Driving

Seat Leon ST review

Manufacturer price from:£19,170
What Car? Target Price:£15,864
Search new deals
Seat Leon ST
Review continues below...
21 Feb 2017 15:07 | Last updated: 22 Aug 2018 15:58

In this review

Driving

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Seat Leon estate performance

The entry-level 109bhp 1.2-litre petrol has decent low-down shove but we prefer the slightly pricier 113bhp 1.0-litre petrol. It’s a little quicker but importantly it’s cheaper to tax, less thirsty and, despite its size, it’s reasonably peppy, giving good acceleration while also emitting a fairly sporty exhaust note. If you’ll mainly be driving around town, then it’s worth considering. There’s also a 1.4 petrol with either 123bhp or 148bhp. The higher-powered version is particularly sprightly and our favourite engine in the range. It even shuts down half of its cylinders to save fuel when you’re cruising along.

Even more potent petrols are available. The 177bhp 1.8-litre unit is offered in FR Technology trim only, while the 296bhp 2.0-litre Cupra 300 model has enough pace to keep up with the fastest hot estates out there, especially if you go for the four-wheel drive version. A Volkswagen Golf R Estate will still be more fun to drive, though.

The diesel options are a 1.6 with 113bhp, and a 2.0 with 148bhp or 181bhp. Even the 1.6 has enough low-down shove to ensure brisk, relaxed progress, while the 2.0s feel really punchy – and both return decent fuel economy. Be warned, though, that both also send plenty of noise into the interior if they’re pushed hard.

Seat Leon estate ride

The Leon ST’s suspension set-up changes as you move up the range.

Beyond the standard suspension, SE Technology and FR Technology trims come with lowered sports suspension. The higher-powered versions, which include the 177bhp 1.8 petrol and 181bhp 2.0 diesel, get a more sophisticated rear suspension set-up, and by the time you hit the dizzying performance heights of the Cupra model, features adaptive dampers as well. Meanwhile, the X-Perience version has raised suspension to give extra off-road ground clearance – but most owners aren’t likely to venture far away from the tarmac.

In practice, whichever ST you choose you’ll notice that the ride is a little firmer than on, say, a VW Golf Estate. It just about manages to remain comfortable, although the more basic suspension in the lower models does create a bit of patter from the rear of the car when you’re cruising along and never really settle down.

If anything, the high-performance Cupra’s ride is the most impressive of the lot when its adaptive dampers are set to Comfort mode. True, it’s still undeniably firm, but better controlled as a result and surprisingly comfortable for such a focused performance model.

With its extra high suspension delivering a bit more wheel travel, the X-Perience model is also smoother than the regular ST, too.

Seat Leon ST

Seat Leon estate handling

Most of the Leon’s chassis set-ups – ranging from the simpler design of entry-level versions to the trick adaptive shock absorbers of Cupra models – are relatively firm, so all editions of the car keep body roll in check, and stay impressively flat through corners. The exception is the X-Perience, which being slightly taller suffers from a touch more lean.

The Cupra is particularly impressive in this regard; it has huge amounts of grip through a corner and clings on very well, inspiring you to push your limits, although the two-wheel drive model tends to spin up its wheels when accelerating out of tight bends. This is all sorted if you order the four-wheel drive Cupra 300, but even so it isn’t as thrilling or engaging as the best hot hatches, such as the Ford Focus RS. But that doesn’t come as a practical estate, though.

Every Leon has nicely weighted, precise steering that helps make it easy to place the car accurately in bends, although more feedback would boost confidence when the roads are slippery. In any case, the weighting makes it easy to park and move around town.

Seat Leon estate refinement

The Leon ST is a little less refined than its Audi and Volkswagen stablemates when you rev the engines hard. Yet once you’re up to motorway speeds there’s not much noise from the petrols, but you can still hear the diesels in the background when cruising, or when you put your foot down. You’re more likely to be troubled by wind noise from the Leon’s sharp-edged door mirrors than any engine noise, though.

Another area where the Leon can struggle is road noise. You’ll notice a fair amount of rumble on even basic-spec versions, and this becomes more of an issue with every increase in tyre size as you go up the model range – the wide tyres fitted to the Cupra 300 are the worst offenders. For the best experience, stick to the smaller wheels.

The standard gearbox on most editions is a slick-shifting six-speed manual unit, but the 1.6-litre diesel gets a five-speed ’box that feels a little notchy by comparison. The DSG automatic gearbox (optional on the majority of Leon STs) is smooth enough most of the time, but it can be a bit clunky at low speeds, such as when you’re trying to reverse the Leon into a parking space. You can take control through the paddles mounted on the steering wheel, though.

 

open the gallery19 Images
There are 13 trims available for the Leon estate. Click to see details.See all versions
SE
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£15,864
Average Saving £3,306
View Trim
SE Dynamic Technology
SE Dynamic Technology adds 17in alloys, rear privacy glass and rear parking sensors to the SE Technology’s specification....View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£16,616
Average Saving £3,339
View Trim
SE Dynamic
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£16,616
Average Saving £3,339
View Trim
SE Technology
SE Technology offers a number of nice upgrades over S trim, including 16in alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and gearlever, 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio and sat-nav, au...View trim
Fuel Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£17,138
Average Saving £3,362
View Trim
FR
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£18,981
Average Saving £3,444
View Trim
FR Technology
Sporty FR Technology trim is our favourite of all the Leon versions, though. As standard it has LED headlights, power-folding door mirrors, passenger lumbar adjustment, dual-zone climate control, f...View trim
Fuel Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£18,981
Average Saving £3,444
View Trim
FR Sport
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£21,040
Average Saving £3,535
View Trim
Xcellence
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£21,586
Average Saving £3,559
View Trim
Xcellence Technology
This trim might be tempting if you prefer a slightly less sporty looking car than the FR models. Instead you get a chrome front grilled and window surrounds, plus added luxuries including keyless e...View trim
Fuel Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£21,586
Average Saving £3,559
View Trim
Xcellence Lux
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Diesel, Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£22,376
Average Saving £3,594
View Trim
Cupra
This trim is only for the performance Cupra 300 model. Based on the already well equipped FR Technology trim it adds adaptive dampers and a limited slip differential, and on the inside a leather sp...View trim
Fuel Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£30,534
Average Saving £2,641
View Trim
Cupra Lux
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£34,285
View Trim
Carbon Edition
We are yet to try out this variant...View trim
Fuel Petrol
What Car? Target Price from
£34,525
Average Saving £1,050
View Trim