Used test: Seat Leon X-Perience vs Skoda Octavia Scout
The Seat Leon X-Perience and Skoda Octavia Scout may be closely related but, in the battle of the rugged 4x4 estates, which one makes the best used buy?...
Seat Leon X-Perience 2.0 TDI 150 SE
List price when new £24,385
Price today £14,995*
Available from 2015-present
Seat’s beefed-up version of the Leon ST estate combines exceptional style with good driving manners and throws in an off-road, rugged appeal too.
Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDI 150
List price when new £25,530
Price today £14,995*
Available from 2012-present
It has the same basic mechanicals as the Leon X-Perience, but is the larger Octavia Scout as good a car to drive and to own?
Price today is based on a 2015 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
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 buy into the potentially high running costs of a full-blown SUV. What do you do?
You take a look at the latest contenders in the rugged 4x4 estate car class, that’s what. Here are two prime examples of the breed, both offering true driver appeal, some off-road capabilities, plenty of space and flexibility – and all wrapped up in a package that still promises reasonable running costs. The Seat Leon X-Perience and Skoda Octavia Scout are sisters under the skin, so we’ve brought these two 2015 examples together to find out which one has the edge and which makes the best alternative to the ubiquitous SUV.
What are they like to drive?
There are greater differences between these two than their on-paper similarities suggest. For starters, the fact that you can vary the weight of the Octavia’s steering by pressing a button provides extra confidence on twisting roads. Both cars corner gamely enough, but don’t grip any harder than their regular front-wheel-drive equivalents; the four-wheel-drive systems are there to provide extra traction when crossing a muddy yard or traversing a field.
In both cars, all of the engine’s power is sent to the front wheels in normal conditions with the aim of conserving fuel, but up to 50% of power is 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. However, those planning to go off road regularly may be swayed by the Octavia’s standard Rough Road package, which brings tougher underbody protection.
The payoff for the higher ride height over their standard counterparts is sloppier body control. It’s not as noticeable as in most conventional high-rise 4x4s, but the longer suspension travel does result in more pitch under braking, more lean through bends and more body bounce over dips and crests – all of which are fractionally more pronounced in the Octavia.
Still, the Octavia’s softer set-up gives it a more comfortable ride. It softens imperfections that bit more effectively, whereas the Leon feels unsettled over scruffy roads and can thump harshly over mid-corner ruts. You wouldn’t call either car uncomfortable, though, and our Leon’s optional 18in alloys were likely a key factor in its choppier ride. Opting for the standard 17in alloys (as fitted to the Octavia) would be a wise move.
If the shared engineering shows anywhere, it’s in the performance of these cars. Both provide near-identical acceleration and the good news is that they’re gutsy enough to serve up decent pace even with fully loaded cabins. The only difference of note 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 into its cabin 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 backroads.
Both cars have similarly light and accurate gearshifts and positive clutch pedals that make it easy to pull away and change gear smoothly.