SEAT Leon hatchback (2013-2020)
“The SEAT Leon is a talented family hatchback, thanks to its stylish looks, impressive engines and generous trim levels”
- Powerful & economical engines
- Reasonable running costs
- Stylish design
- Poor rear visibility
- Limited practicality
- Ford Focus is more fun to drive
If you’re in the market for a family hatchback like the SEAT Leon, the sheer choice can be almost overwhelming. Rivals include the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Kia Ceed, and they’re just some of the most well-known examples. Not only that, but an increasing number of families are choosing to buy an SUV or crossover instead, with models like the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 and SEAT Ateca all popular choices.
During 2017 the Leon was given a facelift, keeping it fresh and stylish. Its looks were given a mild refresh, with new LED headlights and tweaked bumpers. In August 2018 SEAT adjusted its trim levels, making equipment levels even more generous. The entry-level S version was scrapped, so every Leon now gets an eight-inch infotainment screen, front fog lamps, cruise control and air conditioning as standard. SE Dynamic is our pick of the range, bringing features like 3D sat nav, 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors and privacy glass.
FR trim adds a sporty look that's well suited to the Leon, with unique alloy wheels, bumpers and badges, plus selectable driving modes, full LED lights all round and two-zone climate control. FR Black Edition trim also includes black exterior trim and 18-inch alloy wheels, SEAT's digital instrument display and a Winter Pack, consisting of heated front seats, headlight washers and heated washer nozzles. Both FR and FR Black Edition offer sports seats and lowered, sportier suspension. The top Xcellence and Xcellence Lux trims, meanwhile, add luxuries like keyless entry, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and a reversing camera. A high-performance version, the SEAT Leon Cupra hot hatchback, is reviewed separately. Alternatively, there's also the SEAT Leon ST estate if you require more space, and that's also available as a Leon ST Cupra model.
The interior has an upmarket feel, even if it can’t quite match the Volkswagen Golf for overall quality. Compared with the Peugeot 308’s ‘i-Cockpit’, the Leon feels more conventional, but it’s clearly laid out and looks modern - especially with the larger touchscreen fitted to this facelift model. Space is decent too, with enough room for most passengers in the front and back seats, along with a sizeable 380-litre boot. The Skoda Octavia is still top of the pile for luggage space though, if that’s a priority.
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Customers should find an engine to suit their needs thanks to petrol and diesel models, with power ranging from 113 to 286bhp. If you tend to drive short local journeys, we’d recommend a petrol, with 1.0 and 1.5-litre engines providing 113, 128 or 148bhp, smooth and quiet motoring and fuel-economy of up to 52.3mpg in the 1.0-litre. This engine also qualifies for a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax liability. Not even the thirstiest non-Cupra model will cost the earth when it comes to emissions or fuel consumption.
If you’re a business driver or tend to go on lots of long trips, the 113bhp 1.6-litre TDI diesel can work out the cheapest to run, with a 57.6mpg fuel consumption figure for mixed driving. CO2 emissions of 109g/km mean it qualifies for a reasonable Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax liability. That includes a 4% diesel surcharge, so the 113bhp petrol may be a better choice with its lower BiK rate. If you want more power you needn’t fear astronomical running costs, either – the punchy 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI manages 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, yet returns over 55mpg.
In terms of driving pleasure, there isn’t a ‘lemon’ among the engines: all are quiet and offer more than sufficient performance, while SEAT’s six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic gearboxes are smooth and well matched to the power on offer. It’s a fun car to drive when the roads get twisty, too – although the Ford Focus just has the edge when it comes to sharpness. For keen drivers, the SEAT Leon FR with the 2.0-litre TDI or 1.5-litre petrol is an excellent choice, as it adds a sportier driving mode.
SEAT has also ensured that no Leon buyer will have any concerns over safety. Independent crash-testing body Euro NCAP awarded the Leon a full five stars thanks to its strong body and long list of standard safety kit. The facelifted Leon finished 52nd out of the 100 cars ranked in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK.
There are family hatchbacks that beat the SEAT Leon on points, but few that are quite as well rounded, thanks to its VW Group build quality, attractive running costs and a high level of standard equipment. It’s a good looking, good value package and one of our favourite family cars.