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There's nothing camp about macho Scout; cover story.

Byline: By MIKE TORPEY

BE PREPARED is likely to become the new motto for Skoda as the Czech car maker launches a new range of beefy looking models called the Scout.

Appearing as heavy duty versions of the Octavia estate and Roomster compact MPV, the Scout treatment adds chunky body mouldings as well as raised suspension.

It makes the cars look well equipped for life in the great outdoors and in the case of the Octavia it's a capable performer.

With four-wheel drive and greater ground clearance than the standard Octavia estate, the Scout can handle inhospitable terrain.

This is by no means a full off-roader, but slots in as a rival to the Volvo XC70, Subaru Forester and even the Audi allroad.

Costing from pounds 17,755 for a two-litre petrol version to pounds 19,690 for diesel, the keenly priced Octavia Scout and will appeal to those needing a vehicle that can go off the beaten track.

The diesel Scout becomes the new flagship of the Octavia range - it's pounds 1,000 more than the Octavia 4x4 estate and comes with plenty of kit including dual zone climate control, cruise control and parking sensors.

It also boasts 17-inch alloy wheels and is decidedly stylish despite the rugged attachments, which include underbody protection front and rear.

Both versions of the Octavia Scout use engines from Skoda's parent company Volkswagen and the diesel is the better bet.

Average fuel consumption from the two-litre 140bhp TDIPD engine is a claimed 44.1 while it is almost as quick as its petrol counterpart with 0 to 60mph in 10.2 sees and 122mph top speed.

The petrol version does 0 to 60 in 10 seconds fo and tops out at 124mph on 32.5 mpg overall.

Exhaust emissions are also in the diesel's favour at 173g/km compared to 207.

Despite its raised suspension - 17mm greater than the Octavia 4x4 estate - handling is top class even over deeply rutted tracks.

It is unusually comfortable off-road and uses a Haldex system to divert the drive from wheel to wheel guaranteeing good traction.

Hill start assistance is standard as are brake disc driers to improve stopping performance in wet conditions and with plenty of luggage space - anywhere from 560 to 1,620 litres is available-the Octavia Scout is very practical.

However, it is a different story with the Roomster Scout, much more of a "bob a job" offering and the changes are purely cosmetic.

There is no four-wheel drive, just 14mm of extra ground clearance and apart from the body mouldings, the only difference is 16-inch alloys.

The Roomster Scout will use all four engines from the standard line-up, but sales are expected only to run to a couple of hundred.

It's priced from pounds 12,510 for a 1.4-litre petrol to pounds 14,070 for a 1.9-litre diesel and that's the same as the normal five-door Roomster.

The best option is the 1.4-litre diesel at pounds 13,585 which averages a splendid 54.3mpg and has low CO2 emissions of 138g/km although it is an engine which needs to be wound up.

The Roomster is not the most stylish car on the road - although well equipped and comfortable - and if anything the Scout trim does give it a little more presence.

Perhaps it's best viewed at as an urban off-roader - something which looks the part but must never venture further off-road than a car park.

CAPTION(S):

SO DIFFERENT: The Octavia Scout, above, can handle rough terrain, unlike the Roomster Scout, right, best kept on firmly on road
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 15, 2007
Words:599
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