The third-generation evolutionary SEAT Leon is now in showrooms, writes Robin Roberts.
With about 70 versions available in three-door coupe, five-door hatch or semi-estate styles it is one of the pillars of the Spanish maker’s range alongside the Ibiza and Ateca.
The latest series comes with a new 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine to widen its appeal alongside four other petrol engines and three diesels in six core trim levels and a new top XCellence grade. Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmissions are offered and you can order a soft-road 4WD ST.
UK SEAT Leon prices begin at £17,455 for the Five-door, £19,340 for the Sports Coupe and £18,450 for the Sports Tourer.
Some clever marketing has seen previous equipment included as options now standard in the latest grades and overall they newcomers are about £400 cheaper than the models they replace, said Leon product manager Steve Mirfin.
This means the arrival of the new range will not impact so heavily on used values of the preceding series as there are do direct comparisons.
Looking forward, Mr Mirfin said SEAT UK expect to see a reduction in demand for diesel engines due to social and financial pressures and this is already being felt in other SEAT models being ordered. Last year there was a shift of 10% towards petrol engines ordered by Leon buyers.
“Leon is going to become our best seller,” he said, adding, “The five-door and 1.0 litre engine are expected to be the most popular overall but the 150ps 1.4 Eco is likely to be more popular with private buyers while the fleet market says it wants the 115ps 1.6 TDI.”
Private buyers are likely to choose the medium range FR Technology specification with upgraded bumpers, lights and driver aids and companies will be looking at slightly lower specced SE Dynamic trim, but which still comes with 8-inch colour touchscreen and comprehensive infotainment/ navigation system for the driver who spends a lot of time on the road.
About 52% of Leon registrations will be down to fleets and 48% private buyers and the marque continues to attract younger buyers than the sector norm, typically in their mid-50s.
We were keen to try out the 115ps 6sp 1.0 engine and powertrain and stepped out impressed.
It is a surprisingly smooth and quiet powertrain with a whopping 200Nm from 2000-3500 rpm so it pulls away strongly and there is plenty of punch for overtaking in third or fourth gear.
Over a short 40 miles test route we achieved 42.8mpg without trying to be economical.
The country roads were generally well surfaced but where it was broken the Leon did cope fairly well, if firmly, with what was underneath.
The centrally mounted touchscreen is not the quickest or easiest to use on the move but the display is clear and backed up by another on-board computer display ahead of the driver.
Room was adequate infront for a six-footer but rear seat space was tight when the seat was fully pushed back.
It handled well, safely and visibility was good.
A brief run in a seven-speed automatic Leon with the 150 Eco 1.4 petrol engine and its Active Cylinder Shutdown saw us return 42.8mpg, the same as the smaller engine, but this was noticeably more lively at higher engine speed.
The DSG box can be used in automatic or sequential manual mode with a sporting setting as well for you to play with and make the most of when traffic conditions dictate or permit. It’s a smooth changing and easy to use system. Possibly due to its heavier front end, the 1.4 Leon felt harder riding than its sibling.