The 2013 SEAT Leon 1.6 D SE is a good example of this, particularly for those who remember SEAT’s Fiat origins and the hand-me-down engineering which marked out the birth of Spain’s own brand of bargain cars.
Well there is not much bargain about the latest line up from this now-Volkswagen family firm. Like so many before, they have moved up in price, up in market and up in engineering.
Using the very latest VW platform strategy which has only one fixed measurement from front wheel centre-line to A-pillar and then allows a free-flowing design around it, the Leon is a real rival to the rest of the family car challengers with more constricted characters. It will be joined in July by a three-door SC unveiled at the 2013 Geneva motor show and later this year a Sports Tourer which will be shown at the Frankfurt show in the autumn before the sporting orientated Cupra tops the line-up in Britain early in 2014.
There is a five-door body available with a choice of 105ps 1.2 and 140ps 1.4 petrol engines along with 105ps 1.6 and 150ps 2.0 diesels engines and five or six speed manual boxes are standard on most models with DSG automatic on some.
Initially there are S, SE or FR levels of trim, but expect this to develop over the next two years, and we tested the anticipated best seller, the 1.6 SE diesel.
The 1.6 engine is a real delight to drive. Its instant start-up strong pull mid-range and completely composed character at speed on the motorway is very refined but its also endowed with a delightfully progressive clutch and neat gearchange serving well chosen ratios which push the economy towards 70mpg without any problem on longer runs.
In your hands, the steering is very well weighted to give good feedback and precision at speed while its turning circle and ease of use around town will also find favour. Good smooth brakes slow it easily and quickly without any drama and the handbrake held it on a steep test slope.
The beautifully designed fascia itself houses the usual instruments and they are directly in line of sight which is just as well because the markings on the speedometer are poor and not ideal for UK limits.
Heating and ventilation is straightforward and worked well throughout the cabin and onto the screen, keeping the temperature as desired, the output strong and noise levels were modest. Powered windows are provided all round.
The oddments space is also reasonable if the compartments are on the small side infront. The rear seat occupants have modest oddments room. The boot is big behind a lidded opening.
Access for driver and passengers is very good with wide opening doors and once inside the room is generous, even for those in the back. Seats are well shaped and comfortable with most sizes able to find a suitable setting on the front pair.
The additional length and width of the latest Leon is apparent inside and the room is really good even in the back and even the boot is bigger at 380 litres while up front the fascia really suits the driver better than before.
The bigger floorpan and the inclusion of advanced traction assistance systems means the Leon not only offers more room and rides very well over some bumpy British roads, but it also handles in a far more sporting manner than the previous generation.
With the 105ps 1.6 engine there is good acceleration, the gearchanges are slick and it steers and stops with confidence while it also displays good grip and forgiving handling as well.
Depending on the road conditions and how hard you press on, you can see between 50 and 70mpg on journeys as I did and my overall consumption was a remarkable 60mpg without any special effort on my part save for keeping the gearchanges to about mid-range and not towards the upper rev limit.
There is no doubt the new Seat Leon is a big step up for them and a step ahead of its rivals at this price.
Seat Leon 1.6 SE
Mechanical: 4cyl 105ps 1598cc diesel, 5sp manual
Fuel consumption: 60mpg
Max speed: 119mph
CO2 emissions: 99gkm
Insurance group: 13
BIK rating: 11pc
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 mileS