What's the used Seat Leon like?
Chances are that if you asked people to name a medium-sized family hatchback, the Seat Leon would be quite a way down their list. They might easily be able to roll off the names of cars such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra, but for years the Leon has been a little off the public’s radar. Considering how good it’s always been and how much it undercuts its rivals on price, this is a real travesty of justice.
This third-generation version is based, like the two before it, on the underpinnings of the Golf – and that alone has been enough to make it a very good car. It’s not only shorter, lighter and roomier than the second-gen model, it’s also more efficient and much better to drive.
There’s an excellent range of engines to choose from, petrols kicking off with a 1.2-litre unit and working up to a 296bhp 2.0-litre Cupra-version flyer. In the middle sits our favourite, the 148bhp 1.4-litre unit, which is smooth, powerful and economical, although a facelift in 2016 brought in a new 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine that we would also recommend for its flexibility and economy.
Diesel versions start with an astonishingly economical 1.6-litre engine, good for 70.6mpg in some models, then through the punchier 148bhp 2.0-litre and up to a noticeably swift 181bhp 2.0-litre unit.
Leons are well-equipped, too, with even the entry-level S getting a few neat toys like a colour touchscreen and air conditioning. The range moves up through SE and FR versions, adding cruise control and sportier styling respectively, both of which are also available with a popular 'Technology' pack that includes LED headlights, a digital radio and satellite navigation. The hot Cupra version sits at the top of the range while, later in life, the luxurious Xcellence version was added to sit above the FR.
On the road, the Leon feels sprightly, with distinctly sporty handling. Quick steering teams up with suspension that holds the body down well and plenty of grip to make it a rewarding thing to drive fast, even if it ultimately isn't quite as involving as a Ford Focus. And despite a ride that errs on the firm side, the Leon is comfortable too.
Inside, there’s plenty of space for a family and all its paraphernalia, whether in the front or in the rear; the boot's a good size too, although the high lip means it isn't the most practical family car out there. And you get a smart, stylish-looking dashboard, which, while lacking the ultimate quality of a Volkswagen Golf's, still feels better built than many other rivals'.
The Leon received a light mid-life facelift in 2017, during which it gained a smattering of styling changes, as well as a new 1.0-litre petrol and updated 1.6-litre diesel engines. Other changes included a larger, more modern touchscreen system, better quality plastics inside, and a new electronic handbrake in place of the manual affair you got previously.