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SEAT Leon review - a Golf fighter at every level
Previous versions of the SEAT Leon might have had a few plus points which might've possibly tempted a few away from a Volkswagen Golf, but this, the latest generation, is a worthy sibling on every level. The car is easily good enough to be considered amongst the class best.
While the underpinnings might be shared with the Golf, A3 and Skoda Octavia, this is no bad thing. The car is slightly more sporty in its setup compared to others and boasts more aggressive styling. Sensible pricing is paired up with a smart interior and plenty of entry-level kit, making the Leon one of the best family hatchbacks you can buy.
The car is available in four different varieties, as a three-door SC, five door hatch or as an ST estate, it's also possible to have the Leon X-perience, an off-road cousin. Most exciting of all is the range of Cupras on offer, both as an estate or hatch; the 290 is one of the quickest and most engaging hot hatchbacks on the market. Upgrade to the 'sub 8 ultimate pack' and you've got a car with performance that few hatchbacks can rival.
As with all family hatchbacks being bought with an eye on practicality and costs the temptation is to go for the diesel options. While there’s no reason not to, their economy ranging from very good to genuinely incredible, the petrol line-up also offers some thrilling choices that needn’t be a total disaster at the pumps.
The 1.4 TSI engine with ACT (Active Cylinder Technology) in the FR model has 147bhp and 184lb ft of torque, which is enough to allow it reach 62mph in 8.0 seconds and onto a 134mph maximum. That it can achieve those figures and still offer the best economy in the petrol line-up - with a 60.1mpg fuel economy figure and emissions of 109g/km - is pretty extraordinary. It’s not just the numbers that add up either, as that 1.4 TSI ACT engine punches hard, yet remains extremely smooth all the way up to its redline.
With the first two generations of SEAT Leon you were often left explaining why you’d bought it. That’s simply not the case for the current car. More than a Golf understudy, the Leon is impressive in its own right, to the point where it’s a highly credible alternative to its German cousin - and that decision isn’t based solely on price.
A spacious, neat, if dark, interior, a generous level of standard equipment from the base level S up and head-turning looks all count in its favour, as does its agility, every Leon feeling a bit more sporting and agile than their contemporaries. That’s been achieved without the ride being overly compromised, either, making this family car something you can genuinely enjoy when you’ve dropped the kids off at school. It’s good enough you might just find yourself taking the long way home, too.
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> Engine and gearbox - Engines vary from 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8-litre TSI petrol four-cylinder units. They’re all turbocharged and offer decent power and torque combined with reasonable fuel economy. Read about the Seat Leon's engine here
> MPG and running costs - If fuel consumption and low emissions are your absolute main priority then the Seat Leon Ecomotive 1.6 TDI is the model of choice here. Read all about the Seat Leon's MPG here
> Prices, specs and rivals - Your basic Leon starts at £15,815 for the 1.2 TSI SC three door. Seat offers a number of options packs, bundling a range of equipment into cost effective groups. Rivals include the Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Golf. Read all about the Seat Leon's rivals here
> Interior and tech - The Leon is all about flat surfaces and decent build quality. It keeps it simple but feels solid. Infotainment is good with Bluetooth and audio connectivity. Read all about the Seat Leon's interior and tech here