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2013 Seat Leon SC review

  • New three-door Seat Leon driven
  • 300 cheaper than five-door model
  • On sale now, priced from 15,370

Words By

Will Nightingale

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The Seat Leon SC is a new three-door version of the Spanish brands small family hatchback.

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, its also available for significantly less than the new Kia Proceed.

Whats 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 theres plenty of grip and the body doesnt lollop over too much even through tight twists and turns.

The ride isnt quite as accomplished as the VW Golfs because there's a constant patter from the rear on anything other than super-smooth roads. Its still far from uncomfortable, though.

FR models have lower and stiffer suspension that really sharpens up the Leons handling. It tucks its nose into corners more eagerly and changes direction with far more panache.

The ride doesnt 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.

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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, wed recommend the 1.6 TDI. While it isnt as strong as the 2.0-litre, its noticeably quieter and 1350 cheaper.
Elsewhere, theres little wind noise at speed, although road noise is an issue especially over coarse surfaces.

Whats 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 Seats 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 isnt as easy as it is in the five-door Leon, and once there youll find your knees slightly closer to the seat in front (courtesy of that shorter wheelbase).

The SCs slightly lower roofline means there isnt quite as much rear headroom as in the five-door model, either although theres still easily enough space to accommodate four six-foot adults.

The boot is exactly the same size as the five door models, meaning its 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?
Theres 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 isnt quite as comfortable or refined as a three-door Golf, but its around 2000 cheaper to buy and youre guaranteed to see far fewer Seats on other driveways along your street.

What Car? says...

Rivals:
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Volkswagen Golf 3dr

Read the full Seat Leon review >>

Specification
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from 19,540
Power 148bhp
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 8.4 seconds
Top speed 134mph
Fuel economy 68.9mpg
CO2 106g/km

By Will Nightingale