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
The Mk4 SEAT Leon is one in a quartet of revamped VW Group cars that includes the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3. Although the Leon has spent most of its life in the Golf’s shadow, this time round SEAT’s mid-size hatchback genuinely feels up to par with its sibling – it’s now a car buyers should actively consider rather than choosing it merely because it costs less.
That’s quite an achievement in a car class made up of big-name hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Mazda3. SEAT has previously tried to make the Leon stand out with bolder styling and by offering it in a variety of quirky colours, but this time around the car is more about sophistication than flair. The biggest improvements to the latest Leon have been to practicality and quality.
From the outside, the Leon's shape is certainly familiar but it has a new nose, a longer wheelbase and more defined ‘shoulders’. It's also noticeably different at the rear, thanks to a full-width light strip that animates when you approach the car.
Improvements to quality are most apparent on the inside of the Leon – a neat 10-inch infotainment screen, crisp digital dials, cool ambient lighting and attractive materials all around the cabin mean some may even prefer the Leon’s interior to the Golf’s. Its wheelbase is also longer than that of its predecessor, by 50mm, which makes it a more generously proportioned car for families; there’s more space in the back for adults and larger door openings, although its 380-litre boot is average for its class.
The SEAT Leon is offered with a variety of engines, including both petrol and diesel options, as well as a plug-in hybrid for the first time. A more powerful 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine with an automatic transmission was introduced to the range in summer 2021.
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.
For a more performance-focused hot-hatch version of the SEAT Leon, buyers might consider the Cupra Leon – Cupra was previously offered as a performance trim level on a number of SEAT models, but has been a fully-fledged VW Group brand since 2018.
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.