Chaos theory

WITH a spacious body and very reasonable boot, the Skoda Octavia Scout is a genuinely impressive performer off-road. Equipment levels too are excellent; with automatic lights and wipers, a new touch screen radio, dual zone air-con and parking sensors.

WITH a spacious body and very reasonable boot, the Skoda Octavia Scout is a genuinely impressive performer off-road. Equipment levels too are excellent; with automatic lights and wipers, a new touch screen radio, dual zone air-con and parking sensors.

It has been said, time and time again, that we’re simply not prepared for adverse conditions on this island. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise. If there are two things that we Irish excel at, they are stubbornness and mass calamity. Of course, we prefer to call them ‘community spirit’, but we’re not fooling anyone.

So, although we are now allegedly in the middle of summer and have forgotten the extreme weather conditions of last winter. The fact is that when Arctic conditions were forecast we mostly ignored it. Then, on the first morning that we pulled back the curtains to discover a sparkling winter wonderland we carried on as normal and, as a result, crashed into each other and then sat on the hard shoulder with obliterated radiator hoses.

Regardless, we managed to look on the bright side ... for a few days. Then, with no let up in the conditions, grit supplies ran low and there was a nationwide shortage of antifreeze, then we started to panic. One used car website recorded a 70 per cent increase in the number of searches for four-wheel drive vehicles in January.

Finally, once the temperature is back above freezing for a couple of months we forget all about it, settle down and prepare to begin the cycle of belligerence and desperation again. There is an alternative however, and that’s to buy a more capable machine before the going gets tough. Fortunately we live in rich times when it comes to rugged transmission options. Four-wheel drive no longer means large, cumbersome, grumbley gas-guzzlers (unless you want it to). Anyway, buy a big traditional SUV and you’ll spend the winter months pulling friends and neighbours off their drives and out of ditches.

Far more sensible would be to opt for one of the subtler options, and Skoda’s Octavia Scout is among the subtlest. The Octavia has long been one of the D-segment’s hidden gems, making the most of the reliability, build quality and cutting edge engines and transmission options from the Volkswagen Group.

It’s an old school choice; superior petrol refinement against impressive diesel economy. The petrol unit does seem less suited to the larger vehicle, it has to be revved harder to find the performance of the mid-range and fuel economy suffers as a result. Regardless, it’s not short on performance, and compliments the Octavia Scout’s surprisingly firm chassis well. The perfect car for under-prepared Irish drivers, the Octavia Scout will allow drivers to carry on as normal as chaos ensues, without paying the penalty during the other 50 weeks.

of the year.

With saloon and estate models, engines from a frugal 80bhp 1.4-litre TSI engine to the 200bhp vRS, six and seven-speed DSG transmissions and four-wheel drive available it already boasted plenty of appeal. Recent revisions inside and out have boosted the appeal further. Changes to the lamp design and a more stately front grille have given the Octavia more presence across the range and inside there’s an updated radio console and new trim details including a chunkier steering wheel.

However, it’s what’s happening out of sight that gives the Octavia Scout four-seasons appeal. The Scout sits noticeably, but only slightly noticeably, higher than a regular Octavia Estate, meaning that while it may attract attention for its contemporary looks, owners won’t necessarily become the fourth emergency service during a week-long winter apocalypse.

Should owners let slip to friends and family that they can provide extra traction, a part time Haldex clutch system engages when required, providing torque to the rear wheels in slippery conditions but offering two-wheel drive fuel economy in normal circumstances.

Underneath the raised body, under-side protection means the Octavia can make full use of its extra traction; it’s no gimmick, the Octavia Scout is a genuinely impressive performer off-road. It’s also pretty good at less exciting family stuff, with a spacious body and very reasonable boot. There’s minimum intrusion from the transmission tunnel in the rear and the practical and stylish front passenger compartment is big on storage space, with a chilled glovebox and more storage under the passenger seat.

Equipment levels are excellent considering the price; automatic lights and wipers are present, a new touch screen radio gives the cabin a more high-tech feel and there’s dual zone air-con and parking sensors. The only limiting factor with the Scout is engine and transmission choice. Only the 158bhp 1.8 TSI or 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel are available - both with a six-speed manual gearbox.

It’s an old school choice; superior petrol refinement against impressive diesel economy. The petrol unit does seem less suited to the larger vehicle, it has to be revved harder to find the performance of the mid-range and fuel economy suffers as a result. Regardless, it’s not short on performance, and compliments the Octavia Scout’s surprisingly firm chassis well. The perfect car for under-prepared Irish drivers, the Octavia Scout will allow drivers to carry on as normal as chaos ensues, without paying the penalty during the other 50 weeks of the year.

Facts at a glance

Model: Skoda Octavia Scout 1.8 TSI.

Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol unit developing 158bhp and 184lb/ft.

Transmission: Six-speed manual transmission as standard, driving all four wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 131mph, 0-62mph 8.4 seconds.

Economy: 36.2mpg.

CO2 Rating: 182g/km.