In-depth reviews

SEAT Leon hatchback review

"New technology narrows the gap between the SEAT Leon and the latest VW Golf"

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Impressive interior
  • More passenger space
  • Good to drive

Cons

  • Conservative looks
  • Average boot space
  • Average warranty

Verdict – is the SEAT Leon a good car?

The SEAT Leon is a great hatchback from the Spanish brand, and despite previous versions living much of their life in the closely-related Volkswagen Golf’s shadow, it’s now genuinely a car buyers could consider in its own right, rather than just because it costs less. It feels good to drive, sophisticated, and is more practical than the old model, so deserves as much, if not more attention than some of its big-name rivals.

SEAT Leon models, specs and alternatives

The Mk4 SEAT Leon is one in a quartet of revamped VW Group cars that includes the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3. As well as these relatives, rivals include well-established 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 was initially offered with a variety of engines, including both petrol and diesel options, as well as a plug-in e-Hybrid model for the first time, though this has now been discontinued, as has the more powerful 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine with an automatic transmission that was introduced to the range in 2021.

Now the range consists of just a handful of simple petrol engines with or without mild-hybrid tech. The range kicks off with a few petrol engines in different sizes – there’s a 1.0-litre TSI with 108bhp, and a 1.5-litre TSI with either 128bhp or 148bhp, all paired with a six-speed manual. The automatic versions get mild-hybrid assistance (badge eTSI) and a seven-speed DSG gearbox, but aren’t any more powerful and are only marginally more efficient. There’s one diesel engine available, which is a 2.0-litre TDI engine with either 113bhp or 148bhp and a six-speed manual.

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.

Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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