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First drive: DSG to take Skoda’s Scout to the masses

Self-shifter: Skoda's Octavia Scout finally gains an automatic transmission, in the form of the Volkswagen group's DSG unit.

Revised Octavia Scout range headlined by an auto version designed for wider appeal

31 Mar 2011

SKODA Australia hopes the long-awaited introduction of an automatic transmission option will increase sales of its almost non-existent Octavia Scout almost ten-fold.

Now on sale as part of an expanded and subtly updated Scout line-up that also includes a more upmarket ‘Premium’ variant for the first time, the twin-clutch automated manual version adds $2300 to the price of the entry-level 2011 Octavia Scout, which remains unchanged at $39,490.

The Premium DSG tops the Scout range, which continues to be a diesel-only affair, at $45,790 but appears to be the best value and best fit for the demanding local market.

Its packaging of Alcantara/leather trim, an electric sunroof, polished alloy wheels, privacy glass (from the B-pillar back) and driver’s seat memory should appeal to customers in search of luxury and style as well as the other virtues of compact SUVs.

These features are in addition to the entry-level Scout’s standard equipment list, which is quite extensive with six airbags, 17-inch alloys, foglights and heated front seats (as well as a hill-hold function to encourage intrepid drivers of manual cars).

29 center imageLeft: Skoda Octavia Scout Premium. Bottom: Standard Skoda Octavia Scout.

Satellite-navigation has been added to the standard specification sheet, but the near-$40,000 pricetag for the base manual edition looks steepish in a highly competitive compact SUV market where low-volume players struggle for almost every sale alongside a growing list of established models from respected brands, many of which have recently introduced sub-$30,000 two-wheel drive options.

Choosing a Scout Premium manual adds $4000 to the invoice and, for those relatively few customers who would prefer a (six-speed) manual transmission, the Premium may look like sound value at $43,490, which is just $1700 more than a Scout DSG.

The 2011 Scout range also brings a number of minor updates that aim to give the slow-selling crossover, which continues to ride 40mm higher than the Octavia wagon upon which it is based, a more muscular, off-road-type look.

Also as before, the Scout’s 2.0-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine makes a modest 103kW of power and a useful 320Nm of torque, on stream right through from 1750 to 2500rpm.

Both figures fall somewhat short of those delivered by Subaru’s diesel boxer unit of similar capacity in the Forester. Few 1550kg vehicles have to make do with so little engine and the Scout’s claimed 0-100km/h acceleration figure of 10.1 seconds looks distinctly 20th Century.

Fortunately for Skoda Australia, most buyers will care much more about fuel economy than acceleration and the official figures of 6.1 litres per 100 km (combined), 7.6 (urban) and 5.3 (extra urban) are very good. Directly related to these numbers is the carbon dioxide emissions figure of 160g/km.

The Octavia-based Scout has hardly been a great sales success in Australia, where the all-wheel drive wagon has been merely a niche model in a crowded compact SUV market since it was launched here in September 2008.

In the two years or so since then, the Scout has attracted just 262 buyers – less than many rivals achieve on a monthly basis.

Skoda Australia expects the addition of an automatic option to increase that by 80 or 90 percent and the upgraded model should win more interest by not eliminating all prospective buyers unfamiliar with a clutch pedal.

With its polished alloy wheels – of the same ‘Proteus’ design and 17-inch diameter as the standard Scout – the Premium should also draw more attention to itself in the showroom.

2011 Skoda OctaviaScout pricing:
Scout (a)$41,790
Scout Premium$43,490
Scout Premium (a)$45,790

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