The third generation of the stylish Seat brings more upgrades to this popular family hatchback. The underpinnings are shared with others in the VW Group, like the Audi A3 and the VW Golf, so there鈥檚 a first-rate platform on which to build a distinctive brand.
The engine range has been uprated and broadened, so there is everything from a 109bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine to a 286bhp 2.0-litre in the Cupra. Diesels including a 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre with either 148bhp or 181bhp.
With such a broad range of engines, Seat has modified the handling to suit specific power units. Whichever engine you go for, there will a firmer ride than in, say, a VW Golf, as part of Seat鈥檚 move to be a more sporting brand. This means that the ride quality is only just about comfortable, something which is noticeable more in the lower-powered models. Ironically, it鈥檚 the powerful Cupra that actually feels the most settled.
But the payoff to that is that all models handle really well, with very little body roll and tenacious levels of grip. Steering is accurate and well weighted, and you do get the impression that Seat has taken great efforts in trying to make the Leon an enjoyable driver鈥檚 car.
Noise is a little more pronounced than in some others in the VW stable, mostly from the tyres, but the Leon remains a fairly refined experience in the cabin. There is plenty of space in that cabin, in both front and back. There are quite thick pillars to the rear, but back-seat passengers will still feel like they鈥檙e in a fairly airy environment.
This is particularly so in the five-door model we鈥檙e looking at here, a model with adequate rather than amazing storage space in the boot. At 380 litres you鈥檙e not exactly spoiled for space, although you can fold down the rear seats to make a larger area.
At the other end of the car, the driver gets a comfy and adjustable driving position, with sportier models like the FR offering improved lateral support for more spirited cornering. Base S-level trim only gets you a 5in touchscreen and you can鈥檛 have a DAB radio for love nor money. The optional Technology Pack is a popular option, since it adds an 8in screen, sat nav, digital radio and more. In fact, for private buyers who go for SE trim or higher, it鈥檚 free. That鈥檚 a great deal.
Generally the cabin feels well made, but it鈥檚 in no way luxurious. This is built to a price and it does feel it, but having said that, you鈥檙e unlikely to feel you鈥檙e in a low-rent environment. It鈥檚 smart, contemporary and decently made.
That price is aiming to be below the VW Golf, even if you have a higher-spec Leon. Prices are sensible but you can still argue a discount if you try. The downside is that residuals won鈥檛 be as solid as the Golf鈥檚 but you can鈥檛 have it both ways.
If you buy a Leon with a sensible engine, then you鈥檙e unlikely to be looking at emission figures higher than 110g/km, so the Leon can be a very good choice as a company car. A model like the 1.0-litre Ecomotive has only 102g/km of CO2 while the 1.6-litre diesel can manage 69mpg it is claimed, so there鈥檚 something for everyone.
Not only is it sensible money to run but the Leon is also a car that earned the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash testing. The facelift brings a wealth of standard safety equipment on all but the lowest trim level, and this includes automatic braking and pedestrian detection. It鈥檚 moving into autonomous mode, something you can do more with if you have the auto transmission, with a tech pack which can slow down or speed up and steer when cruise control is on to keep it in the flow of traffic.
With a good reputation for reliability, excellent safety rating, sensible running costs and that slightly sporty edge, the Seat Leon really does represent an attractive alternative within the vast VW Group鈥檚 empire.