First Drive

Seat Leon Ecomotive first drive

  • Most economical Seat Leon driven
  • 85.6mpg and 87g/km of CO2
  • On sale now, priced from Β£19,360
Words ByBarnaby Jones

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The Seat Leon Ecomotive is the economy champion of the Leon range. It offers similar figures to the Ford Focus Econetic, Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion and the recently introduced Skoda Octavia Greenline, making it one of the most economical family cars available.

Based on the 1.6-litre diesel model, the Leon Ecomotive has a range of measures to make it more efficient. These include a six-speed manual gearbox (the standard 1.6 makes do with a five-speed), with extra-long ratios to keep engine revs down. Lowered suspension, front and rear spoilers and a bespoke radiator grille improve aerodynamics, while low-rolling-resistance tyres cut drag.

The Leon Ecomotive is available in three-door SC, five-door hatchback and ST estate bodystyles, all of which have claimed figures of 85.6mpg and just 87g/km of CO2. Here we’re testing the five-door hatch, which costs Β£19,660.

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

This isn’t a painfully slow eco-special. In fact, it has more power than the standard 1.6-litre diesel model (108bhp versus 103bhp), and the engine pulls well from low revs. True, the long gearing means you’ll occasionally have to shift down a gear when you need to accelerate briskly, but the Ecomotive’s performance is otherwise perfectly acceptable.

All Leons have firm suspension, and the Ecomotive’s lowered set-up does nothing to improve ride comfort. It’s far from unbearable, though, and the suspension is quick to regain its composure after hitting a bump. Body control is good and the steering is accurate, too.

Refinement is less impressive. The diesel engine is pretty gruff, and the noise never quite fades into the background. There’s also too much wind and road noise on the motorway.

What’s the 2014 Seat Leon Ecomotive like inside?

It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, and there’s plenty of space around you. A Skoda Octavia offers more stretching room for rear-seat passengers, but even tall adults are unlikely to feel cramped in the back of the Leon.

There’s plenty of space in the boot as well, although there’s a high lip for you to lift your luggage over. Fold down the rear seats and you’ll also have to put up with a big step in the extended boot floor.

The materials are more durable than plush, and there’s the odd bit of cheap-feeling plastic at knee level. It’s better than the disappointing cabin in a Ford Focus, if not as upmarket as a Volkswagen Golf’s.

Standard equipment is decent for the money, and includes air-con, cruise control, Bluetooth, alloy wheels and a touch-screen infotainment system.

Should I buy one?

This is where it gets a little complicated, because the Ecomotive isn’t the sure-fire financial hit that its on-paper figures may have you believe.

It costs Β£990 more than the standard Leon 1.6 TDI, but sits just one company car tax band lower, so a 20% taxpayer will save only Β£1 a month by going for the Ecomotive, with monthly payments coming in at Β£42. If you’re leasing the car, it’ll actually cost Β£18 a month more, at Β£289.

Yes, the brochure says the Ecomotive will do an extra 11mpg, but it’s usually even harder to get near the claimed figures in an eco-special model, so the gap is likely to be smaller in the real world.

So whether you’re a private or a company car driver, the differences are small. The Ecomotive is a good car, but we’d stick with the standard diesel model; it’s cheaper to buy, similarly cheap to run and has a slightly better ride.

Better yet, a Volkswagen Golf or Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI won’t set you back much more in company car tax per month, and they’re both superior all-rounders.

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Seat Leon 1.6 TDI Ecomotive

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel Price Β£19,660 Power 108bhp Torque 184lb ft 0-62mph 10.4 seconds Top speed 122mph Fuel economy 85.6mpg CO2 87g/km