|Model tested:||Seat Leon 1.4 TSI Xcellence|
|Transmission:||7-speed dual-clutch auto|
|Economy / CO2:||57.6mpg/115g/km|
Seat Leon (overall score = 5/5). One of the best all-rounders.
The ‘C-segment’ small family hatch is the most popular type of car across Europe, so you’re spoiled for choice if you want one. There are some cracking contenders and of all the various models available the Seat Leon is one of our favourites. It’s the car with everything; sharp looks, great engines and transmissions, decent equipment levels and strong build quality. Reliability, cabin space and the driving experience are other strong points and it’s pretty good value also thanks to the Volkswagen Group’s pricing policy of ensuring that it’s cheaper than a Golf even though it’s the same car underneath. Available in three- or five-door hatchback forms, the Leon has just been facelifted with new driver assistance systems, fresh engines and extra tech either as standard or on the options list. The design has been tweaked too – not that this was needed, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell anyway as the changes are so slight.
Spacious and nicely put together, the Leon’s cabin is a great place to spend time. It’s all typical VW Group in here, so the focus is on clarity rather than flair, but that just makes it easier to live with. In five-door form there’s plenty of rear-seat head and leg room (the three-door Leon’s roof line slopes more sharply) and lots of cubby hole space too.
The adjustable boot floor means there’s not much space if you opt for a full-size spare wheel but standard fare is a mobility kit which significantly increases boot space. The new multi-media system is very effective; it works like a mobile phone screen – but the instrumentation is busy which can lead to confusion. However, the adjustable digital display between the instruments has a speedometer option, which helps to clarify things.
The Leon might not be the most engaging drive in its segment but it’s an easy drive and there’s nothing that’ll faze your pupils. Our test car came with Seat’s excellent DSG dual-clutch transmission (a £1350 option) but we’ve driven plenty of manual-gearbox Leons; whichever you choose you won’t be disappointed. The suspension set-up is spot on in with a compliant ride and decent handling, while the well-weighted steering is pleasant rather than fun. All Leon engines are now turbocharged, from the new 1.0-litre three-cylinder 1.0 TSI to the 1.8 TSI in the FR and the diesels too. Our 1.4-litre engine was like all Seat’s TSI units; smooth and muscular with a linear power delivery, so it’s perky, frugal and very enjoyable to drive. Throw in very superb refinement and the Leon is a winner dynamically.
Our test car came in range-topping (and newly introduced) Xcellence trim, making it rather expensive. The Leon range kicks off with the 109bhp 1.2 TSI SE Dynamic Technology at £17,455; the cheapest diesel is the £18,470 114bhp 1.6 TDI S. The SE Technology trim provides everything you need including alloy wheels, an eight-inch touch-screen display with navigation, air-con, powered door mirrors and auto emergency braking.
The SE Dynamic Technology adds rear parking sensors and 17-inch wheels and bizarrely, although it’s a higher spec model than the SE Technology it’s also cheaper. The 1.2 TSI sits in insurance group 12 while the 1.6 TDi is rated at group 15; whether you buy a 1.0, 1.2 or 1.4 TSI petrol-engined Leon you can expect around 50-55mpg in the real world, while the 1.6 TDi should give you 60mpg overall.