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Driven: Reborn Skoda Octavia Scout takes on Subaru

Czech it out: Skoda's pretty Octavia Scout wagon gets a 31mm step up to take on the off-road wagon competition, including the Subaru Outback.

Skoda’s sales simmer but Octavia Scout may put it back on the boil

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Skoda logo26 Mar 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

SKODA has launched a second-generation version of its high-riding Octavia Scout wagon, and this time it has priced it aggressively, offering a $7000 saving over the previous model.

A direct rival for the Subaru Outback, and one from its own family, the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, the Octavia Scout 4X4 is hoped to rekindle the strong following of its predecessor.

For 2015, it adopts the Goldilocks principle and finds the potential of a broad audience with its sweet-spot balance of passenger car comfort and handling, and SUV space and off-road capability.

Speaking with media at the at the variant’s launch in Hobart this week, Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer said he believes the Scout will capture more than 20 per cent of the third-generation Octavia’s booming sales.

This year alone, Octavia sales are up 52 per cent on the same two months of 2014, and Mr Irmer said the Scout will build on that.

For the first time, there are three variants and one has a petrol engine. The components are all sourced from Volkswagen Group, including the MQB platform that underpins the Octavia and its cousins, the Golf and Audi A3.

Prices start at $32,990, plus on-road costs, for the 110TDI with a six-speed manual gearbox only, representing a $7000 drop over the previous entry level 103TDI that started at $39,990.

It also undercuts the entry-level Subaru Outback 2.0D diesel at $35,490, while the Passat Alltrack is available in one highly-specced 130TDI variant from $48,290.

The petrol-powered Scout comes only with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic and costs $38,590, putting it up against the Outback 2.5i Premium equivalent at $41,490.

The range-topper, the 135TDI, costs $41,390 and has a similar equipment list to the petrol model.

Importantly, Volkswagen has allowed Skoda to access its top shelf of new components, breaking a tradition of feeding its junior associates its hand-me-downs.

Indeed, the Scout gets the latest Haldex-5 all-wheel drive system six months before it appears on the all-new Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, due in Australia next year.

The 110TDI has the EA288 Volkswagen engine with 110kW and 320Nm, the latter from only 1750rpm and delivered flat through to 3000rpm.

Compared with its predecessor, this variant boasts a seven per cent increase in power, six per cent rise in torque and a 13 per cent drop in fuel consumption to 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

The 110TDI is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox. An option is the Premium Pack that bundles items including satellite navigation and safety equipment such as automatic crash avoidance for an extra $4400.

Skoda Australia’s planning and product manager Kieran Merrigan said the items in the Premium Pack are worth $7000.

The 110TDI’s list of standard equipment includes a reversing camera, a 5.8-inch touchscreen with an eight-speaker audio, cloth seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The 132TSI petrol picks up Volkswagen’s third-generation1.8-litre EA888 engine with 132kW of power at 6000rpm and 280Nm of torque from a low 1350rpm to 4500rpm.

It is offered with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic only and Skoda claims the 132TSI averages 7.1L/100km.

Its standard equipment over the 110TDI includes leather and Alcantara upholstery, 8.0-inch satellite navigation, electric tailgate and heated front seats. Skoda said the 132TSI and 135TDI have 11 more features over the previous model.

Both these wagons have an optional Tech Pack with city emergency braking (110TDI and 132TSI only), adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assist, bi-Xenon headlights, a 10-speaker premium sound system and a camera-based lane assist feature that is offered by Skoda for the first time.

The Tech Pack costs $3900 for the 110TDI and 132TSI and, because it misses out on the city emergency braking, only $3300 for the 135TDI.

For reasons known only by Skoda’s head office in the Czech Republic, the diesel does not come with this city emergency braking function. Mr Merrigan said he has not received a reason.

There is also a $4400 Premium Pack geared towards 110TDI buyers. This contains features from the higher-spec models including the 132/135’s 8.0-inch (up from 5.8-inch) touchscreen satellite navigation system with Bluetooth and audio streaming, two-zone climate air-conditioning, leather and Alcantara seat upholstery, heated front seats, electric tailgate, 17-inch alloy wheels and side mirrors with heating and folding functions.

Overall, Skoda said the new Scout’s fuel consumption is better by 20 per cent compared with its predecessor, a by-product of the new wagon’s lighter weight, the 1.4kg lighter and more efficient Haldex 5 drive system and brake recuperation and idle-stop technologies.

There are other weight losses. A new multi-link rear suspension unit loses 4kg to now weigh 49kg thanks to the use of high-tensile steel, while the front MacPherson strut suspension is down 2.8kg despite an additional lower wishbone because of the same use of the lighter steel.

Visually, the Scout stands 31mm higher than its Octavia wagon donor and boasts a 171mm ground clearance. The front bumper is new and its construction far sturdier than its on-road sister. Black plastic sill and wheel-arch mouldings confirm it as a more rugged variant.

Under the body are plastic protection panels and heavy-duty brake and fuel lines added as part of Skoda’s “rough-road package”.

The Scout gets 17-inch wheels with 225/50R17 tyres, intentionally with a higher profile than the bitumen-only Octavia wagon to allow for low-pressure operation in sandy conditions.

The wheelbase is up 100mm to 2679mm but in keeping with its off-road intentions, the front overhang is down 26mm to 899mm. The wagon is also 101mm longer than the old model at 4685mm.

Picking up on the Octavia wagon’s impressive cabin dimensions, the Scout replicates the 1782mm interior length and leg, elbow and headroom. Compared with the previous Scout, the newbie has an 8.0 litre increase in boot capacity to 588 litres thanks to the smaller Haldex drive system.

Fold down the rear seats and luggage space grows to 1718 litres, 98 litres up on the old model, and luggage length is now 2920mm with the front passenger seat folded down.

Access to the boot is through a wider opening with a square 1070mm height and width, up 9mm on its predecessor. It also has a low 667mm load height, down 5mm.

But while the rear seat splits and folds flat, there’s still a step-up that means no flat floor for the cargo area.

Skoda’s clever touches include shopping-bag hooks, two boot lights, 12-volt power outlets, a double-sided floor mat with one waterproof side, and an optional cargo fastener that folds out to secure luggage items.

The passenger area has a waste bin and eight bottle holders.

For safety – a subject Skoda Australia is at pains to enforce – there is the optional Front Assist which is the forward automatic braking system designed to avoid low-speed accidents in the 5km/h to 30km/h range.

A driver fatigue detection monitor is standard across the board, following from its use in some comparable Volkswagen products.

The lane assist option, in the Tech Pack, uses a camera behind the interior mirror to monitor the vehicle’s position in the lane at speeds above 65km/h.

The Scout also has a five-star crash safety rating, nine airbags and the full compliment of electronic brake aids.

2015 Skoda Octavia Scout pricing*
110TDI$32,990
132TSI (a)$38,590
135TDI (a)$41,390
*Excludes on-road costs

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