Seat Leon X-pe­ri­ence vs Skoda Oc­tavia Scout

Want all-weather prac­ti­cal­ity but not the weight and un­wield­i­ness of an SUV? These two used es­tates are com­pact and rel­a­tively ef cient, yet still of­fer huge boots, lots of ground clear­ance and four-wheel drive

What Car? - - Contents -

Which rugged 4x4 es­tate is bet­ter?

SUP­POSE FOR A mo­ment that you’re af­ter a used car that has to com­bine masses of prac­ti­cal­ity with the abil­ity to be used off road occasionally, but you don’t want to go the whole hog and buy a full-blown SUV. What do you do? You take a look at rugged four-wheel-drive es­tates, that’s what.

Here are two prime ex­am­ples of the breed, both of­fer­ing true driver ap­peal, some off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties and plenty of space and flex­i­bil­ity, all wrapped up in a pack­age that still prom­ises rea­son­able run­ning costs and easy-to-man­age di­men­sions. The Seat Leon X-pe­ri­ence and Skoda Oc­tavia Scout are sis­ters in me­chan­i­cal terms, so we’ve brought these two 2015 ex­am­ples to­gether to find out which has the edge and makes the best al­ter­na­tive to a used SUV.

DRIV­ING Per­for­mance, ride, han­dling, re ne­ment

There are greater dif­fer­ences be­tween these two cars than their sim­i­lar­i­ties sug­gest. For starters, the fact that you can vary the weight of the Oc­tavia’s steer­ing by press­ing a but­ton gives you ex­tra con­fi­dence on twist­ing roads. Both cars cor­ner gamely enough but don’t grip any harder than front-wheel-drive mod­els; the four-wheel drive is there to pro­vide ex­tra trac­tion when cross­ing a muddy yard or a field.

In both cars, all of the power is sent to the front wheels in nor­mal con­di­tions with the aim of con­serv­ing fuel, but up to 50% of power can be di­verted to the rear if any slip is de­tected.

The ex­tra ground clear­ance over the reg­u­lar es­tate ver­sions of these cars comes in handy

when ne­go­ti­at­ing rocky ter­rain, but those who go off road reg­u­larly may be swayed by the Oc­tavia’s stan­dard Rough Road Pack­age, which adds tougher un­der­body pro­tec­tion.

The com­pro­mise for the higher ride height over these cars’ stan­dard coun­ter­parts is slop­pier body con­trol. It’s not as no­tice­able as in most high-rise 4x4s, but the longer sus­pen­sion travel does result in more pitch under brak­ing, lean through bends and body bounce over dips and crests – all of which are frac­tion­ally more pro­nounced in the Oc­tavia.

How­ever, the Oc­tavia’s softer set-up gives it a more com­fort­able ride. It dis­guises im­per­fec­tions that bit more ef­fec­tively, whereas the Leon feels un­set­tled over scruffy roads and can thump harshly over mid-cor­ner ruts. It’s com­fort­able the rest of the time,

though, and our Leon’s op­tional 18in al­loys were likely a key fac­tor in its chop­pier ride. Find­ing a car with the stan­dard 17in al­loys (as fit­ted to our Oc­tavia) would be a wise de­ci­sion.

If these cars’ shared en­gi­neer­ing shows any­where, it’s in their per­for­mance. Both en­gines pro­vide near-iden­ti­cal ac­cel­er­a­tion and are gutsy enough to serve up de­cent pace, even when the cars are fully loaded. The only dif­fer­ence is that the Oc­tavia’s en­gine per­forms marginally bet­ter at low revs, although you’ll only re­ally no­tice this around town.

Re­fine­ment is ac­cept­able, if not out­stand­ing, in both cars. The Leon lets more en­gine noise in­side at a steady cruise, so it’s the nois­ier car on the mo­tor­way, de­spite the Oc­tavia’s door mir­rors whip­ping up more wind noise. How­ever, the Oc­tavia’s nois­ier sus­pen­sion is ir­ri­tat­ing along pock­marked ur­ban roads.

