Scout shapes as wagon on stilts
Image 1 of 1
Sunday 21st September 2008 - WA Sunday Times
ŠKODA’s surprisingly capable debutante goes bush. NEIL DOWLING reports on another new Czech
With 47 passenger-car makers in Australian showrooms, it’s getting hard for new players to get noticed.
Even harder for those from exotic locations, it seems, as ŠKODA pushes hard to get more than its toe through the stiffening door of our competitive market.
The Czech Republic car maker, owned by Volkswagen, has a miniscule 0.08 per cent market share here, yet it is finding growing favour with its niche products.
Its range comprises the conventional Octavia medium-car models and the decidedly odd-looking Roomster wagonette.
Now there’s another family member.
The good news is that the Scout 4x4 is basically an Octavia wagon on stilts. So it looks familiar, if not a bit bland, despite the add-on plastic panels.
The bad news may be for Subaru.
When the Scout reaches one of ŠKODA’s 20 national dealers next month it’s poised to take on Subaru’s highly successful and similarly priced Outback.
At $39,990, the Scout 4x4 comes only as a two-litre 103kw/320Nm turbo-diesel and only with a manual gearbox, albeit with six cogs.
There is only one model, with a handful of options.
Aside from the Outback, the Scout may tickle the attention of all-wheel-drive wagon buyers who were off to see the Jeep Patriot and Compass.
Maybe even those searching deep into the 33 per cent luxury-car tax stratosphere of the Volvo XC70 and Audi Allroad.
Outwardly, the Scout appears to have quite a battle on its hands.
But one drive will convince you this is a darn good machine. In fact, a very surprising and pragmatic wagon.
It will even entice those who remember the awful 1950s and 1960s ŠKODAs as cars you’d never even recommend to your enemies.
Based heavily on the existing ŠKODA Octavia 4x4 Wagon, the Scout adds 17mm to the ground clearance and a bit extra to the width and length.
The extra equipment also adds about 55kg that weighs on performance and some off-road ability, but barely alters the diesel’s stunning fuel economy.
Try 6.8 litres/100km on an off-road test near Mt Buller, Victoria, this week and 6.2 litres/100km cruising the highways.
Though portrayed as the cheap Volkswagen, the ŠKODA range offers exceptionally high build quality.
The drivetrain is all Volkswagen, as is the suspension and the chassis design. Parts that make up the Octavia are mainly sourced from component bins destined for Golf and Passat.
In the Scout’s case, the all-wheel-drive system is called 4Motion when applied to the Volkswagen Passat, Golf, Tiguan or Transporter, and quattro in reference to Audi.
The Scout is a front-wheel-drive wagon with a simple yet highly efficient Haldex coupling. When this coupling senses the front wheels are slipping, it reacts within a 20-degree turn of the wheels to engage drive to the reae.
There is no interaction by the driver, making this an immediate system that maximises traction whether on wet bitumen or dry beach sand.
The Scout also gets electronic stability control, traction control, electronic differential lock, brake assist, anti-lock brakes and even a feature to wipe water off the brake discs to maximise stopping efficiency.
It has six airbags, active safety head restraints and a four-star crash rating.
The wipers are automatic as are the headlights; there is a six-disc and eight-speaker audio system with iPod and MP3 compatibility; the airconditioner is dual-zone and climate-controlled; there’s cruise control and a trip computer; and the huge cargo area hides a full-size spare wheel.
Now the $39,990 is good value for money.
On the road the picture gets brighter. The wagon body feels taut and solid, so the Scout sits confidently on the bitumen.
Handling is positive and even the steering is barely dulled by its electric assistance.
The two-litre diesel performs best from 2000-3000rpm, though will run to 4500rpm if needed.
The manual gearbox is slick and the low-speed torque of the engine allows the driver to skip a cog of two on the upchange.
For buyers seeking a bush-capable wagon, this ŠKODA offers excellent value.