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Used test: Seat Leon vs Skoda Octavia interiors
At two years old, these class-leading family cars are around £5000 cheaper than if you were to buy them new. Should you go with the Seat Leon or Skoda Octavia, though? We have the answer...
Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality
There’s little to separate the Seat Leon and Skoda 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.
Further evidence of the two cars’ shared parentage is found in their air conditioning and audio volume controls. As in the latest VW 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.
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.
As in the Leon, the Octavia’s system has a configurable home screen that can show a variety of information at the same time. 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.
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 have front and rear parking sensors. A rear-view camera was optional from new on the Octavia (paired with fancier LED rear lights), but you’ll have to upgrade to an example in pricey Xcellence trim to get one in the Leon.
The Leon actually provides a little bit more head room and its driver’s seat slides back farther than the Octavia’s. The Leon also matches the Octavia for interior storage; each car has not only a handy cubby in front of the gearlever that’ll easily swallow a smartphone and keys, but also two sizeable cupholders and generous front door bins.
Move to the rear seats and, once again, it’s the Leon that comes out on top. Its less heavily raked roofline means there’s more head room, plus there’s a bit more space for knees. If you’re trying to squeeze three in the back, though, there’s little to separate the two cars; both have a bit of a hump in the floor and a raised middle seat for central passengers to contend with.
The Octavia’s trump card is its enormous boot. We managed to fit a whopping 10 carry-on suitcases into this automotive black hole, a figure that’s on a par with those of several large SUVs. Although the Leon’s tally of six looks a bit weak in comparison, it still beats the Golf and matches the Ford Focus.
It’s a shame that neither car comes with a height-adjustable boot floor, though, and there was no option to add one from new. As a result, you have to heave luggage over a hefty load lip – slightly higher on the Leon. And when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded down – a task made easier by the Octavia’s boot-mounted release levers – they form a sizeable step in the floor of the extended load bay. At least both cars offer handy ski hatches, through which longer items can be poked into the rear seat space.
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