Seat Leon Ecomotive Technology
* Can big-sellers be green? * We test the big names * Ford, Seat and Volkswagen...
What is it?
This Seat Leon Ecomotive Technology is a greener, more fuel-efficient version of Seat's Leon small family car.
It is the first Seat we've tried with engine stop-start technology.
How is it more efficient?
Power comes from a new 103bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine that's linked to a five-speed manual gearbox with extra-long ratios for added efficiency.
The Leon is made even more efficient by a display that tells you the optimum gear to be in, while an energy-recovery system recovers some of the energy that's normally lost under braking.
As a result of all these measures, the Leon averages an impressive 67.3mpg and emits just 109g/km. Those are improvements of 4.5mpg and 10g/km over the noisy old 1.9 TDI Ecomotive version.
What's it like to drive?
The 1.6 diesel engine is smooth and refined, plus it pulls strongly once you're past 1500rpm. However, let the revs drop below this magic number and it's distinctly flat, so you have to be careful with your gear selection at times.
The engine stop-start system automatically switches off the engine when you come to a standstill and put the gearbox in neutral, helping to cut emissions and fuel consumption. The system then restarts the engine when you touch the clutch pedal. It works so swiftly and smoothly that you get used to it in minutes.
Otherwise, this Ecomotive Technology model is much like any other Leon, which means well-weighted steering, good body control and plenty of grip. The ride is a bit lumpy around town, but it smooths out at speed. There is a lot of road noise, though.
What's it like inside?
Unchanged aside from the gearshift indicator, so there's plenty of room for four, and drivers of all sizes will be able to get comfortable.
Most of the dashboard controls are logically arranged, but swapping between the various stereo functions isn't as easy as it should be. The cabin plastics aren't as classy as those in the best rivals, either.
How much will it cost?
The Leon Ecomotive Technology is expected to start at about 16,000, meaning it undercuts rivals such as the Ford Focus Econetic and Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion, but looks pricey compared with the Kia Cee'd Ecodynamics.
A full Ecomotive version of the Leon will also be offered from mid-December for around 16,500. This adds aerodynamic tweaks and low-rolling-resistance tyres to improve average fuel consumption to a whopping 74.3mpg.
At the same time, CO2 emissions fall to 99g/km, making it exempt from road tax.
On sale December 2009
Price 16,000 (est)
Green tweaks don't compromise the Leon, but the full Ecomotive model will make more sense.