Octavia Scout 4X4 sure has earned its merit badge

 

By Philip Hedderman

 

If there were such a thing as The Tyre kicker’s Guide to Buying a Car,  it would indeed be a humongous tome.

 

You see, almost everybody and I mean everybody, has a tried and tested little ritual or set of rules to abide by on the forecourt.

 

Some make quite a lot of sense while others are just ridiculous …  we’ve all seen the new ‘Sounds just like a Golf’ ad.

 

One, which is more of an observation, is so blatantly obvious that it should not be dismissed.

 

The old nuggets “If you want to know how reliable and cheap to run a car is then keep an eye on what taximen are in”.

 

It makes perfect sense – there is no better test car.

 

These very cabbies will pump more miles onto a single engine, gearbox and chassis the most of us will probably do in a lifetime.

 

Following that rule of thumb then, the Skoda Octavia should be the best car on the market, right?

 

Wrong.

 

Ok, so it may have one of the best interiors its class with second to none build quality.

 

It may also be loaded with the finest and smartest technology including  EPS, cruise control, sat nav, Bluetooth hands free phone, on-board computer display, rain sensing wipers, multi-function steering wheel and parking sensors.

 

She may even be powered by the sweetest 2.0 litre TDi diesel engine whacking out 140bhp while returning a very impressive 5.6l/100km (or 45mpg).

 

And you could even be tempted to join the Green Party just to brag at garden parties that the CO2 emissions are under 150g/km meaning annual road tax is a mere €330.

 

Very impressive indeed, but that don’t make it the best.

 

No Sir.

 

For that accolade you would have to check out  its mountaineering bigger brother – the Octavia Scout 4X4.

 

So, what actually is the difference between the Scout and the Combi (estate) version of the best seller?

 

For starters it looks like it’s been armour-plated with aluminium scuff plates fitted front and rear which compliment the thick rubber mouldings encasing the whole car.

 

The body looks more muscular and rugged which offsets the fact that is longer and slightly wider that the original Scout launched in 2007.

 

But the biggest difference is the raised suspension (65 millimetres)  giving it the road presence of a Special Forces Humvee and the fact that she has full, always on 4 wheel drive.

 

That’s thanks to the clever Haldex clutch control unit hiding in the rear axel.

 

Through a series of sensors the unit can detect loss of grip in all four corners which in turn corrects this by re-distributing the power.

 

So, in normal driving conditions the majority of the drive is delivered through the front (96%) and 4% rear.

 

If you should lose traction at the front the power is almost reversed giving 90% to the back and 10% front.

 

In the case that you venture onto a completely uneven surface like sand or gravel then the power is sent evenly (25%) to all four corners.

 

But it on snow is where the Haldex shows how clever it is by figuring out where best to give maximum traction.

 

If it detects poor grip at the front and right rear it will recalibrate and send 10% to the front, 5% to the rear left and 85% to the rear right – or whatever the scenario may be.

 

Unfortunately the snow never came, much to the disappointment of my eight-year-old and yours truly as we so desperately wanted to mimic the pictures in the press pack of a family hurtling down the side of a mountain on a rubber ring.

 

We did however take the Scout to the beach where soft sand mini dunes posed no threat.

 

On tarmac – where it will spend 95% of its life – it was a solid performer, spacious and comfortable.

 

Only one little gripe – what you gain in comfort you lose in handling.

 

It could be the taller shocks and springs but the Scout lurched quite a bit in tight bends and the remote control central locking drove me scatty as it only unlocked the driver’s door.

 

It took several attempts to gain access to the passenger side or the boot (not ideal during a downpour with a well manicured wife and an equally impatient child snapping at the door handles like hungry crocodiles).

 

But pound for pound – price, economy and versatility – the Octavia Scout 4X4  is pretty much the most complete car we here at thenextgear drove last year.

If the Scout is proving a little too rugged for you then you could consider  the less conspicious Combi 4X4.

It is powered by the mega frugal and smaller 1.6 litre, 105bhp diesel engine  also tax band B (€330 road tax) and costs just €28,685.

Prices for the Scout 4X4 start at €32,350.