Skoda's one-two RS Scout combo delivers a knockout punch

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Two months on from the reveal of Skoda’s new face lifted Octavia, the Czech mark has followed it up with the one-two combination of the blistering RS and all terrain Scout. A rag tag group of motoring journalists were shipped out to Austria’s beautiful capital city of Vienna to get better acquainted with the off road and on track variants of Skoda’s Octavia. The Octavia RS (yes, I too had been calling it the VRS for years) we were being pointed at was the stunning looking, 184bhp diesel model, the one most popular with Irish motorists. 

A do anything, go anywhere vehicle with sporty looks and adequate va-va-voom under the bonnet. Alongside this ‘lap-time lout’ was the rugged looking Scout, which takes the Octavia’s practicality to a new levels with its lifted body.  Finally, there was one dark horse lurking at the end of the stable like an unbroken colt, this was of course the manual, 2.0 litre TSI petrol, which is packing a frankly mood altering 230bhp. However this brooding beast is soon to be replaced with the RS245, which will have an extra 15bhp of grunt, but sadly this wasn’t available for the launch drive.  

If you want to take a step back to the future, you can read my review of the Skoda RS245 from a few months after this article was first published.

Since ten per cent of all Octavia’s sold in Ireland are the RS model, 470 to be exact, and of that only four per cent are the petrol version, 16 sold last year, we will focus our attention on the popular choice.  Prices for the hot hatch hunting diesel sports saloon start at €34,450 and for that you get a 184bhp car that will cost you €200 to tax, gets from 0-100kph in 7.9 seconds, is hugely frugal at 4.5l/100kph (or 52MPG U.S) and prices start at €34,450, while its Combi (estate) brother, starts at €35,450.  Many cars claim to skirt the thin line between practicality and performance, but few actually manage it quite as well as the Skoda Octavia RS, with acres of interior space and even more in the Combi, an upgraded  9.2” Columbus Navigation and Infotainment system, the ratio of bang to buck is undeniable.  

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During my time in Austria I also had the pleasure of testing the new Scout, the Subaru Forrester hunting all terrain Skoda Octavia. Lifted by 30mm, all-wheel drive and packing a hydraulic multi plate clutch with electronic control, this go-everywhere model does exactly what it says on the tin.  The clutch unit constantly monitors and calculates the sufficient torque to be delivered to the rear wheels and front and rear axles are equipped with XDS+ electronic differential lock to deliver safer cornering. The 4x4 Scouts are also permitted to haul loads of up to 2,000kg. 

The 150bhp Scout starts at €35,495, will cost €270 to tax, gets 5l/100 (47mpg U.S) and gets from 0-100kph in 9.1 seconds, however the 184bhp version with the DGS gearbox  costs a tenner more to tax, €38,850 to buy and gets from 0-100kph in 7.8 seconds.  Skoda brought the troupe of motoring hacks I mentioned earlier to a test track just outside Austria to put the RS and Scout through their paces.  First up was the 4x4 DSG 184bhp diesel (€39,995), which packs more than enough power to give you a smile and doesn’t feel overly long in its Combi version. 

The DSG box is snappy and once you turn off the tip-tronic flappy paddle controls it turns into an easy to live with, automatic cruiser.  Personally I think paddles feel a little bit too much like Xbox controllers stuck to the back of the steering wheel. Maybe I’m just stuck in the last century, but the manual option was more fun.  The traction control was very impressive on the skid pad and through the slalom, which only became apparent when I attempted to conquer the wet course with the driver aids switched off.  

After my spin in the diesel I managed to get my mucky paws on the 230bhp, manual, petrol version, which is soon to be uprated to 245bhp later this year.  My man child nature collided with my inner boy racer behind the wheel of the barnstorming RS230. Powering around the track behind the local course pro went from a fun jaunt to a full on blitzkrieg as I wrestled the Czech brute around the winding course, intent on the impossible task of passing the local racing driver.  

Having been around the course with the practical, fun and snappy DSG, it was a real thrill to be back to basics with the familiar and formidable manual box.  I don’t have kids or a mortgage, I like practical fast cars and I care more about BHP than MPG, so the petrol would be the one I’d take home with me. 

However, in the real world the one to live with is the diesel and you will notice a difference if you spend the extra bit on the 4x4 model.  Next up was the all-terrain Skoda Scout, which could have been christened ‘The Goat’ on the basis of how it deals with rugged ground and shockingly steep hills. The Scout is a terrific call for anyone who has to deal with tough terrain, it feels like a quality product and was more than capable of dealing with  any situation I threw at it.  

The RS a popular choice for Irish drivers and Skoda have been listening and improving on it at every opportunity. The six different diesel versions on offer is testament to that, all of which are a worthy purchase.  In saying that, I am waiting with bated breath for the keys to the all-new RS245, which, provided they make one with a proper manual gearbox, will be a real game changer for the Focus ST and Golf GTI.  

Morgan Flanagan Creagh

Sunday World