The SEAT Leon is a small family car that’s easy to drive and also quite fun, but firm suspension means it’s jiggly in town
The Leon’s a hoot to drive, so to get the best from it you really should pair it with a peppy engine – such as the four-cylinder 150hp 1.4-litre petrol. It has all the power you need at legal speeds and it even sounds pretty sporty when you work it hard. It’s also clever, so if you’re just pootling around it can rest half its cylinders to save fuel, only turning them back on when you accelerate. The whole process is imperceptible, but means the Leon can return claimed fuel economy of 57.6mpg, or around 45mpg in the real world.
If you’re only ever going to use the car in town, there’s a case to be made for the 115hp 1.0-litre petrol. It’s cheaper than the 1.4 to buy and, with official fuel economy of 64.2mpg, should also be cheaper to run. It only has three cylinders, so is noisier and not as smooth as the larger petrol – it’s also slower and needs working hard to get up to motorway speeds.
The SEAT Leon is a brilliant car if driving for fun is your bag
If you rack up a huge mileage, then you’re in luck – SEAT’s range of diesel engines is also very good. The 115hp 1.6-litre is the cheapest to buy and the cheapest to run – officially, it’ll return fuel economy of 70.6mpg and has enough mid-range power for overtaking on the motorway. It can also tow caravans and trailers of 1,800kg in weight – more than either of the petrols.
The 150hp 2.0-litre diesel is worth considering if you want a decent turn of speed, but not at the expense of fuel economy.
The SEAT is easy to drive in a variety of conditions and is even fun on a country road, but the payoff for this is that the suspension is quite firm.
You’ll notice that most in town. It’s not that it’s overly bumpy, but it isn’t as comfortable as a Volkswagen Golf. FR models are a little bit firmer still.
The other thing you’ll notice is that the driver’s seat sits pretty deep in the cabin – the low slung position makes the car feel more sporty, like you’re cocooned in the interior, but the downside is that your view out the high-set glass – particularly the rear window – isn’t brilliant. Cranking up the height adjustable seat will solve this to an extent, of course.
In every other way, you’ll find the Leon feels at home in town. The steering wheel is easy to turn and the pedals have a nice light action. Rear parking sensors are a £275 option on S and SE models and fitted as standard to the rest of the range. Or, for between £385 and £660 depending on model, you can have the park assistance pack, which adds front sensors and a rear-view camera.
The manual gearbox is notchy, but precise and nice to use, however, if you’ll be spending a lot of time in the city, the quick-shifting seven-speed automatic is a really good option to consider.
Clear the busy city and the SEAT’s firmer suspension starts to pay off in the country – because it does handle very well, in fact, it’s really good fun hurtling down back roads. It helps that you can really feel what’s going on both through the steering and through your bottom in this low-slung seat. In fact, it’s an absolute blast.
At motorway speeds, the firm suspension settles down and it doesn’t highlight bumps quite like it does in town. What you do start to notice, though, is a bit of tyre and wind noise. It is not too bad, but it’s just not as quiet as the VW Golf.
Active cruise control is an £150 option across the range. With it fitted, the Leon can brake and accelerate to match the speed of the car in front, returning to a preset cruising speed when the way is clear.