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In-depth reviews

SEAT Leon SC hatchback (2013-2018)

“The SEAT Leon SC has two fewer doors than the hatchback, but offers plenty of practicality and decent engines”

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.2 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Same size boot as five-door
  • Efficient diesels
  • Good to drive

Cons

  • Reduced rear-seat practicality
  • Automatic not as smooth as manual
  • Badge lacks desirability

In an effort to add individual appeal to the three-door version of the SEAT Leon hatchback, SEAT markets it as a separate model. The Leon SC shares the five-door car’s sleek looks and doesn’t compromise on practicality, while actually starting at a lower price spec-for-spec, too.

Although access to the rear seats is a little trickier, there’s the same amount of interior space as in the five-door – two six-footers can sit in comfort. Those in the front will find plenty of space, too, as there’s a high-quality dashboard with a clear layout and plenty of handy storage cubbies. The latest cars have an electronic handbrake and an eight-inch screen for the infotainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink for media connection to your smartphone.

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The Leon SC range offers most of the engines you can choose in the five-door, with the exception of the 1.0-litre TSI petrol. You can choose a 1.4, 1.8 or 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine or a 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148 or 181bhp, the former of which can manage 64.2mpg. Entry level is FR Technology specification, which includes alloy wheels, climate control, sat nav and full LED headlamps.

The SC makes good sense if you don’t need the extra practicality of a second pair of doors. It finished 7th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. The Leon is stylish, fun and great value, boasting low running costs and tried-and-tested mechanical reliability.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Top-spec diesel FR is quick and efficient but all models impress

While the range of SC models isn’t quite as broad as the five-door Leon hatchback, there’s still a version to suit many motorists – and all are pretty fuel-efficient.

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The entry-level petrol engine is the 124bhp 1.4-litre TSI, which can return 54.3mpg. Even the 178bhp 1.8-litre TSI can top 47mpg, offering strong performance without sky-high running costs.

High-mileage drivers (those who cover over 12,000 miles a year) may find the diesel engines make even more sense. The 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI can return 64.2mpg and is very happy at motorway cruising speeds. If you want more speed, the 181bhp version of this engine can still return 62.8mpg and also sprint from 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds.

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Emissions are pretty low across the range, with only range-topping Cupra models emitting over 140g/km of CO2. No SC is road-tax-exempt, though – and all cars registered from 1 April onwards will be liable for a flat yearly road-tax rate of £140.

Engines, drive & performance

Comfortable yet sporty, the Leon SC strikes a good balance

Losing two doors hasn’t affected the quality of the Leon SC’s drive – enjoyment from behind the wheel is still one of its strong suits. Sharing mechanical attributes with the Volkswagen Golf has given the SC direct, accurate steering, responsive brakes and a comfortable ride.

Our favourite engine in the range is the 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel, which is powerful enough to appeal to keen drivers, while remaining economical. You can choose a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, but we found the standard six-speed manual a pleasure to use and would suggest saving the money unless you need an automatic.

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All SCs have a sports suspension system as standard and this is firmer than the five-door Leon’s suspension, improving control on a twisty road. It’s still comfortable, although you can choose an adaptive damping system to enable a choice between a comfortable ride and a sportier setup if you’re in the mood.

Interior & comfort

Leon has a good blend of comfort and sportiness

The Leon is a surprisingly comfortable for a car that SEAT has clearly decided is a sporty model first and foremost. In the front, every model has sports seats that are firm yet comfortable and prevent you from sliding out when cornering enthusiastically. In the back of the car, you’ll find enough space for two tall adults to sit in relative comfort.

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However, the centre seat is very cramped and really only suited to a very small child. Good sound insulation keeps road and wind noise to a minimum, though, and all engines are impressively calm and quiet. The interior is made of high-quality material and the Leon SC is a generally pleasant place in which to while away long journeys.

Standard equipment is generous, too, with all models getting an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen that controls sat nav, DAB radio and smartphone connectivity, as well as cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control and full LED headlamps.

Practicality & boot space

Boot space is identical to the five-door

With the SC’s silhouette barely differing from the five-door hatchback’s, both cars have the same spacious interior and impressive boot, with 380 litres of luggage space. The boot has also been designed to have a useful shape and a wide opening means it’s easily loaded. Interior storage spaces abound, too, with large pockets in the door and centre console, plus a generous glovebox.

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Naturally, the removal of the back doors has made access to the rear more difficult, but once inside there’s still plenty of space for a couple of adults or three children. However, you may find it awkward to maneuver a child seat into position due to the narrow gap behind the front seats.

Reliability & safety

Based on the VW Golf, the Leon SC is extremely well built

The SEAT Leon was rated highly for reliability in our 2017 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 8.6% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once

The Leon causes no concerns over safety – it secured the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash-tests. It’s disappointing, though, that advanced safety features like autonomous emergency braking are only available as part of an optional ‘advanced driving assist’ package, alongside traffic-jam assistance, which will take over the accelerator, brakes and steering at low speeds in stop-start traffic.

Price, value for money & options

Significantly undercuts the equivalent VW Golf

Lined up against upmarket rivals such as the BMW 1 Series or Audi A3, the SEAT Leon SC certainly has value for money in its favour. It even manages to be cheaper than the equivalent Volkswagen Golf by quite some margin. Plus, spec-for-spec it’s slightly cheaper than the standard five-door Leon, which is arguably less attractive to look at.

An early 2017 update saw the entry-level S and SE models deleted from the SC range, so the well equipped and stylish FR Technology model is now the lowest rung on the three-door Leon ladder.

Despite the increased cost to join the SC club, the FR Technology 2.0-litre TDI strikes us as offering terrific value for money. It comfortably undercuts the similarly equipped three-door Volkswagen Golf GT with the same economical 148bhp diesel engine.

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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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