A TOP RIDE, SCOUT’S HONOUR
OCTAVIA’S BADGE OF EXCELLENCE
MZURI sana: words Lord Baden-Powell would surely have said had he been around to see Skoda's latest and final addition to its Octavia range.
The famous founder of the scout movement, in 1909, died in Kenya in 1941. He was fluent in Swahili, in which mzuri sana means 'very good.'
The spacious high-rise new Scout 4x4s are not SUVs, rather stylish wagons that come in three models, a new 1.8litre petrol turbo 132TSI and a pair of diesels, both considerably improved over their earlier versions.
The 110TDI has marginally more power, but 16 per cent more torque and the 135TDI puts out 31 per cent more power, 19 per cent more torque and both engines are 13 per cent more fuel efficient than their forebears.
All drive the wheels through the latest ( fifth) generation Haldex clutch.
As well, prices have been cut by about $7000, and there's a new finance deal that guarantees the car's future value.
Prices start at $32,990 for the 110TDI, which has a six-speed manual transmission, go to $38,590 for the 132TSI and $41,390 for the 135TDI; both get six-speed dual-clutch automatics.
Standard on all are reverse cameras and rear parking sensors, daytime running lights, nine airbags, the full suite of electronic driver aids, including an electronic diff lock, foglights, fatigue detection, multi-function trip computer, a double-sided cargo mat; but no compass.
That archaic item, part of any scout's DNA, has been updated and replaced with satellite navigation, with integrated audio including Bluetooth audio and streaming, USB, AUX and a couple of card slots.
Scouts sit 33mm taller than other Octavias, which apart from the greater ground clearance, make it easier to get into and out of, add a tad more comfort, and provide a better view, all good for campers, folk with bad backs, drivers focused on safety and anyone who needs a strong, fine-handling vehicle with loads of space and clean styling.
Scouts are easily identified by the bright tri-split skidplate under the chrome-surround grille and their 17-inch alloy wheels, which come in a no-cost choice of two designs. The skidplate runs under the Scout's belly too, protecting vital bits from off-road misadventures.
The impressively quiet interior is very pleasant, good seating front and rear, with generous space, especially in the back, which also gets air vents. Some models have alcantara upholstery.
The dash is a study of understated elegance, matt black, with a central colour info screen and the main dials with clear white numerals.
There's a lot of storage space; the boot, with a self-opening door, is a cavernous 588 litres, expandable via flip-down rear seat backrests.
We drove the base diesel manual and the new 132TSI at the Scout's launch on the twists and turns, ups and downs, sealed and dirt of Tasmania's best roads and were more than happy with both.
The extra ride height had no effect on dynamics, and if anything, improved the comfort factor.
We barely felt the bumps and the occasional switch from two to four-wheel drive was undetectably smooth.
The spot-on steering, strong brakes, stability control, great suspension and grippy Continental tyres added up to an excellent driving package.
The economical manual diesel was a delight, and will probably be favoured by hands-on drivers, but the more powerful petrol job had a decided edge in performance, with a stab of the loud pedal easily sending its motor into 6500rpm redline territory.
The diesel gets to 100km/h in 9.1 seconds and averages 5.3litres/100km, the petrol stops the clock at 7.8 seconds and returns 7.1litres/100km. All commendable.
The trio of Scouts are pretty comprehensively equipped.
But there are the inevitable optional 'packages' for buyers who want extra speakers, cruise control, swivelling headlights and suchlike.
Verdict: Ndio, amzuri sana package at prices well below those of the very similarly equipped Passat Alltrack and Audi Allroad offerings.
Lord Baden-Powell would have been mightily impressed. Scout's honour. Ndio? It means Yes.