I’ve just spent seven days behind the wheel of the newest Leon – the three or five-door hatchback from Spanish automaker, SEAT. The contemporary model isn’t ground-breaking in looks – more progressive – and that is no bad thing. After all, why take a scalpel to an already fetching face?
The Leon’s cousin is the VW Golf – and that, too, has been fine-tuned of late. The Spaniard is better looking than the German, but then beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. It’s less pricey to purchase, as well. I drove the FR Technology five-door variant, equipped with a 1.4 TSI 150 petrol unit.What’s different? Well, the Leon’s lights and grille have been given a slightly sharper look, but you’d have to really squint to notice. Then the FR model has been given full LED headlights, and its twin tailpipes denote that it has more spirit than the Leons below it.
The hatchback’s six-speed manual transmission is easy-going and meticulous in finding the correct gears. The steering is nicely responsive, too. Might stem from the 1.4 petrol turbo powerplant – a smart unit that locks off half the cylinders, which helps conserve fuel. The Leon, in FR guise, is not a hot-hatch, but it’s a warm hatchback, with zero to 62mph realisable in 8.0 seconds. Additionally, due to that cylinder shut-off ingenuity, you can squeeze 57.6mpg out of the tank.
The Leon FR Technology’s strength is tallied with good handling, and the SEAT adheres to apexes like epoxy resin. This is due to the FR’s fat 17-inch alloys and dropped suspension. The only disadvantage is the hard ride, which is perceptible on pitted road surfaces. Luckily, well-padded seats help make up for the car’s rigidity, and they’re fantastic at keeping you supported when entering and exiting tight bends.
The SEAT Leon’s cabin is well-judged, with ample room in the front and rear. Natty touches, for example, piano black trim, a touchscreen system and an electric handbrake, make the car’s interior feel chicer than the preceding model’s. The touchscreen tablet-esque media system kicks most of the buttons that used to be in the Leon to the kerb. This tidies the instrument panel up no end. Regrettably, regularly having to hunt for a function on the touchscreen can prove a little disrupting at times.
The FR gets surplus kit packed into it as well, comprising: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; sat-nav; rear parking sensors; dual-zone climate control and cruise control. Furthermore, the boot is more than adequate, with a load capacity of 380 litres. It’s not the largest, but it equals the Golf’s – and it trounces the popular Ford Focus’ boot, which only offers 316 litres.
So, yes, there is far more to the new SEAT Leon than its looks. It’s unquestionably less conformist than a Volkswagen Golf or a ubiquitous Ford Focus, and you happen to get a lot of motor for your money. Also, the 1.4 TSI 150 powerplant offers more ‘oomph’ than lesser petrol-propelled Leons. Plus, it’s quicker and less costly to buy than the 150ps diesel version.
Pros ‘n’ Cons
- Fine-looking √
- Cost-effective √
- Performance √
- Equipment √
- Stiff ride X
Fast Facts (Leon FR Technology 1.4 EcoTSI 150PS – as tested)
- Max speed: 134 mph
- 0-62 mph: 8.0 secs
- Combined mpg: 57.6
- Engine layout: 1395cc four-cylinder petrol turbo
- Max. power (PS): 150
- CO2: 114 g/km
- Price: £21,350
Written by motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay.
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