premium end of the Scout range.

The problem is that the new box is bolted on to one of the less impressive Volkswagen Group diesel engines.

With just 103kW on tap from the 2.0-litre engine, the Scout’s power-to-weight ratio is marginal, sometimes feeling tardy on our test drive through mountains out of Coolangatta.

The 320Nm of torque through much of the mid-range does its best to compensate, but it is difficult to see how a fully loaded Scout would satisfy any Aussie driver accustomed to, say, a Falcon wagon.

The vehicle that Skoda sees as the main rival for its Scout, the Subaru Outback, is hardly a star performer, although in diesel form it is significantly ahead of the Scout.

Subaru’s boxer diesel has 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque. The Outback 2.0D weighs almost exactly the same as its would-be rival. While neither of these numbers looks dramatically better than the Skoda’s, it’s the combination that counts. You don’t notice it so much on flat roads but when you climb those hills around Nimbin …

There was no opportunity to test the DSG transmission in conditions where this type often displays failings – stop-start driving where there can be a delay in take-up from a standing start.

But the shifts demonstrated no jerkiness, nor the kind of flaccid initial acceleration that goes with the worst examples of a dual-clutch automated manual gearbox (don’t mention the Alfa MiTo TCT!).

Despite a shortfall in performance, the Scout still delivers an enjoyable driving experience.

It has superior steering feel to any current Audi and probably edges out the Outback on driving dynamics. Despite the 180mm ride height, there is little body roll and the Scout feels planted on the road.

It turns into corners with aplomb and minimum understeer. Larger bumps are felt but ride quality is generally supple.

The Subaru has more rear legroom but this is an academic detail because both wagons offer generous room for five occupants. Furthermore, when used in this manner the Skoda provides 580 litres of luggage space to the Outback’s 490. Fold the rear seat and you’ll get 1620 litres into the Czech wagon and 1690 into the Subey.

The price gap between the two competitors is just $500, with the Scout Premium DSG at $43,990 and the Outback Premium in 2.0D guise $43,990. But the Subaru has full leather upholstery while the Scout blends leather and alcantara.

The skinny bottles of water handed out at the start of the drive program drew attention to a minor design fault which could loom larger on a lifestyle vehicle such as the Scout. Its cupholders are hopeless, way too shallow, and we never solved the problem of where to stow the bottles.

Many buyers will prefer the tailored European look of the Scout to the Subaru’s confused edginess.

In summary, the Scout is impressively well finished, neatly styled and offers a rewarding drive under most conditions. With its state-of-the-art VAG dual-clutch gearbox, outstanding quality and undoubted versatility, the Scout showcases the ‘affordable European’ brand values of Skoda in impressive fashion.

Shame it doesn’t have one of VW’s more powerful diesels.

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