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SEAT Leon ST estate - Engines, drive & performance (2014-2020)

There isn’t really a bad engine in the SEAT Leon ST range – buyers can choose anything from the diesel’s economy through to the Cupra’s racy performance

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.5 out of 5

Peel away the Leon ST’s stylish body and you’ll find the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 – and it shares some excellent engines with those cars, too.

As with the Golf Estate, the Leon ST is available with two different rear suspension systems – models with 148bhp or less have a simpler setup, while more powerful versions come with a multilink rear axle. The latter arrangement means improved handling and a more comfortable ride, but the basic models are still perfectly capable.

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The 296bhp Cupra version also comes with electronically adjustable Dynamic Chassis Control suspension that allow you to choose between comfortable or sporty settings, along with four-wheel drive, which the standard car doesn't get. Firmer suspension all but eliminates body lean in corners, but this isn’t excessive even in the basic Leon.

With the exception of the sharp Cupra 300 model, the Leon ST’s steering is much like the standard Golf’s – it’s consistent, but doesn’t always give you enough feel to judge how much grip the front tyres have. This latest version of the Leon is the best handling model yet, though.

SEAT Leon ST diesel engines

With potential fuel economy of more than 57mpg, the 113bhp diesel engine could be forgiven for not feeling particularly quick off the mark, but 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds is perfectly acceptable in our book. What’s more, this engine has impressive mid-range shove, which makes overtaking easier than that figure suggests.

Performance improves if you choose the 148bhp 2.0-litre version, which chips the 0-62mph time down to well under nine seconds. The 182bhp version of that engine is no longer offered.

Petrol engines

Despite being small, the three-cylinder, 1.0-litre actually feels quite powerful, with its 113bhp. This gets the ST from 0-62mph in 10.1 seconds, and while we have reservations about it shifting a fully-loaded Leon, it's a thoroughly modern, zesty and characterful engine.

As with the diesel models, performance steadily increases in the 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol models, before you arrive at the top-of-the-range 2.0-litre 296bhp engine fitted to the Cupra 300. The Cupra also comes with special variable-ratio steering that gives you more confidence-inspiring feel than the standard setup. Also helping you to attack bends at speed is a four-wheel-drive system (unique to the 300) that lets you get on the power earlier in a corner without losing grip. The Leon ST Cupra brakes are also more powerful than those fitted to the rest of the range and cope better with persistent heavy stopping.

Meanwhile, fitting the seven-speed DSG gearbox (available on various petrol and diesel models – including the Cupra) has no noticeable effect on performance.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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