Seat Leon

in Motoring Insight

I first saw this all-new SEAT Leon as a small clay model a few years ago at SEAT HQ in Martorell, near Barcelona.

A few  months later were invited back to see the full size plastic model under the bright lights in their design studio. It just didn’t look right; there were too many lines, going in all different directions and it looked too fussy, and a bit over the top. The studio lights were bouncing off every body line and contour… very disappointing and a real shame.

I recently had a Leon SE Dynamic on test from SEAT UK. It was powered by the efficient and economical 3-cylinder 1.0 petrol engine that produces 110ps, and coupled to a 7-speed DSG Automatic gearbox – a great combination.

This all-new Leon is a five-door hatch and is the fourth-generation (with the first being introduced in 1998), and all have been built at the factory just up the road in Barcelona.

SEAT have been having a good time recently with sales going up, but this is mainly due to the trio of SUVs it is offering: Arona, Ateca and Tarraco, and have taken the SEAT brand to countless new customers, so sales of the hatchbacks it has traditionally sold could now be cannibalised by their excellent SUV offerings.

The interior is very modern in the Leon, and SEAT have adapted many Volkswagen technologies including the digital dash and instruments. The gearshift lever, well, hardly a lever, measures only 4cmx4cm, so it is tiny, and nothing like the great big levers we are used to. But despite its size, it is very easy to use, and you soon get used to it. There are some sharp angles and creases on the dashboard and I would image these are perfect for collecting dust, but when clean it does look good. The infotainment system, including the satellite navigation is perfectly placed for easy use, and easy to see.

The boot is cavernous, and a good job too, if it wants to compete with more practical SUVs. The new Leon gets a slightly longer wheelbase compared to the outgoing model, and this is noticeable with extra legroom for rear seat passengers.

I had the Leon on one of the wettest, dullest weeks imaginable – but that didn’t spoil the driving enjoyment, it was as good on a motorway, as it was on narrow twisty roads, and town and village roads. 

The rear gets a very unusual design treatment, with the brake-lights going from one end of the boot-lid, to the other. And there is an overhang on the boot lid too, a nice bit of design and clever engineering. The side of the car has some sharp, crisp lines, and looks good from every angle.

The SEAT Leon certainly looked so much better on a dull, wet Tuesday afternoon in Huddersfield than it did under those bright lights in Spain. Maybe in future manufacturers should use a drizzly day in Yorkshire to show off their new cars, as they do look much more appealing!!

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