Seat Leon (2013-present)

The Seat Leon offers Golf-like practicality in a more stylish package

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Choice of three bodystyles
High-tech options
Efficient engines

Weaknesses 

Limited rear visibility
Awkward to load boot
Interior design doesn't live up to the exterior
Seat Leon prices from £6,899   Finance from £114 per month

The Seat Leon is something of an unsung hero in the family hatchback market. Yes, it has its fans – especially among aficionados of hot hatchbacks, who praise the range-topping Cupra version – but many car buyers are unaware that this is mechanically very similar as the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia, which are all part of the same Volkswagen Group family as Seat.

It costs from more than £18,000 for an entry-level model, and there are versions that top £34,000. On paper, it’s often more affordable than a comparable VW Golf, but remember that Seat dealers should be hungry for your money, so haggle hard before shaking on a deal.

Sharing the same mechanical parts, including the platform powertrain (engines and gearboxes), with other Volkswagen brands might lead you to imagine it’s a boring car. Not a bit of it. Seat has let loose its designers, and the Leon stands out from not only its siblings but also other cars like the BMW 1 Series, Ford Focus, Mercedes A-Class, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane.

It’s available as a five-door hatchback or an estate, the latter referred to as ST, or Sports Tourer. Whichever you pick looks good. The sharply-creased design originates from the company’s Barcelona studio, and is intended to appeal to younger buyers who are less likely to consider a Golf or Octavia.

The straightforward interior isn’t quite as eye-catching, but it is well made, and filled with soft-touch plastics on the upper surfaces and an intuitive touchscreen system. The switchgear also feels solid.

The car was given a comprehensive update in February 2017, when all but entry-level models were fitted with a larger 8in touchscreen, replacing a 6.5in version, as well as the option of wireless phone charging and safety technology, such as adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, so that the car can adjust its speed to keep a safe distance to the vehicle in front, including when stuck in stop-start traffic. The latest smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink) was added to the car earlier in 2016.

The interior is spacious enough for four adults and the 380-litre boot capacity matches that of the Golf and A3, and is larger than the boots in the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. However, if you need something bigger still, consider the ST estate, which increases cargo capacity to 587-litres and also comes with roof rails across all trim levels bar Cupra models.

There is plenty of choice when it comes to selecting an engine that best suits your budget and requirements, with eight options to pick from for the five-door and ST. For the economy-minded, there are 1.6 TDI and 2.0 TDI diesels, while the petrol engines range from a three-cylinder, 115hp 1.0 TSI to a four-cylinder, 300hp 2.0 TSI.

Sporty petrol-powered FR models now get the option of the promising new 1.5-litre TSI EVO engine, in 130hp and 150hp guises.

The Leon is, unsurprisingly, as good to drive as the Golf and A3, with accurate steering, responsive handling and a comfortable ride quality, so long as you don’t go for a version with huge wheels.

For buyers looking for a stylish, tech-filled, comfortable and economical hatchback, the Leon is worth including on any test drive shortlist. Especially as it can be cheaper than the equivalent VW Golf.

Last Updated 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - 17:30

Key facts 

Warranty: 
3 years / 60,000 miles
Boot size: 
380 litres/1,210 litres
Width: 
1,816mm
Length: 
4,271mm
Height: 
1,444mm
Tax : 
£140-£200 in first year, £140 thereafter

Best Seat Leon for... 

Seat Leon 1.6 TDI
The smaller of the two diesels in the range is, not unexpectedly, the more efficient, with a combined fuel consumption figure of 70.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 105g/km
Seat Leon 1.4 TSI
A flexible, economical engine (57.6mpg) that can also deliver decent performance (0-62mph takes 8 seconds) offers the best of both worlds.
Seat Leon SC Cupra 2.0 TSI
With a 5.7-second 0-62mph time (in three-door SC format: the five-door takes 0.1 longer, while the ST estate manages 6 seconds), this is a quick hot hatch that is also huge fun to drive..
Seat Leon X-Perience 2.0 TDI 184 DSG SE Technology
Unless you really need four-wheel drive, the most expensive Leon X-Perience (£29,880) makes little sense over the standard Leon ST estate with the same engine (£25,690). The equivalent Skoda Octavia Scout is also cheaper, but is effectively the same car.

