Review

SEAT Leon hatchback

Price  £16,115 - £24,170

SEAT Leon hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Head-turning looks
  • Quality interior
  • Economical engines
Cons
  • Poor rear visibility
  • Same size boot as the three-door
  • SEAT not strong for reliability

At a glance

The greenest
1.6 TDI ecomotive SE 5dr £19,925
The cheapest
1.2 TSI 110 S 5dr £16,115
The fastest
2.0 TDI 184PS FR 5dr £22,820
Top of the range
2.0 TDI 184PS FR DSG 5dr £24,170

“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 a Volkswagen Group car, so it shares many components with rivals such as the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. However, the Leon has something that its sister cars don’t – ultra-stylish looks.

We think it's a great all-rounder and excellent value, 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 VW Group's hand-me-down parts – the new Leon comes packed with cutting-edge equipment and is still cheaper to buy than a Golf. The lower price is what sets it apart from the rest, and you could even say it's a rival for less upmarket models such as 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, as 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 Pro_cee’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, which makes 261bhp, or the Leon Cupra 280, with 276bhp.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.5 / 5

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 Leon yet.

There are plenty of engines to choose from with the new Leon, too. The 1.6-litre TDI diesel will return 74.3mpg and emits just 99g/km of CO2. The new Ecomotive version emits 87g/km of CO2, which is the lowest-ever 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 just 109g/km of CO2.

Engines, drive & performance

4.6 / 5

Plenty of power to match its style – the best SEAT yet

The new SEAT Leon is pretty good fun to drive – in fact, we'd go as far as to say it's 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 gearbox isn't as fun to use as the manual.

The 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI FR model is one of the best sporty diesel hatchbacks on sale, 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 you the ability to adjust the car's set-up to favour comfort or sportiness.

Interior & comfort

4.0 / 5

More comfortable ride and improved interior increase appeal

SEAT pulled out all the stops when it reinvented the Leon. The ride is better, the seats are more comfortable (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 top-notch fit and finish. The redesigned body pillars are now much thinner, which improves visibility. But the view out the back is still pretty poor, due to the small rear window and big side pillars.

Practicality & boot space

4.1 / 5

Bigger boot and improved access make Leon a decent family car

It really seems like SEAT considered criticism of the old model in designing the new and improved Leon. Its predecessor took flack for not being very practical, whereas the new Leon offers much more space. The driving position in the new car is great, too, and there's no shortage of handy 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 – more than in the Volvo V40 or Ford Focus. However, the Leon has a high boot lip, which makes loading difficult, especially with heavier objects. The rear seats don’t fold fully flat, either, but if you want the most luggage space, the Leon ST estate is always an option.

Reliability & safety

4.2 / 5

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 up 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 the Leon is as dependable as an A3 or Golf. The Leon secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests thanks to a stiffer body, a full range of airbags and standard electronic stability control (ESP).

Price, value for money & options

4.8 / 5

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 – are well equipped, with air-conditioning, a colour touchscreen and a Bluetooth phone connection. SE and FR models also get an upgraded touchscreen sat-nav that has an integrated proximity sensor. Being a SEAT, resale values should also be good on the used car market.

What the others say

4.5 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4.0 / 5
"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."
5.0 / 5
"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."
Last updated 
21 Mar 2014

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