• ŠKODA Octavia Scout in white parked in a log cabin

Climbing Mountains in a ŠKODA Octavia Scout

… and why the guy at the hire place is a numpty.

We’ve all considered the question ‘If I could only have one car for the rest of my life, what would it be…’ I used to answer this with some form of 4WD SUV. After all, who would want to invest their money in a mode of transport that could one day somehow get ‘stuck’ and not be able to complete the task put in front of it?

But having now driven a lot of new vehicles, I’ve decided a large SUV is just too much for my needs and has limitations when driving around town. Not to mention the higher driving position never quite being able to compete with ‘lower down’ vehicles when it comes to handling and comfort. Plus when you bring environmental factors into the equation, an SUV just doesn’t quite cut it. The only real reason you would need to go down this route would be if you regularly do serious off-roading, you need to tow something big and heavy frequently, or your back is so shot that you can’t get in and out of a lower vehicle.

Ultimately, despite New Zealand’s trend swingly enthusiastically towards SUVs, for me the car-to-end-all-cars would have to be a wagon. Wagons are hugely practical – with many having more space than regular SUVs – while also remaining low to the ground and therefore offering handling and driving pleasure similar to a sedan or hatch. You often get more features for your money and they’re suitable for families while also not being so obnoxious as to look unnecessary for a single passenger on their daily commute.

Škoda Octavia Scout in the snow

Having settled on a wagon, the next question would be which variant? Wagons typically come as either ‘regular’, ‘sport’ or ‘offroad’. I’ve been trying to avoid saying ‘I’ve been lucky enough to…’ as by now you all know I’m a jammy git and I don’t need to keep repeating that, but I really have been in quite an unrivaled position recently whereby I’ve had the chance to spend a lot of time with both the sport and offroad options within ŠKODA’s range. Namely, the Octavia RS (I really need to write a blog post for this) and the Octavia Scout.

So… Sport or Offroad Wagon?

The Octavia RS is an incredible machine and was an absolute delight to drive. But… I recently went on a family holiday to Mt Lyford following the biggest dump of snow that I’ve ever experienced, and I happened to be in the Scout at the time. As I was churning through the snow, ploughing a path for the Subaru Outback and Holden Colorado that followed behind (the Colorado genuinely tried to pass, slipped, then fell back into the safety of the tracks that I was creating) it occurred to me that there was no way I would have taken the RS on the same trip. If nothing else, it just wouldn’t have been able to take the snow chains that I’d hired at the last minute.

The Scout saw my family safely up the hill despite the challenges thrown at it. As I was closing the curtains of our wood cabin, looking through the window into a dark and chilly forest blanketed in snow, I peered through the gloom and tapped the unlock button on the Scout’s remote. Out in the darkness, the Scout lit up like a Christmas tree, with LED lights projecting ahead and to the rear with the puddle lights under the wing mirrors illuminating the sides. Sorry to be all nostalgic but it took me back to walking through the Welsh mountains and getting lost, with horrendous weather coming in and the sun going down, finally returning to the car – the last one in the car park – at night and feeling so happy to be safe again.

ŠKODA Octavia RS 245

The ŠKODA Octavia RS 245

What’s this, then? A Holden?

Just as an aside: On my trip to Lyford, just as the snow storm was coming in, I stopped at a hire place to pick up some snow chains as backup (it got pretty serious and I ended up using these!).

Two older Kiwi blokes at the hire place walked out to check out the Scout to double check the wheel sizes. As they approached the car, they said “What’s this, then? A Holden?” Slightly in disbelief I said, “A Holden?! No, it’s a Scout.” Their response: “Is that ŠKODA? Oh you won’t need chains then, mate. It’ll break down before you get there.”

Amazing. If you’re reading this and have got this far way through the article, then you’re probably not the ones that need to hear this so I won’t go on too much. But if you still think ŠKODA is a vehicle brand that ‘breaks down all the time’ then I’m not surprised you also instinctively think any wagon you see is a Holden. Come on. It’s 2019, mate.

