THE SEAT Leon is a smart, sporty hatchback based on the architecture of its stablemate the VW Golf, and that is a very good starting point.
The Golf is noted for its poised and agile chassis and sets class standards for buildintegrity. SEAT takes those credentials and adds some stylish Spanish flair with a distinctly sporting edge.
The Leon range includes a racy SC coupe and a practical estate but the big-seller is the five-door hatch, which starts at €19,759 (£17,455).
There is a wide choice of engines – 1.0 to 1.8 litre petrol units and 1.6 and 2.0 litre diesels. My test model was a 2.0 litre 148 hp diesel in upper range Xcellence Technology trim and priced at €26,975 (£23,830).
Standard kit is extensive and highlights include auto lights and wipers, keyless entry, alloy wheels, 8-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, DAB radio/CD, and connectivity features, climate and cruise control, rear parking sensors and useful smartphone charger pad.
The Leon was revamped last year and has a subtle new look, but its major plus-point is its superb driving dynamics. It is quick, responsive, nimble, composed and has outstanding handling – an overall package very hard to beat in the sector.
The 2.0 litre diesel in the test model delivered its power smoothly and eagerly, and the six-speed gearshift was slick and precise, underlined by a 0- 100 kph time of just 8.4 seconds and top speed of 215 kph (134 mph).
However, fuel economy is still exceptionally good – 25.6 kpl (72.4 mpg). The Leon has a sleek exterior which does pull some admiring glances and the revised cabin, which at a glance appears unexceptional, proves to be well thought out, with all the controls easy to find and use.
The driving position is about as good as you can get, lots of seat and steering adjustment and excellent all-round visibility. Cabin space is very good, with generous room for four adults, wide rear doors for easy access and a big boot – 380 litres expandable to 1,210 litres with the rear seats folded.
And – rare in this sector – they do fold flat which aids loading, especially for larger items. SEAT’s reputation for producing value for money models with a sporty persona is well-established and this latest Leon dutifully upholds that with its engaging driving feel and charismatic presence.