SEAT Leon Review
The SEAT Leon is spacious and has lots of cutting-edge kit, but something this sharp-looking ought to be better to drive
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The new SEAT Leon is a family car, along the same lines as a Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla, but with sporty-looking bodywork and lots of hi-tech equipment. It’s a little bit like shopping at Sainsbury’s.
That’s because the SEAT Leon, VW Golf and Audi A3 are all very similar under the skin, but they all carry very different badge kudos. The A3 is like shopping at Waitrose, the Golf is like M&S and the Leon is another rung down at Sainsbury’s. Yet, like with supermarkets, the things on offer are largely the same, despite different branding.
The Leon might not have a VW badge, but it looks just as sharp as a Golf, if not even better. The triangular daytime-running lights signify SEAT’s unified look, along with the angular grille that looks a bit like the Tarraco SUV’s.
FR trim adds even more sporty additions but all versions look good, as there are more creases in the bodywork than the VW Golf gets, and the Leon’s rear end comes with a Porsche-esque full-width brake light.
The SEAT Leon’s interior has a minimalist feel, so it’s very modern. For example, automatic models have a tiny gear selector, but all cars have a stand-out touchscreen display with lots of great features and cool-looking air vents. It’s well-built and looks good, too.
The standard screen is good but the optional 10-inch display is worth paying for. It’s just a shame about the fiddly touchscreen-based air-con controls.
Just like the previous Leon it’s easy to find a good driving position as there’s a good amount of adjustment in the seats, and plenty of space in the cabin. In fact, the new Leon is a better car for families than ever because there’s loads of space in the back seats. Even adults will be comfy in the rear.
The SEAT Leon looks really sporty and fun, but it’s not as fun as a Ford Focus. I prefer the VW Golf’s interior, too.
Petrol and diesel engine options are good to see, as everyone has different circumstances. The best overall is the 150hp 1.5-litre petrol – it’s punchy, smooth and economical enough. The diesel engines make more sense for high-mileage drivers, though.
There’s also a plug-in hybrid version that’s worth considering if you have somewhere to charge it and you do lots of driving in town, where it can use its electric motor more of the time.
All versions of the SEAT Leon have light steering, which makes them easy to manoeuvre in tight city streets. A tighter turning circle than a Golf means it’s good for driving in the city, though visibility could be better and you need to rely on the parking sensors to stay safe.
The sporty looks might lead you to believe that it’s more fun than it actually is on country roads. A Ford Focus is a whole lot better from a keen driver’s perspective.
At least it’s quiet and smooth on the motorway and even the sportier FR models with their slightly stiffer suspension are comfortable even over potholes.
The SEAT Leon is a good all-rounder, with lots of space inside, a comfortable drive and plenty of kit included. We reckon a Golf is better, but then it’s also more expensive. If you think the Leon is for you, check out the latest SEAT Leon deals.
The SEAT Leon’s cabin is roomy and comfortable, but we wish the boot was just a little bigger
The SEAT Leon is great if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the car. The front seats have lots of adjustment – you can jack them up high if you’re short or right down low if you’re tall. There’s no issue with headroom and the steering wheel has plenty of adjustment, too.
The new version of the Leon is a lot bigger than it was before. There’s loads of kneeroom in the back for adults, even if there’s a tall driver sitting up-front. There’s loads of headroom, too, and while there is a hump in the floor, there’s enough foot room as well.
You could carry three adults in the back, and two would be more than happy. It’s more than good enough for family life. The rear doors open nice and wide so fitting a child seat is easy enough, though the Isofix points could be better-placed.
The Leon has a cubby under the central armrest with a 12v socket, plus two cupholders behind the gear lever with spaces for different-sized drinks. There’s also a spot for your mobile phone ahead of the gear lever with USB C sockets just above.
The glovebox is a decent size and you can fit a large bottle of water in there, along with the door bins in the front and back. The centre-rear armrest has cupholders too.
At 380 litres, the SEAT Leon’s boot is the same size as a Volkswagen Golf’s. That means it’s average for this type of car – not great, but not useless either. It’ll be fine for the weekly shop (at Sainsbury’s, right?). A Skoda Scala’s boot is a lot bigger, though.
The boot is square enough and the opening is decent, but there’s a huge loading lip which means you have to hoist heavy items up and out. There are a few tie-down points but it’s quite basic, without any clever features or an adjustable-height floor.
The rear seats split 60:40, but there’s a big lump when you do this that makes loading long items annoying.
The SEAT Leon is comfortable and easy to drive, but it’s not as much fun as it looks
You can get the SEAT Leon with a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid engines, and with either a manual or automatic gearbox.
The best all-rounder is the 150hp 1.5-litre petrol, which has enough power to overtake slower traffic when you need to, yet is quiet and economical most of the time. If you choose this model with an automatic gearbox it is even assisted by mild-hybrid technology, which is supposed to help efficiency (but in reality you’ll see around 45mpg from any version if you’re careful). There’s a 130hp version of this engine too.
Those based in the city will prefer the 1.0-litre petrol with 110hp. This is more than happy to do motorway miles but it’s at its best nipping through traffic at lower speeds. It’s economical though, so is a decent choice for anyone on a budget.
If you have somewhere to charge a hybrid car overnight, you’ll want to check out the plug-in hybrid, too. It uses less fuel than the standard petrol or diesel cars in town and can drive for up to 36 miles in electric mode before the 1.4-litre petrol engine starts up to recharge the batteries and help drive the wheels.
If you spend more time on motorways and do lots of miles each year, choose the 115hp 2.0-litre diesel version. It’s only a little more grumbly than the petrols, yet delivers economy of over 50mpg with ease, and is quiet at a cruise.
The automatic gearbox is good, as it’s quite responsive, but it’s only on expensive high-spec models. The good news is that the six-speed manual is easy to use, though it’s a little notchy. The clutch is nice and light, too.
The SEAT Leon is good to drive, especially when it comes to comfort. Even the FR models, which comes with stiffer suspension, are really smooth and even potholes aren’t a problem for it. A tight turning circle means it’s great for driving down bumpy, tight streets in the city.
Large pillars at the rear of the car mean that visibility isn’t very good, though. It comes with parking sensors, so it’s not the biggest problem, but it’s still annoying.
It’s reasonably quiet at speed too, so it’s good on the motorway, though a VW Golf is slightly quieter. All of the engines are quick enough to make overtaking nice and easy, and are economical too.
The plug-in hybrid model produces more power than the standard petrol and diesel versions, so it feels nippier when you accelerate hard. The way it uses its motor as a brake to help slow you down can take a bit of getting used to, though – especially in slow-moving traffic.
On a twisty road it’s safe rather than fun. There’s a little body roll in corners and a good amount of grip, but it’s not especially agile. A Ford Focus is much more fun to drive, as the SEAT isn’t exactly thrilling, despite its sporty looks.
The SEAT Leon’s got a great media system and the cabin looks smart, but there are some cheap-looking materials in places