Anyway… back to the car!

ŠKODA Octavia Scout

What’s it packing?

The Scout has three engine options that vary slightly to the regular Octavia line-up, plus you get ŠKODA’s advanced 4WD system across the Scout range. All three engines are 2L capacity. The petrol (TSI) engine provides 140kW power and 320Nm torque, with two diesel TDI engine options; the 110kW/340Nm and the 135kW/380Nm.

Price doesn’t vary wildly at all across all three – from $49,990 to $52,990 – entirely based on your engine choice. With all of the features the same, it comes down to whether you like petrol or diesel, and then – if diesel is your choice – whether you’re up for spending the extra $3,000 for another 15kW of power and an extra 40Nm of torque. That extra grunt translates to 7.7s to 100kph versus 9.4, and a 215kph top speed versus 200kph. Both diesel engines will tow 2,000kg (braked) while the petrol is rated to 1,700kg.

Lyford

We got snowed into our log cabin. I wasn’t complaining.

What really stands out?

As cheesey as it may sound, it’s the complete package. As a wagon it already has heaps of space, but ŠKODA have always been amazing at one thing that really resonates with me – practical features. It’s like the Volkswagen Audi Group engineers built Audi vehicles for luxury, they built Volkswagens for a great balance of ‘premium’ and ‘affordable’, and then they built ŠKODA for themselves based on what benefits those who actually own and ‘live with’ a vehicle.

Features like an icescaper (which now doubles as a tyre gauge) behind the petrol flap, a cup holder insert that’s perfect for your phone, some coins and the key fob, a boot light that pops out to become a torch, reversible boot mats so you have ‘regular’ on one side and ‘adventure mode’ on the other (being a ridged-rubber format for wet dogs, muddy boots and bikes – this is a $150 option I believe, but it’s a good one), a rear washer to clean your reversing camera, and endless bag hooks and storage options.

It’s these features the embody the ŠKODA ‘Simply Clever’ mantra. Perhaps the reason that ŠKODA vehicles once came first, second AND third in a survey of ‘most satisfied vehicle owners’ in the UK.

They’re also stylish without a shred of arrogance, looking just at home outside a fancy office, the family driveway, or the farmyard. Then there’s the fact that ŠKODA buyers are typically those who have done more research than the next guy when it comes to choosing a new car. It’s easy to choose a mainstream brand, but if you actually do the research and read the reviews (and if you get a chance to, speak to a motoring journalist) you’ll end up with a ŠKODA at the top of your shortlist. It’s the reason our sales guys aren’t afraid to tell a customer to compare with the competitors if they’re unsure.

ŠKODA Octavia Scout Dash
ŠKODA Octavia Scout front seats
ŠKODA Octavia Scout rear seats

Feature Highlights

  • Alcantara ‘Scout’ Leather Interior
  • Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Emergency Braking
  • 8″ Touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • Electronic Tailgate
  • Lane Assist & Blind Spot
  • Auto Lights & Wipers
  • Off-road Mode
  • LED Headlights, Washers, Rear LED Lights
  • Front Heated Seats & Steering Wheel (this is amazing!)
  • LED Ambient Interior Lights (Customisable)
  • 17″ Alloy Wheels
ŠKODA Octavia Scout rear

Competitor options?

A few manufacturers have gone down the off-road wagon route. The Audi Allroad and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack are some of the more premium options (don’t forget these two are ŠKODA’s siblings and a lot of the technology and parts are shared) while the Subaru Outback is a highly popular, more ‘mainstream’ contender.

For those deciding between the Subaru and the ŠKODA… well personally I’m more a fan of the ŠKODA’s styling and practical features (of which there are too many to list), and the awards speak for themselves. If reliability’s important to you, the ŠKODA Octavia recently topped its category in the UK’s J.D. Power ‘Vehicle Dependability Study’.

For me, for the money, and for the family, it’s the Scout.

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