Seat Leon History 

  • March 2013 First Seat Leons are delivered.
  • June 2013 Seat Leon FR 2.0 TDI 184 added to the range, with a 184hp diesel engine.
  • September 2013 Eco-friendly Leon Ecomotive introduced with over 80mpg and no road tax.
  • March 2014 Leon Sports Styling Kit added as an option, and includes additions such as spoilers, side skirts and sportier bumpers.
  • December 2014 Leon X-perience launched, with permanent four-wheel drive and all-road looks.
  • September 2015 Cupra model goes from 280 to 290hp
  • September 2015 Seat Leon Connect is launched, with Full Link technology, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's rolled out across the range in 2016.
  • March 2017 Hot Cupra model gets 300hp, up from 290hp
  • April 2017 Revised Leon launched with updated exterior styling and a larger 8in touchscreen on most models.
  • November 2017 Cupra R special edition released – with extra sporty styling modifications and 310hp, but only 24 UK models are available.
  • Summer 2018 Limited-edition Seat Leon ST Cupra Carbon Edition released, following on from Cupra R
  • July 2018 New 1.5-litre TSI EVO launched for FR versions

 

Understanding Seat Leon car names 

  • Leon
  • Trim
    Technology
  • Body style
    SC
  • Engine
    1.4ECO TSI
  • Gearbox
    DSG
  • Trim
    There are eight trim levels – S, SE Dynamic Technology, SE Technology, SE Lux, FR Technology, FR Titanium, Xcellence Technology and Cupra – that offer different equipment at different starting prices.
  • Body style
    The Leon is available in four body styles: a three-door SC, five-door hatch, ST estate and X-perience four-wheel-drive estate.
  • Engine
    Buyers have a choice of nine engines in total – three diesels and six petrol options – ranging from 1.0-litre to 2.0-litre.
  • Gearbox
    There are five-speed and six-speed manual gearboxes, plus six-speed and seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Seat Leon Engines 

Petrol: 1.0 TSI, 1.2 TSI, 1.5 TSI EVO (130hp or 150hp), 2.0 TSI (190 or 290hp)

Diesel: 1.6 TDI, 2.0 TDI

Seat offers an array of engine options with the Leon, so there should be something to suit most drivers’ needs for this type of car.

The 1.0-litre TSI 115hp engine that props up the petrol options is a sparky little number that offers a lot more performance than you might expect from a small engine. It gives plenty of power when moving about in low-speed traffic but also works willingly on highways and open country roads. A 58mpg fuel economy figure and CO2 emissions from just 109g/km are also impressive.

A new 1.5-litre TSI EVO option, introduced in summer 2018, is available in 130 or 150hp forms and makes up the backbone of much of the range. It has crisp sound and brisk performance, with good fuel economy (53-55mpg) too. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is only available with the latter, or the hot Cupra model.

If you’d like more get-up-and-go, the 2-litre petrol with 190hp is available in the FR or Xcellence trims, and strike a nice middle ground between the sensible lesser models and the naughty Cupra cars.

The flagship petrol model is the 2.0 TSI 290hp Cupra, and it has some proper pace on tap: 0-62mph takes 5.7 seconds. Choosing between this and, say, a Honda Civic Type-R or VW Golf R will come down to personal preference, so be sure to take test drives before making any decision.

The diesels offer what diesel buyers are looking for: good fuel economy. The 1.6 TDI is a little noisy in day-to-day use, with an audible rumble, but 67mpg and 109g/km have their own attractions to buyers. There’s the option to pair a seven-speed automatic gearbox with this engine.

The 2.0 TDI is more polished and noticeably more powerful, especially when the car has a full complement of passengers and luggage aboard. However, at the time of writing, Seat had not yet announced the official fuel and emissions data – based on WLTP test procedures - for this engine.

 

Fuel

Mpg

Hp

0 - 62mph

CO2

1.0 TSI

Petrol

57.6 to 58.8mpg

115hp

9.8s – 10.1s

109 to 112g/km

1.5 TSI EVO

Petrol

55.4 – 56.6mpg

130hp

9.4s

113 – 116g/km

1.5 TSI EVO

Petrol

53.3 – 55.4mpg

150hp

8.2 - 8.3s

115 – 120g/km

2.0 TSI

Petrol

45.6mpg

190hp

7.2 – 7.3s

141g/km

2.0 TSI

Petrol

39.8 – 42.2mpg

290hp

5.2 – 6s

152 - 161g/km

1.6 TDI

Diesel

67.3 – 70.6mpg

115hp

9.8 – 10.2s

106 – 111g/km

2.0 TDI

Diesel

TBC

150hp

TBC

TBC

Seat Leon Trims 

S, SE Dynamic Technology, SE Technology, SE Lux, FR, FR Technology, FR Titanium, Xcellence Technology, Cupra

The Leon has a range of trim levels that has expanded over its life to take into account new technological options. Which you pick depends on your budget and personal preference, because in all honesty even the entry-level SE is generously specified.

