First impressions are not so good for the Leon; the interior is uninspiring and very black with a distinctly low-rent feel compared with the Skoda's half-leather, half-silver cloth. The SEAT's seats are more supportive, though, and it needs them with the extra grip generated by wheels two inches larger than the Octavia's 16in rims. The surprising thing here is that the ride quality suffers very little despite the loss of tyre sidewall depth and stiffer suspension. Together they make a significant difference to steering response, the Leon diving into bends faster and harder. More profit than loss then, and it copes easily with the extra power too - torque-steer is negligible in the SEAT compared with minimal in the Skoda.
What the Leon gains no advantage from is its sixth gear; the Octavia has only five, yet even with its power deficit it never feels off the boil.
So why did I buy the Skoda? It's all down to the boring practicalities of space. The SEAT is hardly cramped and has a decent-sized boot, but the Skoda is simply massive and, with two kids under six, we need massive. To bring the Czech wagon up to the spec of its Spanish cousin I'll have to fit larger wheels and chip the engine. Then I'll have the best of both worlds - at a cost of about £1200 I reckon.