SEAT Leon hatchback review
"New technology narrows the gap between the SEAT Leon and the latest VW Golf"
- Impressive interior
- More passenger space
- Good to drive
- Conservative looks
- Average boot space
- Average warranty
This is the Mk4 SEAT Leon, the last car to arrive in a quartet of revamped VW Group cars that also includes the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3. The Leon has spent most of its life in the Golf's shadow but this time it feels like a genuine equal; it’s a car that more buyers will actively want rather than one they’ll accept purely because it’s less expensive.
That's no mean feat in a class that also includes luminaries such as the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Mazda3. In the past, SEAT has tried to make the Leon stand out via styling and a bold colour palette, but this time round the car’s appearance is more about sophistication than flair. Practicality and quality are the areas in which there have been the biggest improvements.
From outside, the Leon's shape is certainly familiar but it has a new nose, a longer wheelbase and more pronounced ‘shoulders’. It's also noticeably different at the rear, thanks to a full-width light strip that animates when you approach the car.
The interior is an area in which the increased quality really shows itself. A neat 10-inch infotainment screen, crisp digital dials, attractive materials and cool ambient lighting mean some may even prefer the Leon's cabin to the Golf's; it's certainly more sporty. A 50mm longer wheelbase has also made the Leon a more generously proportioned car for families, with better space for adults in the back seats and larger door openings, even if the 380-litre boot is only average in this class.
SEAT is offering a variety of engines for the Leon, including both petrol and diesel, along with a plug-in hybrid powertrain for the first time. The plug-in shares its technology with the Golf GTE and boasts 201bhp as well as an electric range of up to 38 miles. Owners can charge it at home or at a public charger, with a 3.6kW supply filling the 13kWh battery pack in around 3.5 hours. A fully electric SEAT Leon won’t be added to the range because of the SEAT el-Born, an electric hatchback based on the Volkswagen Group's all new MEB platform, with a range of at least 261 miles.
On the road, the Leon drives with a slightly sportier feel than the Golf on which it’s based. On a challenging road, the sense of connection between the surface and driver is increased by a few notches, but this also makes the Leon slightly less comfortable on UK roads than the Golf. This is exacerbated by the FR trim, with stiffer suspension, so the SE Dynamic model offers the best balance of comfort and equipment.