Towering over its Czech competitor, the Kia Sportage appears to have little in common with the Skoda Octavia Scout, a car that – with its raised suspension and conventional estate-car body – suffers the kind of body dysmorphia that has Louis Theroux scrambling for a camera crew.
Delve deeper, though, and the two have more similarities than you might think: both models sport four-wheel drive (for plenty of grip on wintry roads), powerful diesel engines and practical interiors that are ideal for swallowing the family, and the luggage that comes with it.
As tested, they cost about the same, too. A sustained ticking of the Scout’s options list – for items such as xenon headlights (£900), a stereo upgrade (£400) and a panoramic sunroof (£950) – means the car we tested soars past its £25,375 basic price, landing at £30,705. Close enough to the £29,510 you’ll need to have a Kia Sportage KX-4 parked on the drive.
The Scout separates itself from the rest of the Octavia range thanks to its raised ride height, black plastic body mouldings, unique front and rear bumper designs and 17-inch alloys. Mixed together, these additions give the Scout a butch appeal absent across the rest of the Skoda range.
In our opinion, though, the Sportage edges the battle of aesthetics. With its LED signature lights, polished 18-inch alloy wheels and deep Sirius Silver finish, our car’s styling nips at the heels of premium rivals such as the new Land Rover Discovery Sport – not bad for a marque traditionally considered a budget manufacturer.
Get behind the wheel of both cars and you’ll be impressed by what you find. In the Kia, standards are good, with soft-touch plastics making their presence felt in most places you care to prod. Only tacky-to-the-touch grey highlights, and a dashboard design that is starting to look a little dated, let the side down. Nevertheless, few would complain about spending time in the Kia.
The Skoda’s the clear winner inside, though. Critics have raved about the Octavia’s Golf-like cabin in the past, so we’ll spare you the details; save to say that it’s easy to use and oozes quality. Things are even better in the Scout thanks to its Alacantara upholstery and standard touchscreen sat-nav. Both cars offer space for five people, but the Skoda wins the battle for boot capacity, with 610 litres compared to the Kia’s 465 litres.
Slide the Kia’s gearstick into drive (KX-4 trim gets a standard six-speed automatic) and you’re immediately struck by the Sportage’s comfort. The car’s raised ride height gives you a perceived feeling of security that a conventional car can’t match and, while the suspension can be a little bouncy at low speeds, out of town it does an excellent job of taking the edge off the worst of the UK’s roads. The automatic gearbox, meanwhile, lacks the telepathic skills of the best units, but it works well enough and suits the relaxed feel of the rest of the car. Parking sensors, a self-park function, and a 360-degree camera mean it’s also easy to squeeze into tight spaces.
Flying into a corner at speed soon reveals the shortfalls of the Kia’s tall body, though, as the front end quickly loses grip and the lean gently slides you out of your seat. Although there’s plenty of cornering grip (for an SUV), the car’s lifeless steering doesn’t encourage you to explore it.
That’s where cars like the Scout come in. Its lower centre of gravity means it feels much like a standard Octavia, once it has settled into the corners and the steering has a confidence-inspiring, meaty feel. The raised suspension gives the Octavia’s ride a new-found level of sophistication; it skims across poorly surfaced roads. Its also lets the Scout tackle urban obstacles (such as speed humps) without the fear of damaging the underside, and gives you a lofty view of the road ahead close to that of the Kia’s. Our car came fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, which offered slick enough shifts to make Skoda’s excellent DSG automatic an un-needed luxury.
The Skoda’s halfway-house design pays dividends here, too. Without the brick-like aerodynamics of the Sportage to contend with, the Scout’s 2.0-litre, 148hp engine sparingly slurps down fuel at a rate of 55mpg – the Kia’s 181hp 2.0-litre falls below 40mpg. Its high emissions mean the Kia also costs significantly more to tax, with a £265 annual bill compared to the £110 needed to keep the Skoda legal.
Performance is about on a par, though: the Skoda hauls itself from a standstill to 62mph in 9.1 seconds, the Kia does the same in 9.8 seconds. Top speeds of 129mph and 121mph, respectively, mean both are refined motorway cruisers, but the Skoda’s engine is the quieter of the two – sounding almost petrol-like in its operation.
For the most part, the Scout’s four-wheel-drive system goes about its business unnoticed, that is, until you accelerate hard out of a corner and the inside front wheel slips half a turn, before power is sent to the back. Off-road, the Kia’s four-wheel-drive system (with locking differentials that help it find grip no matter the conditions) and taller ride height mean it edges ahead of the Skoda, but it’s much closer than you might expect.
It’s the Skoda that makes the better tow car, though – it can haul up to 2,000kgs compared to the 1,600kg max-tow weight of the Kia.
If you’re looking for an excellent family car with the added bonus of four-wheel drive then we would be happy to recommend both cars here. But, for the purposes of this head-to-head, there can only be one winner and (on the sunny Monday that is the time of writing) it’s the Skoda Octavia Scout that comes out top. It triumphs thanks to its cheaper running costs, superior interior quality, and comfy ride. Do without the extravagant options of our test car and it is also significantly cheaper than the Kia. It could, in fact, be the pick of the Octavia range.
Visit the carwow deal’s page to see how much you can save on both.