Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There are only three engines to choose from at the moment and they all require you to squirt petrol in the tank. Confusingly, two of them are 1.5-litres in size and pump out an identical 148bhp – the difference is that the eTSI 150 version is a mild hybrid, which means a small electric motor is on hand to help low-rev oomph and (as we’ll talk about later) improve fuel economy.
The TSIe’s outright acceleration is barely any stronger than in the regular TSI 150, but both engines are more than fast enough and can get you to 62mph from a standstill in just under nine seconds. However, as long as you’re happy with a manual gearbox, we reckon the cheaper 128bhp 1.5-litre (badged 1.5 TSI 130) is the pick of the range, with performance that’s up to the job if you don’t mind working it a little harder.
A 1.0-litre petrol, 2.0-litre diesel and a plug-in hybrid petrol will be joining the line-up in the near future.
Suspension and ride comfort
Go for popular FR trim and your Leon will come fitted with sports suspension. This is obviously intended to help the car dart around corners, as we’ll come on to discuss in the next section, but it also has an impact on ride comfort.
You certainly won’t be wincing every time you hit a drain cover, or taking the long route home to avoid speed bumps, but you do notice yourself being jostled around in your seat along even relatively smooth roads.
If comfort is a priority, and it will be to many estate buyers, it’s best to stick with SE, SE Dynamic or one of the Xcellence trims. You’ll feel potholes and pimples rounded off a little better and it’s less fidgety, too. However, the rival Skoda Octavia Estate and Toyota Corolla Touring Sports are even more supple.
The sports suspension fitted to FR models really helps the Leon shine on twisty roads. The car turns in to bends keenly with little body lean and, thanks to lots of grip, you can carry a surprising amount of speed through corners.
Indeed, there aren’t aren’t estates in this price bracket that trump the Leon for agility, and it also has naturally weighted steering that helps give you the confidence to drive quickly (when it’s appropriate to do so, of course). Okay, it’s no BMW 3 Series Touring, but it makes the rival Octavia Estate feel positively wallowy.
The Leon still handles well when fitted with the softer suspension you get with SE, SE Dynamic and the Xcellence trims, although there is a bit more body sway through corners and a little less grip, too.
Noise and vibration
Cruise along a motorway and you’ll hear a bit more tyre noise than you would in an Octavia Estate, but not enough to make the Leon a wearing long-distance companion. Indeed, its light but positive clutch pedal and sweet manual gearshift make it a pleasure to drive in more built-up areas.
The 1.5 TSI 130 engine isn’t the smoothest or quietest around, though; it transmits an annoying buzz to the soles of your feet and sounds rather coarse when worked hard. This is surprising because the more powerful 1.5 TSI 150 (and eTSI 150) are much smoother and quieter.
If you want an automatic gearbox, your only option at the moment is the eTSI 150 mild hybrid, which has a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) transmission.
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