£19,180 - £30,550 Price range
44 - 64 MPG
More than once do reviewers call the new SEAT Leon SC the best car SEAT has ever made. That gives you some idea of just how significant the SC is for the marque, but also what a masterstroke introducing a three-door version of the previously five-door-only Leon is.
There are very few areas where the Leon really falls down – it’s simply a great all-rounder. Throw in striking, attractive looks, and it isn’t hard to see why the Leon SC has attracted a healthy wowscore.
Cheapest to buy: 1.2-litre S petrol
Cheapest to run: 1.6-litre Ecomotive diesel
Fastest model: Cupra
Most popular: 2.0-litre 184hp FR
For Leon SC, see Leon – the three-door coupe-cum-hatch is near-identical to its five-door stablemate. That’s hardly a bad thing, since it maintains the regular Leon’s high standards of build quality. There’s really not a lot to separate the SC from VWs or Audis in this regard, though some are less keen on the SC’s interior look – one review calls it “not particularly inspiring”, another “Spartan”.
Practicality also takes a small hit next to the five-door, but you’d expect that. The SC’s boot is actually the same 380-litre space you’d find in its more practical brother, because the SC’s shorter wheelbase has reduced rear leg room instead. Even so, there’s “plenty of room for two adults” in the back. A little less headroom is on offer, and it’s obviously a little harder to get into the back through the large front doors.
The Leon SC scores well here – just like the five-door. There’s very little difference to the VW Golf and Audi A3 either, as all are based on the same platform. Testers say the SC is sprung a little firmer than its German counterparts, but that fits in with SEAT’s sporty image. It also helps the SC “tuck neatly into quicker corners” and the steering is light and quick.
If there’s a real criticism, it’s that there’s not much Spanish flair to be found here – the German roots show a little too strongly. It’s a more grown up car than before – more refined, but not as much fun. That’s the general consensus at least – one or two testers describe it as “a joy to drive”, so measure your expectations and you might be pleasantly surprised.
There’s a wide range available here, and the experts have pretty much tested them all! The Leon SC range kicks off with a 104hp 1.2-litre TSI petrol, rises through 1.4 and 1.8 TSI petrols, then offers a 1.6 TDI diesel and two flavours of 2.0 TDI, with 148 and 181hp respectively.
If you want the most fun from your Leon, the TSI petrols are indisputably the place to go. All are smooth, love to rev and still return respectable fuel economy – particularly the 1.2, with its 57.6 mpg combined rating (58.9 with the DSG transmission, optional on all SCs). Some advise skipping the 1.8 TSI and going instead for the spectacular Cupra model. Producing 290hp and dispatching the 0-60 sprint in just 5.7 seconds when fitted with the DSG gearbox, the Cupra is a match for any hot hatch in the class.
The diesels are impressive, but while the 1.6 TDI promises up to 74.3 mpg, not many recommend it – it’s great as a company vehicle with low benefit in kind rates, but it’s a bit rattly and not really any fun. The 2.0 TDIs are less frugal but much better, with strong performance and refinement.
The engine is "hugely flexible", the gearshift short and quick, and it pulls well throughout most of the rev range. It's happy to rev too, and very smooth - far more refined than the diesel options in the range.
"Hard to overlook as a fast and frugal option" is how one review sums it up - a highly recommended engine.
Officially it'll do 54.3 mpg and cost only £30 a year to tax, but the engine's real advantages are its smooth-revving nature, "perky" performance and slick gearbox. The extra refinement seals it over the diesels - only those doing higher miles should really choose the diesels over the TSI.
"It rarely feels underpowered or underwhelming" says the reviewer, though not everyone agrees - some comments on the engine in the general reviews are less positive. "A stodgy throttle response" says one, adding "long gaps between gear ratios". All agree it has reasonable mid-range shove, and is quiet enough, but unless outright economy is priority number one, you might be better off with one of the other engines.
Part of the problem is that it "never feels as fast as the official figures suggest"--it produces no more torque than the smaller 1.4 TSI, even if the power output is larger. It's smoother than the 2.0 TDI diesel too, but lacks a real kick.
Want more performance? Wait for the Cupra.
There's huge punch available from the diesel unit - between 236 and 280 lb-ft of torque developed nice and low, and up to 181 horsepower from the most powerful models. All get down the road with ease - "this is a genuine hot hatch contender" says one reviewer of the more powerful option.
Pick the 150 PS model with a manual gearbox and combined economy stretches as far as 68.9 mpg and 106 g/km emissions means a car tax bill of just £20 a year - so running costs will be low.
So performance and economy are good, but what about the drive? Little wrong with that either. While one tester says "you feel more buzz through the pedals" than you would in an Audi A3 or VW Golf", it's generally refined, and works well with either the snappy six-speed manual or the smooth, speedy six-speed dual-clutch DSG 'box.
The Leon scores extremely well in the safety stakes, with many preventative systems such as tyre pressure monitors, emergency brake assist and Isofix mounting points as standard.
There are as many as seven airbags fitted as standard, too, which when combined with the five star Euro NCAP crash test results makes the SC a very safe car indeed.
Priced slightly below the near-identical VW Golf and subjectively better looking, the two-door Leon SC seems pretty good value. Basic SE cars come with all you need including air-conditioning and an infotainment system with a five-inch touchscreen.
Seat Leon FR
Sporty FR trim sits one step below the all-out Cupra in SEAT’s rankings. It comes with niceties such as Alcantara-covered seats, LED headlights and large alloy wheels, but they do command fairly high prices. So too do SEAT’s options – you can add quite a bit to the price fairly quickly. For example DAB digital radio is a £185 option even on this mid-spec FR model.
Seat Leon FR Titanium
For a £1,350 premium over an FR model, FR Titanium gets LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels, while the interior gets the more-expensive sat-nav with a 6.5-inch infotainment screen and DAB digital radio. Realistically this equipment covers all the bases and the good-looking Ibiza also undercuts a similarly equipped VW Golf GT Line.
The SEAT Leon SC commands a high wowscore, and for good reason. It looks great, it’s comfortable, decent to drive (if not as fun as it could be) and offers a wide range of trim levels and engines allowing the fussiest of buyers to find their ideal combination.
In fact, as one reviewer neatly puts it, “The SEAT Leon SC is a very likeable car, and only the most pedantic drivers will be able to find fault with it”.
We can highly recommend it.