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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Gorgeous shape, fun to drive, relatively cheap to run

Against The Leon feels cheap inside, and room in the rear and boot could be more generous

Verdict It's built to a budget, but the Leon is a safe and pleasing family car

Go for… 2.0-litre diesel

Avoid… 2.0-litre petrol

Seat Leon Hatchback
  • 1. Visibility isn’t great because of the thick, sweeping windscreen pillars
  • 2. All models get electronic traction control and front, side and curtain airbags
  • 3. With a petrol engine, check it isn't noisy when it starts up, because they should idle quietly
  • 4. On FR versions, watch out for an abused gearbox and slipping clutch
  • 5. The boot isn’t as big as the Volkswagen Golf’s or a Ford Focus’s, nor is the opening as practical
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Seat Leon Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Well, it looks absolutely gorgeous for a start, thanks to that teardrop, five-door hatchback shape. And, with the underpinnings of the widely acclaimed Volkswagen Golf backing the Leon up, there's substance beneath those seductive looks.

Very good though the interior is, don’t expect absolute top-notch quality plastics. Visibility isn’t great, either, due to thick, sweeping, windscreen pillars. The boot isn’t as big as the Volkswagen Golf’s or a Ford Focus’s, nor is the load aperture as practical.

Sitting behind the Leon’s small steering wheel on the well bolstered driver’s seat, you feel very much as if you're in a sporting car - and it doesn’t disappoint you out on the road, either. Although the ride can be a little firm, body control is tight and the handling is tidy and precise, while the engine line-up is impressive, at least for the most part.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Up-to-date styling should ensure a younger audience. Likely to be a slow depreciator

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

All models get electronic traction control and state-of-the-art brakes, along with front, side and curtain airbags as standard. Entry-level Essence trim skimps a little on kit, but even so, you get electric front windows, a CD player and spilt folding rear seats.

Reference adds air-conditioning, while Stylance, our recommended trim, provides rear electric windows and cruise control. Sport and FR are the two top trims available.

The most powerful engine is the 197bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged, direct-injection petrol unit, which is found in various sporting VWs, Audis and Skodas. This and its 168bhp 2.0 TDI diesel stablemate power the hot FR versions that were released in June 2006.

The 140bhp 2.0 diesel is our favourite engine overall, as the 105bhp 1.9 diesel suffers from a narrow powerband. And, of the two remaining petrol engines, we prefer the 1.6-litre 101bhp unit over the 2.0-litre 150bhp engine.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Low miles models at Seat dealers, 1.6 Reference makes sense

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The days of picking up low-mileage, second-hand Seats for a song are long gone. When the Leon was released in 2005, predicted resale values were strong - maybe not quite up to VW Golf levels, but certainly better than the equivalent Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. So, a used Leon can look quite dear.

Servicing costs aren’t exactly low, either, but they are still reasonable. The 10,000-mile service intervals are not as lengthy as those of a Vauxhall Astra, which can in theory run for up to two years or 20,000 miles before needing attention.

Similarly, if you need to pay for repairs at a Seat dealer, you'll be charged a slightly higher hourly rate than at a Ford, Vauxhall or even Volkswagen franchise.

Stick with the 38.1mpg 1.6 Stylance, and you’ll only incur group 5 insurance costs. The 197bhp turbo FR is rated at group 14, which is very low for a hot hatch. It’s best run on expensive super-unleaded, but is capable of 35.8mpg.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Up-to-date styling should ensure a younger audience. Likely to be a slow depreciator

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Some people will absolutely cherish their hot Leon FRs, and yet others will undoubtedly rev them within an inch of their life. Happily, both the 2.0-litre FSI turbo petrol and the 2.0 HDI turbodiesel can take a lot of abuse, but you still need to be careful.

Check that the petrol engine isn’t noisy on start-up, because it should be capable of idling very quietly. You can’t expect the same level of refinement from the diesel, but what you don’t want to see is a lot of black smoke from the exhaust when you put your foot on the accelerator.

With either FR version, you’ll have to put up with a horrid, oversized gearlever, but don’t put up with an abused gearbox or slipping clutch, check both out thoroughly on a test drive before handing over any cash. Ensure the suspension feels right, too, and that the brake discs are not warped.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Low miles models at Seat dealers, 1.6 Reference makes sense

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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