SEAT Leon: car review

Posted on June 7th, 2013 by James Luckhurst

The Leon is good to drive, good value and well equipped.

SEAT Leon: car review

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What is it?
Seat’s new small hatchback. Under the skin the Leon is a close relative of the latest Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf, so it’s off to a promising start.

How safe is it?
Stability control and seven airbags are standard, and there are some high-tech safety systems on the option list. The Leon has already scored five stars from Euro NCAP.

Who should buy one?
The Leon doesn’t have the space of the Octavia or the kudos of the Golf’s VW badge, but if you’re looking for style and value for money, the Leon makes a great buy.

David Motton’s review: Good Motoring, Summer 2013

SEAT Leon: car review
Seat is sometimes guilty of making cars which ride harshly in a bid to make them feel more sporty. The new Leon avoids this trap. The ride is certainly firm, especially at low speeds, but S and SE models never feel too stiff and smooth out noticeably on faster roads.

High-spec FR models have sports suspension (lowered by 15mm) and stiffened springs and shock absorbers. They also feature the Seat Drive Profile system, which lets the driver tinker with the steering weight, throttle response and climate control systems, although the chassis settings don’t change. There’s a choice of Normal, Eco, Sport and Individual set ups. Sport mode even changes the ambient lighting from white to red to put the driver in the right mood for some B-road fun.

However, for most drivers the standard suspension set up strikes a better compromise between ride comfort and entertaining handling. Models with more than 150PS (148bhp) get more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, which promises even better cornering. We’ve yet to drive one of the more powerful models, but the four variants we have tried all performed better than expected, partly due to the Leon’s light weight – around 90kg has been shaved off compared with the old car.
The most surprising was the 104bhp 1.2 TSI petrol. Forget any idea that this is ‘just a 1.2’. The four-cylinder turbo engine is lively, willing and very refined. In short, test drive this entry-level car before you spend any more.

The 1.4 TSI offers useful extra poke, with 138bhp, but from behind the wheel the difference in performance isn’t as great as it appears on paper.

We also drove the 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel, which despite its modest power output has plenty of mid-range pull. Keen drivers will prefer the 148bhp 2.0-litre, though. It has the punch to make use of the Leon’s able chassis.

SEAT Leon: car review
The cabin isn’t as spacious as the remarkable new Skoda Octavia’s, but it’s very similar to the Golf’s. That means there’s enough head and legroom to keep most buyers happy, with space in the back, too.

Those in the front should have no trouble getting comfortable, and there’s a decent range of adjustment for the seat and wheel.
The SE and FR models add touches like chrome detailing on the dash to make the interior feel that bit more special.

The more expensive models are also more practical, with a front armrest and storage box, plus air vents for rear-seat passengers.

With a capacity of 380 litres, the boot is the same size as a Golf’s and 64 litres bigger than a Ford Focus’s.

SEAT Leon: car review
Every Leon comes with seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees. Stability control is fitted across the board, and the Multi-Collision Brake facility slows the car after an accident to reduce the chance of further impacts even if the driver is unconscious.

High-tech optional safety kit includes a tiredness recognition system and Lane Assist, which nudges the car back on course if it starts to drift over a white line and the driver has forgotten to indicate.

SEAT Leon: car review
Seat offers a generous list of kit, even on S trim. Air conditioning, an MP3-compatible stereo with six speakers, Bluetooth connectivity and electric front windows are standard.

For an extra £1120, SE trim adds alloy wheels, cruise control, front fog lights, a driver’s armrest, a cargo net in the boot, a limited slip differential and some splashes of leather and chrome in the cabin. FR models have sports suspension, larger alloys and other upgrades.

SEAT Leon: car review
Prices start from just £15,670, undercutting the cheapest Golf five-door by £1270. Our pick of the range, the 1.2 TSI SE, costs £16,790, while the diesel line-up starts from £17,370.
The Leon isn’t just cheap to buy – it should prove cheap to run, too. Insurance group ratings go from 12-25, while even the quicker models promise strong economy. The 2.0 TDI achieves 68.9mpg according to the official figures, while the 1.4 TSI should achieve 54.3mpg.

The Leon is good to drive, good value and well equipped.

Price: £16,790
Performance: 0-60mph in 10 seconds
Economy: 57.6mpg combined
Insurance: Group 13
Tax: Band C (£30 standard rate)
Figures for the 1.2 TSI 105 SE