New Skoda Octavia vs Seat Leon: interiors

We’re putting the new Skoda Octavia and Seat Leon under the microscope to see which of them makes the most of their shared DNA...

Skoda Octavia 2021 dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

There’s little to separate the Leon and Octavia when it comes to their driving positions. Both have pedals, steering wheels and seats that line up neatly and, with plenty of adjustment, including for lumbar support, the seats are easy to get comfortable in. That said, as part of the garnish that FR trim brings, the Leon has more heavily bolstered sports seats that clamp you in place more securely than the Octavia’s flatter ones.

Both cars use soft-touch materials for their dashboards and front door tops, and both provide squishy places for your right elbow to rest on. All switches and stalks work with precision and harder plastics are mostly well hidden, but those around the doors’ grab handles are rather utilitarian given the quality of the materials used elsewhere. The Octavia feels slightly more substantial overall, although we’d understand if you preferred the Leon’s flashier presentation.

Seat Leon 2021 dashboard

Further evidence of the two cars’ shared parentage is found in their air conditioning and audio volume controls. As in the latest Golf, these take the form of touch-sensitive sliders and icons adjacent to their infotainment screens. These look slick in the showroom but prove more distracting to use than conventional buttons and knobs while driving. After all, you can instinctively reach for a physical control and find it using touch alone, and you can feel each notch click up for every half a degree or decibel of adjustment.

Both cars have relatively slim windscreen pillars that don’t interfere with vision too much at junctions, and both have standard LED headlights that illuminate the road well at night. The Octavia’s bigger windows help your view to the side, but its longer, downward-sloping rump is harder to judge than the Leon’s shorter tail.

Helpfully, both cars come with front and rear parking sensors. A rear-view camera is optional on the Octavia (paired with fancier LED rear lights), but you’ll have to upgrade to pricey Xcellence trim to get one in the Leon.

Infotainment systems

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia 2021 touchscreen

As in the Leon, the Octavia’s system has a configurable home screen that can show a variety of information at the same time. Some might prefer the Octavia’s slightly more sober-looking presentation, but it really comes down to personal preference. The main point of distinction is the location of the touch-sensitive shortcut icons; in this case, they’re over on the left-hand side of the screen, so it’s quite a stretch to reach them, especially for shorter drivers.

Seat Leon

Seat Leon 2021 touchscreen

The Leon’s touchscreen is the same size as the Octavia’s (10.0in), but it looks a bit snazzier and the layout of the menus is different. The row of easy-to-reach shortcuts at the bottom of the screen helps to make the system easy to use, and you get used to the layout quickly enough. The screen is crisp and responsive to inputs, so it shouldn’t cause frustration. Both cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring as standard, plus built-in sat-nav.