Both cars have light and ac­cu­rate man­ual gearshifts and pos­i­tive clutch ped­als that make it easy to pull away and change gear smoothly.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Driv­ing po­si­tion, vis­i­bil­ity, in­fo­tain­ment, qual­ity

Each car has a sensible dash­board lay­out with straight­for­ward switches and con­trols. Skoda’s use of gloss plas­tics and more stream­lined air vent de­sign make the Oc­tavia’s in­te­rior look and feel a frac­tion more up­mar­ket, but nei­ther car feels re­motely cheap in­side, with mostly high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als.

Both have sim­i­larly sim­ple-to-use touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment systems with log­i­cal menus. How­ever, while the Leon’s screen is more con­ve­niently po­si­tioned higher up the dash­board, it’s smaller (5.0in to 5.8in) and has frus­trat­ingly small icons that are some­times placed right at the edge of the screen, mak­ing them tricky to hit ac­cu­rately while driv­ing.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

Front space, rear space, seat­ing ex­i­bil­ity, boot

If space is a pri­or­ity, the Oc­tavia is the bet­ter bet; while both cars are im­pres­sively roomy in the front, it provides a touch more leg and el­bow room in the back.

Two six-foot­ers will be com­fort­able in the back of ei­ther car and the stan­dard cen­tral arm­rests are a wel­come touch. Car­ry­ing five peo­ple is pos­si­ble in both, although the mid­dle rear pas­sen­ger is forced to strad­dle a tun­nel run­ning along the cen­tre of the floor and has to put up with a hard seat base.

While the Oc­tavia has the big­ger boot – it’s deeper and the more up­right rear screen eats up less of the load area – the Leon’s is in some ways more use­ful. Both cars have levers on the wall of their boots that drop the 60/40-split seats, but in the Oc­tavia, this leaves you with an annoying step in the floor of the ex­tended load area. The Leon’s vari­able-height boot floor irons out that step to leave a flat floor. You also get re­cessed stor­age cub­by­holes around the wheel arches in the Leon, whereas the Oc­tavia makes do with a few elas­tic straps.

BUY­ING AND OWN­ING

Costs, equip­ment, re­li­a­bil­ity, safety and se­cu­rity

When new, the Leon had a slight edge in pur­chase price over the Oc­tavia, even tak­ing into ac­count any Tar­get Price dis­counts. Now, the two cars, of a sim­i­lar age and in the same con­di­tion, are avail­able to buy sec­ond-hand for roughly the same price. Both of­fer a lot of prac­ti­cal­ity and flex­i­bil­ity at this price point.

Both of our test cars were reg­is­tered be­fore the ma­jor road tax band changes in April 2017 and, as a result, the Leon will cost you slightly

‘Both en­gines are gutsy enough to serve up good pace, even with the cars fully loaded’

less per year. How­ever, these two cars should still cost a very sim­i­lar amount to run and both have good rep­u­ta­tions for re­li­a­bil­ity.

The Leon will re­quire servicing ev­ery 12 months or 10,000 miles, with costs al­ter­nat­ing be­tween £160 and £270. You also need to fac­tor in a new cam­belt ev­ery five years or 80,000 miles, cost­ing in the re­gion of £500, al­low­ing for a new water pump at the same time. Servicing the Oc­tavia is cheaper than many ri­vals and Skoda has a fixed-price used car scheme, under which you’ll cur­rently pay £149 for a mi­nor ser­vice (10,000 miles or ev­ery 12 months) and £269 for a ma­jor one (ev­ery 20,000 miles or 24 months).

It’s worth not­ing that while both cars came with USB, Blue­tooth, steer­ing wheel-mounted con­trols and cli­mate con­trol, the Oc­tavia added to that sat-nav, a DAB ra­dio, au­to­matic lights and wipers and lane-keep­ing as­sist.

Pho­tog­ra­phy: John Bradshaw

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