The SE trim include 16-inch alloys and metallic paint to bring out the best of the car’s striking bodywork. There’s also air conditioning, electric door mirrors, criuse control, LED daytime running lights, Media System Colour eight-inch touchscreen with multiple USB ports and eight speakers, Bluetooth, SD connectivity and multi-collision braking system. All Leons also feature two Isofix mounting points for child seats, in the back.

SE Dynamic Technology trim adds 17-inch alloys, tinted rear windows, navigation, Media System Plus with a high resolution display, height adjustment for both front seats, an automatic electric parking brake, front and rear parking sensors and an XDS electronic differential lock for the front wheels, to aid traction.

The sportier FR Technology cars also feature twin exhaust pipes, a subtle bodykit, lowered and sports-tuned suspension, all-LED lights, dark-tinted rear windows, electric adjustable/ heated and folding door mirrors and SEAT Drive Profile (with four modes: Normal, Eco, Sport, Individual). The sports seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel and adjustable ambient lighting add to the FR’s sense of purpose.

A new trim level is FR Sport. It brings a few extras, including 18 inch alloy wheels, a digital instrument display, leather covered front sports seats, a retuned chassis and a winter pack that brings heated front seats and washer systems.

Xcellence features chrome trim for the radiator grille and window surrounds, a full LED lighting system, folding ekectric mirrors, an LED interior Illumination pack, front sports seats in leather, Xcellence logo steering wheel and door sills, multi-coloured ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, keyless door entry and engine starting, front parking sensors and a Convenience Pack with automatic lights and wipers.

If you want more toys, then Xcellence Lux adds a digital instrument display, a Safety Pack that recognises when the driver is tired and a Driving Assistance pack which dips the high beam headlights, prevents the car from wandering out of its lane and alerts drivers to the local speed limit.

High-performance Cupra and Cupra Lux models add a Cupra Drive Profile (Dynamic Chassis Control with choice of four modes: Comfort, Sport, Cupra, Individual), progressive steering and mechanical differential lock, full LED headlights, Full Link (smartphone integration with MirrorLink, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay), Media System Plus with 8-inch touchscreen and DAB radio, dual zone climate control, flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports seats in black Alcantara, aluminium pedals and gloss black interior trim.

Seat also offers a small number of optional packs, such as Driving Assistance Packs that offer High Beam Assist and Lane Assist or Traffic Sign Recognition.

 

Seat Leon Reliability and warranty 

The Leon is a model that owners like, as it appears in 23rd place in the 2016 Driver Power survey for overall satisfaction.

Seat also acquits itself pretty well, coming in a mid-table 16th in the table of most reliable manufacturers.

Leons come with Seat’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which is fairly standard compared to most of its rivals (apart from the Hyundai i30, with five-year cover and the Kia Cee’d’s seven-year version).

Used Seat Leon 

The Leon has been on sale since 2013, so there are now plenty of used examples to choose from. This means you can afford to be picky.

There are currently 696 Fiat 500s available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £6,899 to £35,790 for nearly-new models.

Monthly finance payments start from £114 per month.Nearly new models with around 4,000-5,000 miles on the clock look like real bargains, on sale at 20% less than the new price.

Notable models from the Leon’s past include the X-Perience, a four-wheel-drive rough n’ tumble version of the ST estate.

Previous engines include a 1.2 TSI, which preceded the latest 1.0 TSI. If you can stretch to the more recent (and therefore more costly) 1.0 TSI, we’d recommend it, as the 1.2 had less power, marginally less pace and less impressive economy figures.

There were also 150hp 1.4 and 180hp 1.8 TSI petrol engines, and a high-powered version of the 2.0 TDI with 190hp. Meanwhile, petrolheads should watch out for the rare Cupra R and ST Cupra Carbon Edition.

   

Other Editions

  • Seat Leon ST (2014 - present)
    The estate version of the Leon is as enjoyable to own as the hatchback – but adds an extra element of practicality