2013 Seat Leon SC review
Based on the three-door Audi A3, it has a shorter wheelbase than the five-door Leon, along with a lower roofline and a more angular rear screen. These changes make the car even more striking to look at.
The SC is around £300 cheaper than the five-door Leon, meaning it costs around £2000 less than an equivalent VW Golf.
Thanks to a wider range of engines, it’s also available for significantly less than the new Kia Proceed.
What’s the 2013 Seat Leon SC like to drive?
Stick with standard suspension (fitted to S and SE models) and the SC handles well enough. The steering is a little vague, but there’s plenty of grip and the body doesn’t lollop over too much – even through tight twists and turns.
The ride isn’t quite as accomplished as the VW Golf’s because there's a constant patter from the rear on anything other than super-smooth roads. It’s still far from uncomfortable, though.
FR models have lower and stiffer suspension that really sharpens up the Leon’s handling. It tucks its nose into corners more eagerly and changes direction with far more panache.
The ride doesn’t suffer too much, either. The front end certainly picks up on a few more ripples, but the stiffer setup actually feels more cohesive.
We tried the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel. This engine is a real highlight in the latest Golf and Audi A3, but it isn't as refined in the Leon. You feel more buzz through the pedals when you accelerate hard, and there's a drone as the revs rise beyond 3000rpm.
Thankfully, you rarely need to push the engine that hard, because it starts to pull strongly from just 1700rpm. It's also remarkably efficient considering how powerful it is, with CO2 emissions of just 106g/km.
However, having driven all the available engines in the five-door Leon, we reckon the 103bhp 1.2 TSI and the 138bhp 1.4 TSI petrols will make the most sense. The smaller engine is surprisingly flexible, while the 1.4 is entertaining enough to provide warm hatch thrills – especially if you spec it with FR suspension.
If you do need a diesel, we’d recommend the 1.6 TDI. While it isn’t as strong as the 2.0-litre, it’s noticeably quieter and £1350 cheaper.
Elsewhere, there’s little wind noise at speed, although road noise is an issue – especially over coarse surfaces.
What’s the 2013 Seat Leon SC like inside?
We'd call the Leon 'smart' rather than 'luxurious', because only a few things – such as the cheap-feeling stereo controls – let it down. You'll also find some matt plastic where the Golf offers metallic or 'piano black' trim.
However, in some ways the Seat’s dashboard is easier to use than the VW's. For instance, the main touch-screen infotainment system is positioned higher on the dashboard, making it slightly easier to reach and meaning you don't have to tilt your head so far down to see the display.
Getting into the back of the SC obviously isn’t as easy as it is in the five-door Leon, and once there you’ll find your knees slightly closer to the seat in front (courtesy of that shorter wheelbase).
The SC’s slightly lower roofline means there isn’t quite as much rear headroom as in the five-door model, either – although there’s still easily enough space to accommodate four six-foot adults.
The boot is exactly the same size as the five door model’s, meaning it’s surprisingly big by the standards of the class.
Even entry-level S models get seven airbags, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, LED headlights and a colour touch-screen infotainment system.
SE adds ambient interior lighting, 16-inch alloys, front foglights, cruise control and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearknob.
The priciest trim at the moment is FR, which includes bigger wheels, sportier front and rear bumpers, dual-zone climate control, LED tail-lights, twin chrome tailpipes and the sports suspension.?
Should I buy one?
There’s absolutely no reason not to. The Leon SC is arguably the most stylish three-door hatchback on the market, and if you rarely need to carry more than a single passenger, why spend an extra £300 on the five-door model?
In fact, in some ways the SC makes more sense than the five-door Leon, because if space is important to you, there are better alternatives available for similar money, such as the latest Skoda Octavia.
True, the SC isn’t quite as comfortable or refined as a three-door Golf, but it’s around £2000 cheaper to buy and you’re guaranteed to see far fewer Seats on other driveways along your street.
What Car? says...
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Volkswagen Golf 3dr
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £19,540
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 8.4 seconds
Top speed 134mph
Fuel economy 68.9mpg
By Will Nightingale