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Wednesday 7 December 2016

New Octavia Scout earns its 4x4 merit badge as a tough all-rounder on and off road

You know you're getting on a bit when you start nit-picking about styling features that actually make a car look better.

But when it adds a couple of grand to the list price, sometimes it's hard to justify the extra wedge.

That was the raging debate going on in my head as I flicked through the specification and, more importantly, the cost of the new Skoda Octavia Scout.

First we did a quick run through the all-terrain check list:

Yes, it looks epic; yes, it has 4-wheel-drive; and yes, it could carry the entire crew and kit for a trek to the North Pole.

But the price list raised a niggling doubt in the shape of the less-tooled-up Octavia Combi 4x4.

It pretty much matched the Scout in the tale of the tape bar the fancy cladding and muscular physique.

Granted, the thick rubber mouldings that run around the wheel arches and sills and the aluminium-effect skid plates front and rear are cosmetic, but the extra ground clearance of 31mm is where the major difference lies.

It literally brings the Scout to a whole new level when it comes to proper off-road ability.

Ground clearance is now raised to 171mm, meaning this load-lugger is now a bona fide mud-plugger capable of tackling very steep gradients, mud, snow and small rivers. It'll even tow up to two tonnes should you need it.

The lighter Haldex 5 all- wheel-drive system comes into its own when pushed to the limits with pin-point precision. It detects a loss of traction and redirects power and torque to the opposite wheel to give extra grip.

In normal driving conditions the Scout will remain in front-wheel-drive.

Space-wise, it's pretty much unrivalled, with overall cabin measuring (1,782mm) and headroom at front and rear (983 and 995mm).

There's a massive boot with 610 litres of luggage space which expands to a gargantuan 1,740 litres with the seats folded flat. The front passenger seat also folds, giving a length load of 2.9 metres for any pole vaulters out there.

Little touches such as the double-sided floor cover in the boot (carpet one side, washable rubber the other), folding cargo fasteners and ice-scraper in the fuel filler flap are impressive. So too is the fuel economy of the 2.0l diesel unit, generating a decent 150bhp and returning almost 58mpg (4.9l/100km) and road tax of only €270.

There are more-powerful 184bhp diesel and petrol units (180bhp) available, both twinned to a six-speed DSG automatic gearbox, but they come at a €4,000 premium. Standard kit is decent too, with 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, rear LED lights, chrome roof rails and extra tint windows.

But it's back to price, and unless you're doing serious off-road stuff the Combi 4x4 TDi is probably the man and almost €5,000 cheaper.

The Skoda Octavia Scout costs from €33,795.

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