First Drive

2014 Seat Leon ST review

  • New Seat Leon estate driven in the UK
  • Cheaper than rival Skoda Octavia Estate
  • On sale now, priced from Β£16,675
Words ByWill Nightingale

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The Seat Leon ST is a new estate version of the Spanish brand’s Ford Focus rival.

It's based on the same platform that underpins the latest Skoda Octavia Estate and VW Golf Estate, and while it offers similar boot space to both of these rivals, it costs even less to buy – prices start from just Β£16,675.

The Leon ST is on sale now and is available with the same range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines as the Leon hatchback.

What’s the 2014 Seat Leon ST 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 in place.

Better still, the loadbay is a usefully square shape, while the standard height-adjustable floor allows you to divide the space in two to keep fragile items away from heavy ones.

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

Dropping the rear seats is particularly easy in the Leon SE and FR versions, because these have spring-loaded seatbacks that automatically fold down when you pull handles on the wall of the boot.

SE versions are also available with a folding front passenger seat for an extra Β£75, making it possible to carry long, thin items – such a planks of timber or a ladder – with relative ease.

The rest of the car is much the same as the hatchback version, 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 all-round visibility is decent enough. Passengers in the rear get a generous amount of headroom as well, with lots of light flooding into the cabin from all angles.

True, the cabin 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.

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

We've tried the 104bhp 1.2 turbo petrol, the 178bhp 1.8 turbo petrol, the 103bhp 1.6 diesel and the range-topping 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel.

The smaller diesel will be the biggest seller in the UK, thanks to CO2 emissions of just 99g/km and fuel economy of 74.3mpg. Power is delivered progressively and without too much surge when the turbo kicks in, and the engine pulls cleanly from low revs, so you don’t have to overuse the five-speed gearbox.

The 1.2-litre petrol is a smooth and quiet engine both at lower speeds and on the motorway, but it requires regular use of the gearbox on steeper hills, so a larger engine would be a better choice if you are planning on carrying heavy loads on a regular basis.

The 1.8 petrol is a seriously strong engine, capable of delivering near-hot hatch pace. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are less remarkable, though, being worse than any other model in the ST line-up.

The most powerful model in the range (until a hot Cupra model arrives later in the year) is a 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Outright performance is similar to the 1.8 petrol, while CO2 emissions are much lower at just 112g/gkm.

The most powerful diesel and the 1.8 petrol are available only in range-topping FR trim, which means sports suspension comes as standard. This does bring a relatively firm ride, but keeps body movements neatly controlled along twisty country roads.

However, while we'd happily recommend FR trim in the Leon hatchback, the slightly softer suspension you get with S and SE trim is better suited to the estate. In this form, the Leon ST rides relatively comfortably, although it still falls short of the smooth-riding VW Golf Estate, being less settled on patchy urban roads.

Should I buy one?

The Leon ST has plenty going for it. Despite that sleek styling, it’s a seriously practical estate that’s also good to drive, well equipped and attractively priced.

Regardless of the impressive pace, we find it hard to recommend the 1.8 TSI 180 FR; unless you really value hot hatch pace and handling, it’s simply too pricey to buy and run. The same goes for the even more expensive 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel.

However, the 1.6 TDI is a great option, being cheap to run and run, yet very good to drive. It’s slightly outclassed in the practicality stakes by the VW Golf Estate and the new Honda Civic Tourer, but even so it’s a suitably utilitarian thing to live with.

What Car? says…


Skoda Octavia Estate

VW Golf Estate

Seat Leon 1.6 TDI 105
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel Price from Β£18,375 Power 103bhp
Torque 184lb ft
0-62mph 11.1 seconds
Top speed 119mph
Fuel economy 74.3mpg
CO2 99g/km

Seat Leon ST 1.8 TSI 180 FR DSG
Engine size 1.8-litre turbo petrol
Price from Β£22,845
Power 178bhp
Torque 184lb ft
0-62mph 7.7 seconds
Top speed 139mph
Fuel economy 48.7mpg
CO2 135g/km