The all-new SEAT Leon may not be quite as high profile as its VW Group cousins, the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia, but if you’re in the market for a new family hatchback, it’s definitely worth a test drive.
Not only is it the best Leon yet, it’s a great all-rounder blending style, affordability, practicality, economy and great driving dynamics.
Externally very similar to the A3, its other rivals in this hotly contested sector include the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Renault Megane.
Priced from £19,855, it’s available with a set of efficient petrol and diesel engines, plus a plug-in hybrid for the first time – there’s also a handsome estate version if you need more space.
We tested a mid-range FR spec hatchback fitted with an impressive 1.5 TSI (turbo petrol) four-cylinder engine developing 128bhp, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Claimed fuel economy is 46.3-50.4mpg, though we managed an indicated 58.7mpg on one long journey consisting of mostly A-roads and motorways, thanks largely to the clever 2-cylinder deactivation mode when cruising.
Again, on paper it’s good for 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds, but it feels faster. OK, it’s still no hot hatch, but SEAT isn’t pretending it is.
The reality is that this Leon sports a smooth, refined and responsive engine that will do just fine for most drivers. However, if you’re a high miler, then of course the diesel or plug-in hybrid are worth considering.
The good news doesn’t stop there. The transmission is slick, while the steering is light and accurate with a tight turning circle – and you can choose from three different driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport.
Overall, it’s a good to drive offering something for everybody. Comfortable and fun with good grip and little body roll in faster corners, it’s suitably agile and swift in Sport mode for more spirited drivers.
The new Leon is much better inside too, where there’s now plenty of space in the cabin with a competitive 380-litre luggage capacity and room in the back seats for adults.
Standard equipment on entry-level SE models includes an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless start, two front USB ports, LED headlights with automatic main beam, electric heated mirrors.
Step up to SE Dynamic and you get sat-nav, a 10.3-inch digital driver’s display, plus a 10-inch central touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, tinted rear windows and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Our sportier FR spec car came with dual exhaust pipes, a lower sports suspension, a leather multifunction steering wheel, three-zone air-conditioning, wireless charging tray at the front and two additional USB points for rear passengers.
We like the intuitive infotainment system, but just like the latest Golf, integrating temperate controls into a touchscreen set-up is a step too far – especially on a cold morning when you just want to whack up the heat asap.
The Leon generally is well designed inside and quality is good, but not outstanding. There are some soft-touch surfaces high up in the cabin, but – as you’d expect at the more affordable end of the market – there’s a lot of scratchy hard plastic lower down.
As you’d expect, the Leon is safe too, scoring a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is standard, while driver assistance aids including lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control are also available.
Verdict: The stylish all-new SEAT Leon is one of the most accomplished family hatchbacks on the market, offering, affordability, economy, tech, refinement, space and driving pleasure.