There's real appeal to these rugged estates: you get four-wheel drive, a two-tonne towing capacity, and loads of space without the image or potentially higher running costs of a full-blown SUV.
The Seat Leon X-Perience is the new contender here, although its oily bits are virtually the same as the Skoda Octavia Scout’s, from the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine to the standard on-demand four-wheel-drive system.
The Seat is cheaper to buy, but it comes with considerably less standard equipment. So, which of these brawny estates should you spend your money on?
Seat Leon X-Perience 2.0 TDI 150 SE
Rugged, four-wheel-drive Leon is cheaper, if not as well-equipped as the Skoda.
Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDI 150
The same basic mechanicals as the Seat, but is the larger Octavia as good to drive?
What are they like to drive?
There are greater differences than the on-paper similarities suggest. For starters, the fact that you can vary the weight of the Octavia’s steering by pressing a button gives 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 Skoda’s standard Rough Road package, which brings tougher underbody protection. The pay-off for 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 Skoda.
Still, the Skoda’s softer set-up gives it a more comfortable ride. It softens imperfections that bit more effectively, whereas the Seat feels unsettled over scruffy roads, and can thump harshly over mid-corner ruts. You wouldn’t call either car uncomfortable, though, and our Seat’s optional 18in alloys were likely a key factor in its choppier ride. Opting for the standard 17in alloys (as fitted to the Skoda) would be a wise move.
If the mirror 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 Skoda’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 Seat lets more engine noise into its cabin at a steady cruise, so it’s the noisier car on the motorway, despite the Skoda’s door mirrors whipping up more wind noise.
However, the Octavia’s noisier suspension irritates along typical pockmarked urban back roads. Both cars have similarly light and accurate gearshifts, and positive clutch pedals that make it easy to pull away and change gear smoothly.
What are they like inside?
If space is a priority the Skoda is the better bet. While both cars are impressively roomy in the front (the Seat actually offers slightly more legroom, although you’d have to be freakishly tall to feel cramped in the Skoda), the Octavia has more rear leg- and elbow room.
That’s not to say that the Seat is short on space. Two six-footers will be comfortable in the back of either car, and the standard central armrest is a welcome touch, too. 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 to put up with a hard seat base.
While the Skoda has the bigger boot – it’s deeper and the more upright rear screen eats up less of the load area – the Seat’s is in some ways more useful. Both cars get levers in the walls of the boot area that drop the 60:40 split seats, but in the Skoda’s you’re left with an annoying step in the floor of the extended load area. The Seat’s variable-height boot floor irons out that step to leave a flat load bay. You also get recessed storage cubbies around the wheelarches in the Seat, where the Skoda makes do with a few elastic straps.
Up front, there’s a sensible dashboard layout with mostly high-quality materials and straightforward switches and controls. If anything, Skoda’s use of gloss plastics, and the more streamlined air-vent design make its cabin look and feel a fraction more upmarket, but neither cabin feels remotely cheap.
Both have similarly simple-to-use infotainment systems, with logical menus that are accessed via a touchscreen. However, while the Seat’s screen is more conveniently positioned higher up the dash, it’s smaller (5.0in vs 5.8in) and also has frustratingly small icons that are sometimes placed right at the edge of the screen, making them tricky to hit accurately on the move.
What will they cost?
If you’re prepared to haggle, the Seat will cost you around £650 less to start with. It’s also likely to work out cheaper in the long run because, although our True MPG tests show that it uses slightly more fuel than the Octavia, that cost isn’t hefty enough to offset the Skoda’s worse depreciation.
However, the Octavia does come with lots more standard kit. While both cars get USB input, Bluetooth, a multifunction steering wheel and climate control, the Skoda also gets sat-nav, DAB radio, automatic lights and wipers and lane-keep assist. So, choosing the Skoda will work out cheaper than speccing up the Seat to a similar level.
In fact, add more than a few choice options to the Leon (sat-nav and DAB will set you back £930) and you’ll be better off going for pricier SE Tech trim, which gets everything that’s standard on the Skoda full LED headlights and the part-Alcantara brown interior of our test car – a compulsory finish on this trim that some might find a little off-putting. This model costs £26,370, or £24,566 after discounts.
The Skoda will appeal more to anyone buying on PCP finance. Put down a £5000 deposit and you’ll pay £264 a month over three years for the Octavia, compared with £290 for the Seat on the same terms. It’s worth noting that the Seat has a smaller final ‘balloon’ payment – £10,440 next to the Skoda’s £12,622 – although most finance buyers choose not to buy outright at the end of the agreement. Instead, they usually upgrade and start a new PCP deal.
Company car users will spend less to run the Seat. Despite both cars having the same CO2 emissions and benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bands, the Seat’s lower list price means you’ll pay £187 per month (as a 40% taxpayer) rather than the £195 it’ll cost you the drive the Skoda. Taking into account forthcoming changes to company car tax bandings, the Seat will cost you £318 less over the next three years. Fleet providers will also find the Seat more cost effective to lease.
Both estates are comfortable on-road daily drivers with decently low running costs, yet are surprisingly skilled in off-road use and capable of towing fairly big loads. However, the Skoda wins by a tiny margin, thanks mainly to its roomier cabin, more comprehensive standard kit list, and its more comfortable ride. The Seat does the job nearly as well for less, but you’ll need to forgo a few luxuries as well.
Both estates are comfortable on-road daily drivers with decently low running costs, yet are surprisingly skilled in off-road use and capable of towing fairly big loads.
However, the Skoda wins by a tiny margin, thanks mainly to its roomier cabin, more comprehensive standard kit list, and its more comfortable ride. The Seat does the job nearly as well for less, but you'll need to forgo a few luxuries as well.
Skoda Octavia Scout 2.0 TDI 150
ForRoomier rear cabin; more standard kit; more comfortable ride
Against Marginally more expensive to own; no variable-height boot
Verdict Bigger and better equipped, so worth the small premium
Seat Leon X-Perience 2.0 TDI 150 SE
For Tidy handling; more practical boot; cheaper to buy
Against Less standard kit; higher monthly PCP costs; less refined
Verdict Worth a look, despite its kit and space shortcomings
Skoda Octavia Scout
Seat Leon X-Perience