Expert Reviews

First drive: Seat Leon

Thursday 24 November 2016

First drive: Seat Leon

Not a whole lot has been changed on the new Seat Leon as a part of its mid-life refresh. The Spanish manufacturer has introduced a new “Xcellence” trim level, which will largely appeal to those customers who are looking for a more upmarket and well-equipped hatchback but don’t find the sportier FR Technology model too attractive. Seat has also introduced a new Connectivity Hub, as well as a range of driver-assist technologies.

A new engine is arguably the most important addition to the Leon line-up. Customers in the UK will now be able to order their Leon with the 1.0-litre, 113bhp petrol engine that was previously only available in Europe.

Looks & Image

The Leon has always been quite an attractive-looking car, with angular body work helping to set it aside from a stock of fairly similar-looking hatchbacks. With this latest version, very little has been changed – from an aesthetic point-of-view, at least.

Its chassis practically replicates that of the Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf, although because Seat is Volkswagen Group’s “fun” branch, the Leon has been injected with a bit more flair than its sister cars. Prime examples of this are the car’s edgier styling and driving characteristics that focus more towards the driver enjoyment side of things.

Space & Practicality

Buyers will find the Leon offers a comfortable interior that comes with more than enough space for families. All trims above “S” level feature 60/40 folding rear seats, while ISOFIX points are included on all Leon models.

With 380 litres’ worth of bootspace, the Leon is identical to the Volkswagen Golf. It will easily accommodate two suitcases, with plenty of room for a few more bits and pieces.

The Leon also features a number of safety features, such as a multi-collision braking system, while all cars above “S” specification come with a front-collision warning system that includes pedestrian protection.

Behind the Wheel

Driving enthusiasts will likely find the new Leon an appealing proposition. Its steering weight is incredibly well calibrated, while it handles corners with aplomb. It also rode incredibly well over the smooth Spanish roads we tested it on, although it will be interesting to see how this translates to the rutted roads of Britain.

The Seat Leon is now available with a choice of seven different engines: four petrols and three diesels. Our test car was fitted with the entry-level 1.6-litre turbo diesel power plant, which comes with a claimed economy figure of 70.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 105g/km. However, with only 113bhp, the engine felt like it was struggling to get the Leon moving at lower revs.

While the diesel engine was a bit of a let down, the petrol units are much more appealing – especially the 1.4-litre EcoTSI engines. They deliver power in an eager fashion, while Active Cylinder Shutdown means fuel bills won’t become prohibitively expensive. Seat claims this engine can achieve 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km.

Value for Money

Because Seat can call upon parts from the wider Volkswagen equipment bin, and the fact that its cars have classically targeted younger buyers, their vehicles don’t tend to be prohibitively expensive. They also offer a good level of standard equipment for your money.

This trend is carried on with the latest Leon. Entry-level S trim aside, there is a generous amount of standard kit on all other cars in the range, including a leather steering wheel, cruise control, satellite navigation and an eight-inch touchscreen display.

As with the previous infotainment system, the new one is simple and easy to use. It now features sharper graphics, with a layout that is logical and well thought out. Useful connectivity features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Mirrorlink. You can also specify a wireless phone charger on higher specification cars.

Who would buy one ?

Seat has predicted that the Leon will appeal nearly equally to fleet and retail buyers, with a 48 per cent and 52 per cent share respectively.

The Leon offers families a good amount of space and practicality, especially in five-door guise. Families who don’t require the space or offroad capabilities of an SUV or crossover will likely find the new Leon an attractive proposition.

In terms of fleet customers, the 1.6-litre TDI diesel is likely to be the most popular engine choice, thanks to its claimed economy figure of 70.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 105g/km.

Facts at a Glance

Model: Seat Leon

Engine tested: 1.6-litre TDI

Power (bhp): 113bhp

Torque (Nm): 250Nm

Max speed (mph): 122mph

0-60mph: 9.7 seconds

MPG: 70.6

Emissions (g/km): 105g/km

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