Seat Leon Hatchback full 9 point review
Our favourite engine is the higher-powered 1.4-litre petrol; it’s smooth, punchy and eager to rev. However, even the entry-level 1.2 provides adequate pace. Of the diesels, we’d go for the 1.6 Ecomotive because its six-speed manual gearbox and impressive flexibility mean you’ll rarely have to work it hard. If you want more performance, the 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol Cupra is worth a look, while the 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel FR is effortlessly fast.
Ride & Handling
The Leon sits on the same chassis as the Audi A3 and VW Golf, and its handling feels much the same. That means good body control and well-weighted (if not exactly communicative) steering. Lower-powered models have a simpler suspension set-up, while FR and Cupra models have stiffer, lower settings for sharper handling. On all models the ride is on the firm side, but the damping keeps things composed enough.
The Leon is a little less refined than its Audi and VW stablemates if you rev its engines hard, but you’ll rarely have to do that. There's not much noise from the petrols once you’re up to speed, but you can still hear the diesels when cruising. Still, you’re more likely to be troubled by wind noise from the Leon’s sharply styled door mirrors, while there's also too much road noise on models with large wheels.
Buying & Owning
Seat is pitching the Leon as a cheaper alternative to the Golf. It undercuts the VW right across the range – although it still can’t quite match the headline figures of rivals from Hyundai and Kia. The Seat should be cheap to run, too. Most versions emit less than 120g/km of CO2, even with the optional DSG automatic gearbox. However, while resale values aren’t bad, they aren’t as good as a Golf’s.
Quality & Reliability
The Leon’s fascia is smart rather than plush. Everything you touch regularly feels fine, but there are a few signs of cost-cutting. The worst of these – a plastic flap that covers the cubbyhole at the base of the dashboard – feels very cheap. Seat as a brand tends to score average marks in our reliability surveys.
Safety & Security
It’s hard to argue with the Leon’s level of safety equipment. Every model gets seven airbags, stability control, emergency brake assist and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. There are also active front head restraints to minimise whiplash in an accident, plus Isofix child-seat mounting points. The car has received the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. Remote central locking and an alarm are fitted to help keep thieves at bay.
Behind The Wheel
It’s easy to get comfortable, thanks to a good range of adjustment. You’ll also appreciate the uncluttered fascia, with its simple heating and ventilation controls. The standard integrated touch-screen is well positioned at the top of the dashboard, making it easy to see without diverting your glance too far away from the road ahead. Forward visibility is good, but thick rear pillars limit your view behind.
Space & Practicality
The Leon’s interior packaging feels comfortably up to the job of providing everyday family transport. There's lots of head- and legroom up front, and the cabin also feels airy in the back – particularly in the five-door model, which has slightly more rear head- and legroom than the three-door SC. The boot offers a generous 380 litres of space, although there’s an annoying step in the floor when the seats are folded.
No Leon is short of standard equipment. Even entry-level S models get air-con, an MP3-compatible six-speaker CD player and Bluetooth. Move up to SE spec and you get alloy wheels, a leather-covered steering wheel and gearknob, cruise control, a front armrest and chrome cabin detailing. Sporty FR trim is our favourite and brings redesigned front and rear bumpers, larger wheels, front sports seats, dual-zone climate control and all-round parking sensors.