In-depth reviews

SEAT Leon hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

Keen drivers should enjoy the SEAT Leon's connected feel

While it's closely based on the Volkswagen Golf, the SEAT Leon is the model intentionally injected with a little more flair and usually a sportier driving experience. So, is that still the case this time? We certainly found there's something about the Leon that encourages you to grip the steering wheel that little bit more tightly and select its more engaging driving modes.

There's a slightly more direct connection between the car and the road on tight twisty roads than in most family hatchbacks, the steering is fast to react to inputs and the brakes react progressively but strongly to your right foot. This feel is enhanced in the FR model, which also looks the most like a hot hatchback from outside, thanks to its bodykit, bigger wheels and slightly lower suspension. It corners the flattest but the ride is firmer too.

SEAT Leon petrol engines

The petrol range starts with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine with 109bhp, followed by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder putting out 148bhp. Sitting at the top of the petrol range is a 2.0-litre TSI with 187bhp with a standard six-speed manual transmission, along with the option of a seven-speed DSG automatic.

We've driven the 1.5-litre TSI in 128bhp and 148bhp guises so far, and the latter certainly felt punchy enough for a family hatchback. That's backed up by its 0-62mph-time of 8.4 seconds, while its top speed is 137mph. The mid-level version takes 9.4 seconds to cover the same benchmark. We noticed that the engine seems to drone more on the move, but it's otherwise smooth and refined.

Diesel engines

Like the Golf and Skoda Octavia, the Leon will also be available with a 2.0-litre TDI diesel offering 113bhp or 148bhp. The former replaces the 1.6-litre diesel engine in the current model and is aimed primarily at delivering big fuel economy, while the 148bhp version should offer punchy and smooth acceleration.

Plug-in Hybrid engines

The Leon is available with the latest version of the Volkswagen Group's plug-in hybrid powertrain, based around a 1.4-litre petrol engine, electric motor and 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack. In total there's 201bhp available and the Leon e-Hybrid accelerates at an impressive rate. Officially it can get from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, and while the engine can be heard at higher revs, while cruising it's barely audible. 

The Mercedes A 250 e is slightly better at switching between petrol and electric in its hybrid mode but even when its battery is depleted, the Leon e-Hybrid is still economical. Over 120 miles of driving we saw 48mpg, which would be a far higher figure if we'd been able to stop and charge the battery.

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