Skoda: Octavia Scout cuts the mustard
What it is
Think of Skoda's Octavia Scout as a slightly smaller Subaru Outback and you won't go far wrong. It's a jacked-up four-wheel-drive Octavia, so it delivers better on-road handling than a traditional high-riding SUV, with more assured grip and 40mm additional ground clearance over the practical wagon it's based on.
There's a 103kW/320Nm 2-litre VW group turbo diesel engine under the bonnet mated to a six-speed manual, with VW's clever DSG double-clutch auto transmission also available. Skoda claims a 6.2l/100km thirst; my drives to and fro over the Waitakere hills and around town averaged under 7.0l/100km.
It didn't seem to matter how much it carried in the 580-litre boot, how vigorously we drove or indeed over what surface, the Scout tackled it all with deceptive ease, and threw in the full complement of airbags and stability aids, plus stuff like rear-park sensors, a chilled glovebox, a touchscreen stereo, auto wipers and a partition net as standard.
In 2008 the Scout won the AA Motoring Excellence Awards compact crossover class, thanks to its practical ability and strong specification. Judging by our drive, its successor hasn't dropped the ball.
Frugal engine is punchy enough to please and sufficiently refined to cruise. We also like four-paw confidence combined with decent on-road manners, and its practical cabin.
Punters who rely on a three-decade-old rep when dismissing Skoda. No 30-year-old car cuts the mustard nowadays while today's Skoda Scout most certainly does.