SEAT Leon SC 1.6 TDI SE – First Drive Review

SEAT Leon SC TDI SE side

SEAT is rightly proud of the Leon SC. More than once during the press presentation the car was likened to the essence of SEAT – it brings together attractive styling, a sporty feel and good value.

That’s the impression you get of the more overtly sporting trim levels, of course. SEAT has built its reputation on striking Cupra models out-punching the Volkswagen equivalent for less cash. Now making a volume diesel model that still retains those qualities… well, that’s a whole different serving of paella.

SEAT Leon SC TDI SE front

The 1.6 TDI tested here in SE trim will be the highest-selling Leon SC, though perhaps not in our test car’s Lima Green metallic paintwork.

More’s the pity, because it shows off the Leon SC’s razor-sharp creases to good effect, further enhanced by 17-inch ‘Dynamic’ alloy wheels – a £350 option.

The black leather trim of our car was an option too, adding £1,370 to the final price. Along with several other odds and sods our car’s total rose to £21,425, from a starting price of £18,190. As with other Volkswagen Group brands then, go easy on the options list.

SEAT Leon SC TDI SE rear

Still, the 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine will make you some of that back with its 74.3 mpg combined rating, as will the free yearly VED. Our hour-long drive resulted in a more typical mid-fifties mpg figure, and that’s with plenty of Cotswold hills to contend with. It’s a pity our ears had to contend with a fair amount of diesel din though – while the 2.0 TDI we also tested was buttery smooth, the 1.6 is getting on a bit and now lags a fair way behind the best 1.6 diesels in the class for refinement.

With 105 PS it never feels particularly potent either, even with a solid 184 lb-ft of torque to call upon from just 1,500 rpm. Officially it’ll clear 62 mph in 10.7 seconds, but it needs working hard to do so.

SEAT Leon SC TDI SE dials

Getting down the road is easy enough, with a snappy manual gearbox and well-weighted pedals and steering, but not much of SEAT’s “Enjoyneering” shines through with the 1.6 TDI. The same applies to the cabin – a quality space undoubtedly, but a little dour – and the ride and handling, which is competent but stops short of delivering any thrills.

After the kicks and creases of the cheerful green exterior, you can’t help expecting a little more.

Price as tested: £21,425
Combined MPG: 74.3
CO2: 99 g/km

SEAT Leon SC TDI SE detail


There’s much to like about the SEAT Leon SC in 1.6 TDI form, not least its on-paper economy, tax-free billing and that cracking exterior styling.

Unfortunately, economy is something to respect rather than love, and the styling you can only really appreciate from outside the car. The rest of the time, when you’re driving it, it never really feels like that car SEAT wants you to believe it is. If you want something truly sporty, the larger diesels or petrol units will give you much more to smile about. And if you want a mix of frugality and fun, it’s the 1.2 and 1.4 TSI petrols we’d recommend.

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