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First drive: Skoda crosses over with Octavia Scout

Scout's honour: No petrol or auto options will limit the latest Octavia's appeal.

Volkswagen's Czech brand widens its net (a little) with the AWD Octavia Scout

18 Sep 2008

SKODA has introduced a car-based SUV to boost its fledgling Australian operation, with the Octavia Scout 4x4 crossover wagon now available alongside the Roomster and the regular Octavia range in Skoda dealerships.

Only one version of the Scout is available, priced at $39,990. This car is a diesel with a six-speed manual transmission and the lack of an automatic transmission is bound to limit its appeal in Australia.

Skoda opted against bringing in a petrol version in the belief the diesel will not only appeal most to potential customers, but also give it a point differentiation.

The Octavia Scout will go into battle against vehicles such as the Subaru Outback, but could also pinch sales from its VW Group cousin, the Tiguan.

The Scout is basically a jacked-up version of the Octavia 4x4 wagon with 40mm more ground clearance for a total of 180mm.

It is clearly designed for occasional light off-road duties, but meets enough of the requirements to qualify for the federal government’s five per cent import duty reduction, which was originally intended to help farmers purchase off-roaders.

29 center imageThe Scout runs as a front-drive in most conditions, but can send power to the rear wheels when required using a Haldex coupling with an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch. This is all done automatically and you are unable to lock it in a 50/50 split as is the case with some other crossover models.

The electronic stability control and traction control system can be switched off to allow some slip, which is helpful when traversing mud patches or particularly slippery gravel.

The Scout is powered by a 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo-diesel with 103kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm between 1750rpm and 2500rpm. It features a diesel particulate filter and external exhaust gas recirculation and meets Euro 4 standards.

It isn’t the latest VW Group diesel though. This “PD” engine uses a fuel delivery system with individual pumps for each injector (known as Pumpe Duse), which control the pressure of the injection.

Starting with the new Superb, which has been introduced in Europe, Skoda diesels will switch to a common-rail system. In this case, the entire fuel rail feeding all injectors is pressurised at the rate the diesel is injected into the cylinders, doing away with individual high-pressure pumps.

The benefits of a common-rail system include improved refinement and more accurate pressure control, which in turn means it more easily meets tighter Euro5 emissions standards.

Even so, the existing Skoda engine is very efficient, using an average of just 6.6 litres per 100km - which is pretty good for a 1635kg family car. That figure is indeed more impressive than the 0-100km/h figure of 10.2 seconds, which reveals this is by no means a performance car.

Skoda has fitted a steel underbody plate to protect the engine and transmission. The Scout also has a bigger plastic bumper including front foglights, and fake plastic front and rear inserts that have been painted to look like aluminium.

The Scout sits on special 17-inch alloy wheels and comes with a dual exhaust pipe.

Interior changes, apart from badging, are limited to a grab handle located on the passenger side of the dashboard. This feature, usually reserved for extreme off-roaders, is best described as a gimmick given the Scout is designed for gravel and unmade roads rather than rock-hopping adventure that would require another handle.

As is the case with the regular Octavia wagon, the Scout has impressive interior room including 580 litres of boot space with all the seats in place. Fold the rear seats down and the load area opens up to a cavernous 1620 litres.

The Scout comes with a full suite of safety gear including electronic stability control, dual front, side and curtain airbags and anti-whiplash active head restraints.

There is also a substantial list of standard features including cruise control, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, electric windows, rain sensing wipers, a leather-wrap steering wheel, cargo nets, CD sound with auxilliary input and heated seats. A 16-inch spare steel wheel is also included as standard, while leather seats, with Alcantara sections, head up the options list at $2490. Other prominent options include Xenon headlights at $1730, metallic paint at $630 and a sunroof at $1730.

The Scout is also the first Skoda that is available with the new Columbus touch-screen satellite-navigation system, which costs $2490. This system has a 30-gigabyte hard drive, of which 10GB is reserved for navigation data, while 20GB is available for music storage. Using a 6.5-inch screen, the system can also play DVDs when the vehicle is parked.

The Scout, as is the case with its Octavia siblings, uses MacPherson strut front suspension and a four-link independent rear set-up. In the case of the Scout it also has revised anti-roll bars and tougher springs and dampers.

The electrically-assisted power steering system remains the same, and the Scout’s towing limit, when using a braked trailer, is 1600kg.

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