2014 Seat Leon ST Ecomotive first drive

The Seat Leon ST Ecomotive offers estate car practicality and CO2 emissions of just 87g/km. Does that mean it's worth the extra cash over a regular Leon diesel, though?

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The Seat Leon ST Ecomotive is the efficiency-focused version of the brand's small family estate.

A rival for the Golf Estate Bluemotion and the Ford Focus Estate Econetic, the Leon ST Ecomotive gets a 1.6-litre diesel engine, a retuned six-speed manual gearbox, low rolling resistance tyres, tweaked aerodynamics and lowered suspension. The combined effect of these changes is a claimed combined fuel economy of 85.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 87g/km.

However, a regular Leon ST 1.6 TDI can also dip under the 100g/km mark, so is it worth spending the extra money on an even greener version?

What’s the 2014 Seat Leon ST Ecomotive like inside?

The Leon ST’s boot is almost as big as a Skoda Octavia Estate’s, so there’s a massive 587 litres of space with the rear seats fixed in place. Better still, the load bay is a usefully square shape, while the standard height-adjustable floor allows you to divide the space in two to keep fragile items separate.

With the floor in its highest setting, there’s virtually no entry lip to negotiate, and when the seats are folded down the whole area is almost flat. That said, the floor in the VW Golf Estate is easier to adjust.

The rest of the cabin is much the same as in the regular Leon hatchback, so drivers of all shapes and sizes should be able to get comfortable; there's plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, while visibility all-round is decent enough. Passengers in the rear get a generous amount of headroom as well, with lots of light flooding into the cabin from every angle.

True, the dashboard isn’t quite a classy as a VW Golf Estate’s – you'll find some matt plastic where the Golf offers metallic or piano black trim – but it still looks and feels smart and solid compared with most other rivals'.

In fact, in some ways, the Leon ST’s dashboard is easier to use than the Golf's, because the Seat's main touch-screen infotainment system is positioned at the top of the fascia (rather than halfway up it) so you don't have to tilt your head as far down to see the display, and there are fewer buttons to fiddle with on the steering wheel.

What’s the 2014 Seat Leon ST Ecomotive like to drive?

The Ecomotive version has a few more horsepower than the conventional Leon ST 1.6 - 108bhp compared with 103bhp - but the biggest difference is the transmission. Instead of the regular car's five-speed unit, the Ecomotive gets a six-speed manual.

It's a welcome change, because the extra ratio allows you to make better use of the engine. There's not a great deal of either power or torque below 1700rpm, so you'll need to use the six speeds to keep the 1.6 diesel above that level. Do that and the Leon ST Ecomotive is brisk enough to make you forget that you're in the 'green' edition.

You're unlikely to miss the fact you're in a diesel, though. Even when the 1.6 warms up it has enough of a rasping clatter to never quite fade completely into the background. Even at a motorway cruise of around 2000rpm, you're likely to hear some engine thrum over the wind and road noise (and there's plenty of both).

The lower suspension doesn't improve what is already quite a firm set-up, but the Leon is never really uncomfortable, and the settings do a reasonable job of keeping the Leon ST's body roll in check. The steering is consistently weighted and accurate.

Should I buy one?

On paper, the Leon SE Ecomotive has some appeal; it does cost more than the regular diesel but it sits in a lower tax band, so you'll save a little if you're running it as a company car. Even when real-world adjustment is taken into account, it should offer a modest improvement in everyday fuel economy, too.

The actual gains are tiny, though; we think that the regular diesel on conventional tyres and without the lowered suspension is actually slightly more comfortable.

As such, if you've narrowed down your options to the Leon - and discounted the VW Golf Estate, which is a better all-rounder altogether - we'd be tempted to stick with the 1.6 TDI SE instead.

What Car? says...


Rivals
 

Volkswagen Golf Estate

Skoda Octavia Greenline

Specification
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £20,485
Power 108bhp
Torque 184lb ft
0-62mph 10.4 seconds
Top speed 122mph
Fuel economy 85.6mpg
CO2 output 87g/km

 
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