The SEAT Leon is a sporty-looking, practical family car with a brilliant range of engines, but it trades some comfort in the name of being fun to drive
Think of the SEAT Leon as the Spanish chorizo to the Volkswagen Golf’s German sausage and you won’t go far wrong. The two cars are essentially the same underneath but the SEAT has spicier looks and is better to drive at the expense of some of the Golf’s comfort.
You can have the SEAT as the SC three-door, Cupra 300 hot hatch, ST estate and X-perience jacked-up four-wheel drive estate – but the most popular is the five-door model reviewed here. The Leon was launched in 2012 and updated in 2017 with refreshed styling and some minor equipment changes, including a larger infotainment screen.
You’ll find the eight-inch screen is one of best touchscreen systems on the market and is fitted to all but the basic model but, unfortunately for SEAT, it isn’t enough to make the interior feel anything more than drab. It’s a sea of black and grey plastics that makes the stoically sensible cabin in the VW Golf look almost stylish and the Peugeot 308‘s cabin like a botique hotel.
The good thing is that you’ll find the Leon’s interior easy to use – all the controls are sensibly laid out and despite looking a bit dull, feel pretty good. The dash is covered in quality, squidgy plastics, although some of the plastics in the back are cheaper – but it’s the same story in the Golf.
The SEAT Leon’s a spicy chorizo to the VW Golf’s humdrum German sausage
The Leon is practical too. There’s space for four adults and the flat back seat means even a fifth person in the rear won’t feel too hard done by. The 380-litre boot is a decent size, but it does without the a 12v socket. There’s also a high aload lip, so it’s trickier to slide heavy luggage into place.
But an aching back will hopefully be your worst injury because the Leon’s a safe car. It scored five stars when it was crash tested back in 2012 and, although Euro NCAP’s testing procedures are even tougher now, the SEAT has automatic emergency braking fitted to prevent collisions to all but the entry model.
Fortunately, braking is all the car can do for you, because you’ll find the Leon is a surprisingly fun small car to blast down a country road, with limited body lean and plenty of grip.
The best engine for such activities – in fact, the best engine full stop – is the 150hp, 1.4-litre petrol which is quick, smooth, and returns more than 40mpg in real-world driving. It’s so well balanced you should only consider the clattery 1.6-litre diesel if you do a huge mileage, although which ever model you choose the Leon is never quite as quiet and comfortable as a VW Golf.
So the SEAT Leon is a sensible family car with sporty looks and a drive to match. The interior might lack the exterior’s inspiration, but it is well built and practical.
For more detailed and in-depth analysis of the SEAT Leon read the interior, practicality, driving and specifications sections of our review. And, if you just want to see how much you can save on a Leon, click through to our Deals page.