If you are a GP partner you will be funding your business premises and equipment directly through the practice accounts. These expenses have significant impact on the practice profits and anything that can minimise them will be welcome.
Getting the right balance between quality, effectiveness and cost can be really difficult and we don’t always get it right. Regular maintenance and updating also pressures the bottom line so we like to look for great versatility and value from our investments and purchases.
The same goes for our choice of personal transport. I am sure that we would all like to cruise around in a BMW, Mercedes or Audi but if we cannot justify their expense then do we suffer much by buying something significantly cheaper?
Well, on the basis of my most recent test, I would suggest that we do not. I have been driving the latest version of the Skoda Octavia Scout, a Golf-sized estate with four-wheel drive and off-road pretentions.
Shaking off a negative image
The Czechoslovakian car maker has a long history stretching back to the turn of the twentieth century. The first cars to be imported into the UK in the 1960s were basic and rear-engined.
Unfortunately at this time they also gained a reputation for poor build quality and unreliability. In 1989, the company was taken over by the Volkswagen group and has not looked back since. Unfortunately the negative image persisted and it is only now that Skoda is finally shaking it off.
The Octavia sits on VW’s common MQB platform as used on the current Golf and Audi’s A3 and is available as a five-door hatchback or estate car.
The Scout is a 4x4 version of the estate with raised suspension and a bodykit to give a rugged off-road look. It is only available with Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine in two states of tune producing 148bhp or 181bhp.
Economy is, as expected, excellent and Skoda claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 58.9mpg for the 148bhp manual version that I had on test.
A lot of car for your money
The latest Octavia looks smart and modern and I think that the estate body only enhances the appearance. The additional Scout body styling is not too excessive and does give it a more purposeful and rugged look.
Step inside and the interior will be instantly familiar to any Golf Mark 7 driver. However, the rear passengers will thank you for extra head and legroom and the boot is huge. You get a lot of car for your money.
What really impressed me was the level of equipment supplied as standard and even the options are really good value.
Sophisticated features like Bi-xenon headlights, adaptive cruise control and a navigation system with WiFi are normally only seen on top-flight executive cars but are all available on this humble Skoda.
It proves the point that the gap between premium cars and normal everyday cars has never been slimmer.
Out on the road, the Octavia drives like its Volkswagen Group cousins. That means decent handling, direct steering and ample performance.
Of particular note is the excellent ride quality probably helped by the higher profile tyres on 17-inch wheels. The Scout is a really comfortable motorway cruiser.
The manual box is pretty slick but I would go for the 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic option that suits the more relaxed nature of this Skoda and is standard on the 181bhp version.
Although you will not want to tackle really rough terrain that you might in a Land Rover, the Scout is surprisingly able on loose and slippy surfaces.
The intelligent 4x4 system is front-wheel drive dominant and only engages the rear wheels when needed so it does not waste energy and therefore fuel unnecessarily. If you are a rural GP and frequently visit patients in the depths of the countryside, these abilities would be a real boon. The Scout would make a great tow-car too.
For 2017, Skoda has updated the Octavia and added even more features. The styling has been streamlined at the front with new LED headlamps. There are new Infotainment and driver assistance systems.
Dynamic Chassis Control is now an option so the driver can choose ‘comfort’, ‘normal’ or ‘sport’ settings to the steering and damping. You can have a customizable key that allows different drivers to save different vehicle settings. All very impressively high tech but useful stuff.
For the GP with a growing family who needs a good value car with occasional off-road or towing capabilities, I would suggest that this Octavia could be all you need.
The fact that it comes with some impressive standard features and can be ordered with some really advanced optional extras is just icing on the cake. It is time to forget that brand snobbery and take a good look at Skoda.
- Dr Rimmer is a GP from Surrey and tweets @frankaboutcars
|Skoda Octavia Scout Estate 2.0 TDI 150PS 4X4|
|Body Five-seat estate
Engine 2.0litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Torque 340 Nm
Top speed 129mph
Acceleration 0-62mph in 9.1 secs
Claimed economy (combined cycle) 58.9 mpg
Real world economy 45–50 mpg
On-the-road price £25,700