How would you cope if you had a really, genuinely famous relative? I’m talking proper A-lister; instantly recognisable, known the world over, and popular with nearly everyone, regardless of their age or class.

     That (albeit perhaps a tad tenuously) is the situation that SEAT’s Leon has always found itself in: The Leon’s famous relative you see, just happens to be the Volkswagen Golf.

    And it’s not just a passing resemblance they share. Oh no, the similarities have always run significantly more than just skin-deep. Golfs and Leon have shared platforms, engines, transmissions, electronics and switchgear. Yet when it comes to price tags, it’s the SEAT that’s always worn the smaller one.

     The car you see before is the new 4th generation SEAT Leon, and in many respects, it’s business as usual. Underneath you’ll find the same VW Group MQB Evo platform as you will beneath a Golf, and engine choices will no doubt be familiar to the VW faithful too.  Petrols, that’s TSI in VW/ SEAT speak, start with a 109bhp 1.0-litre three-pot, next comes  the four-cylinder 1.5-litre TSI Evo in either 128bhp, or as driven here 148bhp variants, and then there’s a 187bhp 2.0-litre, also four-cylinder. Diesels, that’s TDI, are either 128bhp or 148bhp. The mild hybrids? They’re marked eTSI and come with an integrated 48V Starter Generator, and there’s also a plug-in hybrid snappily entitled eHybrid. As you might expect from parent company VW, Manual or DSG auto versions are available more-or-less across the range.

    As before then, the DNA runs deep. Nevertheless, there are some differences.

   It could be said that the Leon is now more stylish than the Golf, it gains some tighter creases, and a new grille, while at the rear there’s’ now a full-width LED light-bar that incorporates the third brake-light together with some very Audi-esque sweeping indicators. Our FR spec Leon also came with puddle lights that lit up the pavement with a Hola (Spanish for Hello, for those that didn’t do the G.C.S.E.), every time we blipped its smooth and slinky piano-black key. Little details like that sometimes go a long way.

      Talking of little details… You can’t buy a three-door Leon any more, it’s a five-door, an estate, or something entirely different I’m afraid. Also although the Leon is 16mm narrower than it was before, it’s now 90mm longer – which is good news for backseat passengers as that extra length frees up more leg room.

     Which, I suppose brings us nicely round to the Leon’s interior. It’s comfy, certainly, and as previously mentioned there’s now significantly more room – as a result of the now longer wheelbase. There’s also a pretty generous smattering of standard kit; all but the base models get a 10.25-inch customisable digital binnacle and either an 8 or 10 inch touchscreen. There’s also speech recognition, gesture control, Car2X connectivity, USB-free Apple CarPlay, a pair of USB-C ports to keep those further aft happy, and wireless smartphone charging, but…

   It would be unfair of me to say that the Leon’s cabun feels as if it’s been built to a budget, nevertheless you can see where money has been saved when you compare it to what you’d find in the Golf. It doesn’t take too long before you fingers find some hard and scratchy plastics, there’s no variable height boot floor – so you’re left with lip when you fold the rear seats down. And simple things like a 12V socket in the boot and adjustable height seatbelt mountings on the B-pillar are conspicuous by their absence. You won’t feel shortchanged if you buy a Leon but you won’t feel as though you’ve made quite the premium purchase that your neighbour did when they brought home their Golf.

    While we’re on the subject of interior niggles, I still don’t like the fact that VW group’s wonderfully tactile and easy to find and fathom heater controls have been replaced by touch sensitive pads; I’m not fond of the new combined headlamp/demister switch either. Still, at least the rest of touchscreen’s functions seem intuitive enough, and it is all beautifully clear.

    Minor tech bugbears aside, what you can’t argue about is the way in which the Leon drives. In FR spec the Leon actually sits 15mm lower, on firmer springs, so the ride does have a touch of SEAT’s trademark tautness of old. But, if anything, the Leon feels a little more engaging than it’s more sensible Germanic sibling. Both steering and gear-change are light and precise – handy as you’ll need to use the latter regularly to avoid turbo lag – and, if anything, SEAT’s claimed MPG figures seem a tad conservative. Even out here in the hills I managed an indicated over 50Mpg.

    A couple of hours spent driving the Leon proves itself to be significantly more of please than it is ever a chore, and near-button less ergonomics aside, I could happily live with it day-in-day-out. It might not be about to steal the Golf’s limelight just yet, nevertheless, it would be rude of anyone to assume that is in anyway just the poor relative.



       SEAT Leon FR 1.5 TSI EVO 150ps manual


Engine:  1,498cc, 4-Cylinder, 16 valve, turbo-charged petrol

Transmission: 6-speed, manual front wheel drive

Power:  148 bhp @ 5,000 – 6,000 rpm

Torque: 184 lbft @ 1,500 – 3,500 rpm

0-62 MPH: 8.4 Sec

Max Speed: 134mph

CO2: 132 g/km

MPG: 44.85 – 48.7 (WLTP combined)

Price: £24,085 (as driven £24,085)


Many thanks to Sam at Seat’s UK press office for the loan of the Leon




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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