SEAT Leon

I’m probably not doing myself any favours here, and SEAT may not thank me for saying it, but SEAT Leons of old never really floated my boat. There, I said it.  It was their styling that did it. I was fully aware that beneath the body of the first generation Leon lay most of the same mechanical parts as the Golf mark 4, a car at the time I was a huge fan of. I also knew that the second generation Leon was underpinned by the same oily bits as the Mark 5 Golf: I bought one of those.  I also knew Leons were well built, practical and cheaper than Golfs too. But somehow there was something about them visually that didn’t do it for me.

To me the early cars appeared, in profile at least, to have been sketched too close the edge of the paper. Let me explain. Everything was OK up front, but the rear of the car seemed to have been cut off far too bluntly. It was almost as if their simply wasn’t enough space on the designers pad when it came to sorting the boot out. As for the Leon mark 2; well surely I’m not the only one who thought it looked like a giant jelly mould am I?

Then of course there was the way they used to ride. SEAT always said they were the young and sporty arm to the VW’s multi-brand armada, but did they really have to make the Leon quite so hard?

However, having recently acquainted myself with the all new Leon not only have I found that it drives rather nicely, and rides very well, I also think it’s a bit of a looker too.

As was the case with its predecessors the new Leon shares its chassis once again with VW’s Golf and Audi’s A3. Now though that chassis is the rather clever MQB (that roughly translates as modular transverse architecture) which means not only does the new Leon have a wider track, it’s also 90kg lighter than the car it replaces. That all translates to make the Leon feel lighter on its feet (or should that be wheels?), and also more fuel efficient. It also produces less Carbon dioxide, so now even the FR150 falls in to VED band 2.

It’s the sporty FR that I spent the most time with. Eventually SEAT will give us a 184 bhp version of the FR and also the option of their DSG auto ‘box, but I’d argue the 140FR is by no means a lesser alternative.

Despite not having quite the punch of the higher powered car, the combination of performance and day-to-day usability in the FR150 seems very well judged. The 2.0litre diesel engine does become a little vocal when shown the upper reaches of its rev-range, but for the most part, thanks to a smooth shifting six speed gearbox, the Leon proves to be quite a relaxed cruiser. With the promise of up to 68.9 mpg, its economy is worthy of note too. It’s also comfy - perhaps the best riding SEAT of then all - well appointed and nicely screwed together.

Slip inside, and the FR’s multi-function steering wheel will be familiar to anyone who’s driven an Audi in the last few years and VW owners too will immediately feel at home with the interior’s layout and most of the minor switchgear. Ultimately, Its a cabin that could be described as slightly sober in its appearance but the FR on test came complete with optional alcantara backed seats that hug you in all the right places and help add an air of quality. Also, their red stitching makes you reminisce over hot-hatches of old. Sadly though there’s no red seatbelts. Would that have been a retro step to far? 

Bang up to date though, are the Leon’s headlamps. They’re full LED making the Leon the first car in its class to be fitted with such technology.

Compared to its predecessors SEAT’s new Leon is giant leap forward. It’s more spacious, more comfortable, more refined and more economical to boot. Plus SEAT have also managed to make it feel much more of a mature car whilst also retaining their sporty, youthful edge as well.

Suddenly SEAT’s  Leon has become a lot more attractive.

SEAT Leon 2.0 TDi FR 150PS

Engine:  1968 cc 4Cyl direct injection turbo-diesel
Transmission: 6 speed Manual, front wheel drive.
Power:  150bhp @3500 – 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lbft @1750 - 3000rpm
0-62MPH: 8.4Sec
Max Speed: 134mph
CO2: 106g/km
MPG: 68.9 combined
Price: £21,385

Many thanks to Aston Martin’s UK press office for the loan of their Vantage

www.liam-bird.com

@bird_liam

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Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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