SEAT Leon hatchback
Price £16,115 - £24,170
- Head-turning looks
- Quality interior
- Economical engines
- Poor rear visibility
- Same size boot as the three-door
- SEAT not strong for reliability
At a glance
“The latest SEAT Leon blends a sporty drive and stylish looks with decent practicality, and it's cheaper than a VW Golf.”
The SEAT Leon is from the Volkswagen Group so it consists of many of the parts and components from rivals like the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. However, the Leon has something that its sister cars don’t have and that's style… in bucket loads.
We think it's a great all-rounder and excellent value too, which is why the Leon was named Carbuyer's Best Family Car for 2014.
Gone are the days of SEAT receiving the rest of the group's hand-me-down parts - the new Leon comes packed with cutting-edge equipment and is still cheaper to buy than the VW Golf. The lower price is what sets it apart from the rest, and you could even say it is competition to less premium alternatives like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
Thanks to its lower and wider dimensions, this generation of Leon is more practical than the car it replaced. It's more pleasing to look at outside and inside too; the interior quality is significantly better than in its predecessor.
There are three trim levels to choose from: entry-level S, mid-range SE and top-of-the-range FR. There's a three-door SEAT Leon SC available, rivaling the Kia Procee’d and Vauxhall Astra GTC, and a SEAT Leon ST estate that offers even more practicality. Leon buyers looking for plenty of performance have the choice of the Leon Cupra, available with 261bhp, or the Leon Cupra 280 with 276bhp.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Frugal engines across the whole range - especially the 1.6-litre TDI
All of the engines across the SEAT Leon range come with fuel-saving technology as standard, which, combined with the new car's lower weight, makes it the most efficient SEAT Leon yet.
There are plenty of engines to choose from with the new Leon too. The 1.6-litre TDI diesel will do 74.3mpg and emits just 99g/km of CO2. The new Ecomotive version emits 87g/km of CO2, which is the lowest ever carbon-dioxide emissions figure for a SEAT. The current top-of-the-range 2.0-litre TDI FR model is a lot of fun to drive, accelerating from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, while still returning more than 65mpg and emitting 109g/km of CO2.
Interior & comfort
More comfortable ride and improved interior increase appeal
SEAT has pulled out all of the stops with the reinvention of the Leon. The ride is better, the seats are comfier (particularly the sports seats in the FR) and the interior offers a lot more space, while also being much quieter – there's hardly any road or wind noise, even when driving at motorway speeds.
Inside, the dashboard is noticeably better quality than in the old model, with a top-notch fit and finish. Thanks to the redesign of the body pillars they are now much thinner, which improves visibility. Sadly though, the view out the back is still rather poor; with its small rear window, and big side pillars proving to be quite an obstruction.
Practicality & boot space
Bigger boot and improved access make it a decent family car
It really seems like SEAT considered criticism of the old model in designing the new and improved Leon; its predecessor received flack for not being very practical, whereas the new Leon offers much more space and practicality. The driving position in the new car is great too, and there is no shortage of handy little storage cubbies and cup holders.
The new wider rear doors make it easier to get in and out of the back of the car, and head and legroom have been improved. You now get 380-litres of space in the boot - to put it into context that's more than in the Volvo V40 or Ford Focus, though the Leon does have a high-load-lip which makes loading up the car quite difficult, especially with heavier objects. The rear seats don’t fold fully flat either because their bases don’t flip forward, but if it's space you need then the Leon ST estate is always an option.
Reliability & safety
Stylish looks underpinned by proven VW Group technology
The gap between SEAT and fellow VW Group brand Skoda in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey is a little astounding. Despite sharing parts, SEAT has fallen three more places down to 27th out of 32, with Skoda on top at number two. Poor reliability is one of many reasons given for the disappointing score, with no individual SEAT cars breaking the top 100.
Logically though, those shared components should mean it is as dependable as the A3 or the Golf. The Leon has secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests with a stiffer body, a full range of airbags, and electronic stability control (ESP) now fitted as standard equipment. The car should do better in the 2014 Driver Power survey.
Engines, drive & performance
Plenty of power to match its style, the best SEAT yet
The new SEAT Leon is rather good fun to drive, in fact we would go as far as to say that it is the best driving SEAT Leon yet. It has a comfortable ride, accurate steering, strong responsive brakes and a smooth gearbox. The faster models actually handle the best but the seven-speed automatic gearboxes aren't as fun to drive as the manual versions.
The 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI FR model is, in fact, one of the best diesel hot hatchbacks ever sold in the UK, accelerating from 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds. If that isn't enough for you, the high-performance Leon Cupra models offer blistering straight-line speed and massive driving fun.
All models are fitted with SEAT's Driver Profile system, which gives the driver the ability to adjust the car's set-up from comfort to sport. If this isn’t enough then there is always the seriously fast SEAT Leon Cupra.
Price, value for money & options
Undercuts the VW Golf by around 10 per cent
The new SEAT Leon is, without question, good value for money. All those shared components and the impressive standard equipment list make it very competitively priced. All three specifications – S, SE, and FR, come well equipped, including air-conditioning, a colour touchscreen, and Bluetooth connectivity. All SE and FR models also get an upgraded touchscreen sat-nav that has an integrated proximity sensor. Even with the great range of engines on offer they all come with a combination of good performance and decent efficiency. Being a SEAT, resale values should also be good on the used car market.
What the others say
"The Leon is a real statement about what SEAT is trying to become, which is why it’s the first to wear the firm’s new minimalist logo. It’s much classier than the car it replaces, both in terms of design and quality, and remains comfortable despite its sporting pretensions. The 1.6-litre engine is a little gruff with a turbo that needs to be kept on boost, but treat it nicely and you’ll be rewarded with low running costs. What’s more, the Leon is cheaper to buy than the equivalent Golf or A3."
"If you're willing to accept an interior that's undeniably less impressive than the Golf's, the Leon offers much of the same for considerably less cash. The entry-level 1.2 TSI SE petrol, for example, costs £15,670, which is almost £2,300 less than the equivalent Golf. That sort of saving applies right across the range, making the Leon a good-value proposition that still does most of the basics extremely well. It's a great return to form for the Leon badge, and yet another serious contender in the small family hatchback market."