What is it?
It’s the facelifted-for-2009 Octavia Scout, the slightly high-rise, more overtly off-road variant of Skoda’s pleasingly honest, practical and affordable estate. Think Audi A4 Allroad, but without the badge kudos and minus nine grand or so off the asking price.
As well as cosmetic changes inside and out, the latest Scout gets the new, fourth generation Haldex clutch system also found on the Octavia 4x4 estate. It’s mated to an unchanged 2.0-litre diesel engine and a smooth six-speed manual gearbox with sensibly spaced ratios.
What’s it like?
Practical, comfortable and versatile, among other things. The familiar 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel unit is a respectable performer and returns decent economy, with 50-plus mpg easily achieved on a gentle motorway cruise. On top of that, 17-inch alloys and a tyre profile more at home on a farm track than a race track mean it’s a relaxing ride, too.
Externally, the Scout’s modified suspension raises both the ride height and ground clearance over the standard Octavia 4x4, while chunky but understated bodywork add-ons increase both width and overall length by a few millimetres. All this adds up to a genuine smattering of off-road ability; you wouldn’t want to enter the Dakar Rally in it, but towing a horsebox or caravan across a rutted field would be well within its remit.
Inside, you get a model of restrained, contemporary cabin design. Trim fit and finish punches well above the Scout’s asking price, with excellent seats, a clear, comprehensive dash, useful trip computer functions and a satisfyingly tactile steering wheel, albeit lacking in fingertip controls for the otherwise excellent stereo. The front seat passenger even gets a chunky handle on the dashboard to hang on to when the going gets really rough; a light peppering of neat ‘Scout’ badges completes the interior effect.
Should I buy one?
It’s certainly worth considering. Estate car practicality is common to all the Octavia estates, but the Scout’s very real, if limited, off-road potential marks it out as an option for those who need something capable of performing when the going gets rougher than a muddy country lane.
As a rugged, rural towing car that is otherwise barely compromised in everyday on-road use, the Octavia Scout is an impressive, endearing and great value piece of kit.