It’s fair to say that SEAT is kind of on
a roll at the moment. It used to be the most overlooked, the most niche part of the Volkswagen
Group, but with a string of great models currently on sale and the success of the new Ateca SUV,
it’s brought itself bang into the mainstream and its cars are just as desirable as anything
else VW makes. Earlier this year, the Leon hatchback became
the latest SEAT to get an update, and you’ll probably have already watched Rich’s round-up
video of what’s changed. So, you’ll know that this is more or less the same car as
before but with a few choice tweaks. New bumpers, all-round LED lights and a few interior updates,
that sort of thing. But now we’ve got the chance to spend a
whole week with the new Leon, so let’s jump inside and I’ll take you through what’s
new. Inside, the Leon remains a suitably stylish
place to sit – it’s very obviously a Volkswagen Group car yeah and it’s smart rather than
plush, but it’s got enough of its own thing going on to feel that bit different to the
likes of a Golf or Octavia. Now, new for 2017 is this XCELLENCE trim – all
in caps so I presume you have to pronounce it like Waynes World, y’know X-CELLEEEENCE!
It sort of splits the top of the Leon’s trim range in two directions; you can opt
for the sub-sporty FR and then above that is the Cupra, or if you’re more of a luxury
kinda guy or gal you can opt for this one. Starting from around £22,000 it’s roughly
the same price as the FR, but swaps all the sporty gear for some more upmarkety-style
stuff inherited from the Ateca SUV. That means these part-leather seats, these fancy vent
surrounds, wireless phone charging, auto lights and wipers, and this rather excellent eight-inch
infotainment system. Listen, I know reviewers tend to harp on about
the VW group’s touchscreens, but if there’s one thing Volkswagen knows how to build it’s
a cheat device infotainment system. Heh. Seriously though, it is good, while all of
the car’s controls are easy to reach and to use, the driving position’s great and
there’s lots of handy little storage solutions dotted around as well. Rear window and chunky
C pillars make it a little hard to see out of tho, and although parking sensors no rear
view camera as standard on any trim – that’ll be a £220 option.
The Leon is available either as a five-door hatch, the three-door SC or as the ST estate
depending on your needs, but we’ve got the standard five-door which is probably the best
all-round option for family buyers. Given that this car shares a platform with
cars like the Golf, Octavia and A3 it stands to reason that the Leon is the same size inside,
and it more or less is, with decent amounts of head, leg and shoulder room.
The boot’s the same size as the Golf as well, an impressive 380 litres with the seats
up and 1,210 litres with them down, meaning that the Leon is par for the course in terms
of pretty much all rivals for space and for practicality. The ST has even more space,
but we’ll save the specifics for a future video.
There’s loads of different engine options available with the Leon range, from entry-level
1.2- and 1.0-litre petrols that are great if you want something that’s cheap to tax
and cheap to run, all the way up to the 296bhp 2.0-litre engine available in the Cupra.
If, however, you want something with a bit of go, that’s good for long-distance driving
and yet which is relatively easy on the pocket too you’ll likely want to consider either
the 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel, or the 2.0-litre diesel which is available with either 148bhp
or 181bhp. It’s the 148bhp 2.0-litre we have here,
which is really rather punchy. There’s plenty of torque and low-end pull, enough to get
it from 0-62mph in a rather spry 8.4 seconds. It gets a little noisy the higher up the rev
range you go, but it’s quiet when you’re cruising along and SEAT says it can return
up to 64.2mpg with 112g/km of CO2. Even the standard Leons have a suspension
setup that’s on the firm side of the fence, which means that they all handle really well
out of the box. They resist body roll very well, cling to the corners like limpets, the
standard six-speed manual gearbox is slick of shift and a joy to use, while the steering
is very well weighted and nicely judged. The trade-off is that the Leon is a little
less comfortable and a little less refined than other cars in its class, notably the
likes of the Golf and A3, particularly these diesels which can get gruff under hard acceleration.
The chances are, though, that if you’re interested in this car you’re probably interested
in something a little more sporty than the average hatch, and the Leon is easily one
of the most fun family hatches currently on the market regardless of engine choice.
The SEAT Leon is kinda pitched as a more cost-effective alternative to the Golf, but while it’s
better value I’d argue that it’s also better looking and better to drive as well,
at least according to my own personal tastes. It’s stylish, well equipped, a hoot to drive
and great value as well. Sure, maybe it doesn’t do everything as well as the class best, but
as an all-rounder I reckon it’s, err, well – X-CELLENT!