What is it?
A cut-price, rough-and-tumble wagon sums it up nicely. Subaru pioneered the jacked-up, body-clad, all-wheel-drive estate in 1996. Audi’s A6 Allroad appeared in 1999, around the same time as Volvo’s XC70.
Today, a diesel-powered Allroad will cost £36,000 and an XC70 £30,000. When Subaru's diesel engine arrives later this year, a Legacy Outback is likely to cost nearly £23,000 equipped with it.
Which is where the new Skoda Octavia Scout steps in. Based on the Octavia 4x4 estate, it gets the required chunky bodykit and aluminium undertrays, an extra 17mm of ground clearance over the slightly less robust-looking standard 4x4 Estate (which is 40mm higher than the standard front-drive car), and a spattering of extra spec including rain-sensing wipers and parking radar.
Fitted with the obvious choice of a 140bhp 2.0-litre TDI PD motor, the Octavia Scout will sting your wallet to the tune of £19,670, with xenon lights and sat-nav left on the options list.
What's it like?
I’m a big fan of the ‘Outback’ aesthetic and the Scout wears it well, especially with its integrated skid plates and 17in wheels. Although raised suspension will take the edge off a chassis, the Scout was a satisfying place to be on fast autostrada and the winding roads of the Italian Alps.
It rides well – as you might expect with high-profile tyres and long wheel travel. It also rolls a touch and has a shade more understeer than the standard car, but it's still easy to place on winding roads and it runs very straight at high speed.
This 140bhp diesel engine is certainly gruffer than rival units, but then that’s a problem inherent to VW’s PD injection system. The best refinement is found at high speed, loping along in sixth.
Skoda’s truncated off-road course of slush, snow and mud just about allowed us to establish that the Scout does have quite decent off-road ability. It seems as if it will handle rather more than the average farm track or trip to the beach.
Should I buy one?
There's one major problem with the idea of an Octavia 'Allroad'; you can't help but feel that it stretches the Octavia’s smart, utilitarian flavour a little too far. At this price there’s the Nissan X-Trail to consider, as well as the upcoming Subaru Forester diesel and Honda CR-V. You're even within £1300 of a new Freelander.
For real country folk, a £16,700 entry-level 105bhp Octavia 4x4 estate, and a set of proper winter tyres, would be more justifiable.