SE 1.2 TSI 5-dr
racy and roomy all-new Leon
is being billed as SEATs
launch, under the marketing strap-
us cynical media types as a word
PRICES FOR THE INITIAL NEW LEON LINE-UP of seven petrol variants range between
£15,670 and £21,835; the seven diesel derivatives will cost from £17,370 to
£22,635. In UK showrooms this month, the five-door Leon will be selling against
the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Honda Civic, VW Golf and Skoda Octavia.
It will be joined in July by a three-door SC range, and later this year
a Sports Tourer, which will first be shown at the Frankfurt show. More engine
options will be added to the line-up this year, with the sporting Cupra version
topping the range in Britain by early 2014.
The all-new Leon arrives after five years of increasing sales for SEAT UK which
have lifted registrations by over a third at a time when the market has been
contracting overall. In fact, last year SEAT sold 39,978 new cars in the UK
an all-time record. The two previous Leon generations since 1998 have
between them put over 133,100 models on UK roads and it accounts for
a third of SEAT sales in the UK.
new Leon is engineered to use the latest lightweight Volkswagen Group MQB scaleable
chassis platform that's brilliantly used for the new VW Golf, Audi A3 Sportback
and the Skoda Octavia family group members.
SEATs motorsport DNA
shines through with
the new Leon it looks
edgy, purposeful and full
of racy intent...
All Leon models have MacPherson-type coil over strut front suspension with a
semi-rigid rear axle; those above 147bhp benefit from a multi-link set-up at
the back with FR models having 15mm shorter and stiffer springs and shock absorbers.
The Leon is initially available in S, SE and FR trim levels with SE being the
most popular by far, taking 60% of sales (the other two accounting for around
20% each). There are 1.2-litre TSI 103bhp, 1.4 TSI 138bhp and 1.8 TSI 177bhp
petrol engines along with 1.6-litre TDI 103bhp and 2.0 TDI 147bhp diesels. Later
this year these will be joined by a 181bhp 2.0 diesel, a sub-99gkm 1.6 diesel
and, early in 2014, by a 1.4 petrol with self-selecting 2/4 'active cylinder'
technology. Five- or six-speed manual gearboxes are standard on most models,
with a DSG automatic on some.
The Leon has a UK sales mix of 50:50 between retail and business user-chooser
customers. The most popular engine will be the 1.6-litre TDI taking 54%
of all sales because of its official 74.3mpg and 99g/km CO2 emission figures,
which due to the BIK tax penalties are significant for company drivers.
The most popular petrol engine will be the highly rated and high-performance
turbocharged 1.2-litre TSI unit, expected to take 14% of sales. This gem of
an engine despite its seemingly small capacity is ideal for retail
customers because of its lower purchase price, the cheaper cost of petrol over
diesel, 57.6mpg fuel economy and 114g/km emissions. Consequently road tax is
£0 for the First Year and then just £30 per annum for the second year onwards.
SEAT's motorsport DNA shines through with the new Leon. Whilst its Volkswagen
Group fellow family members also use the same new platform, the Leon is clearly
the sharpest and sportiest for exterior styling. The new Golf still looks like
a Golf; the new A3 looks like a conventional (but still classy) Audi; the Skoda
Octavia looks bland but roomy. But the Leon looks edgy, purposeful and full
of racy intent.
styling lines include sculptured side panels and an angular grille. Overall,
due to its longer wheelbase, it looks well balanced. Another improvement is
the slimmer front pillars which also significantly improve front-quarter visibility.
Sitting on a longer
wheelbase and wider
track than the second-
the new model exhibits
better stability and
the suspension is now
more compliant and the
ride more comfortable
than any other SEAT...
larger 380-litre boot has a low floor and high rear sill (not ideal for loading
heavy cases). There's also improved rear seat legroom, and more width front
The Leon's designers have done a good job creating a more driver-focused cabin,
better controls layout and softer surfaces although there is still plenty of
'blackness' which lessens the light and airy feel offered by the new Golf and
Seven airbags protect occupants but owners can also specify additional safety
items with driver assistance and technology packs. The all-new Leon has also
received five-star safety recognition from Euro NCAP testers. Most versions
are fitted with an electronic differential which gently brakes the inside front
wheel through a corner to improve grip.
Sitting on a longer wheelbase and wider track than the second-generation Leon,
the new model exhibits better stability and handling characteristics; the suspension
is now more compliant and the ride more comfortable than any other SEAT.
This third-gen Leon is the most technically advanced version yet to hit the
roads and features full LED headlamps. Depending on the specification level
chosen there is also the SEAT Drive Profile which has Normal, Sport, Eco or
Individual modes covering adjustments for performance of the engine and gearbox,
steering input, climate system and ambient lighting.
Also available are support systems covering lane assist, automatic light dipping,
tiredness monitor, parking aids and collision brake application. A modular infotainment
system brings together essential and desirable data on a single multifunction
screen for real ease of use.
The most popular SE trim and equipment specification level includes front and
rear electric windows, electric door mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control,
front fog lights with cornering function, 16-inch alloy wheels, electronic limited
slip differential and hill-hold control.
During my brief test drive I tried the best-selling 103bhp 1.6-litre TDI engine
and for high-mileage fleet and company car drivers this will be the engine given
to them. It was smooth, responsive, fleet-of-foot and returned an impressive
59.1mpg during my drive over winding and hilly Cotswold roads.
no road tax costs and only 13% company car tax I can see why fleets will go
this route. However, it costs £18,490; that's £1,700 more than the four-cylinder
1.2-litre direct injection and turbocharged petrol unit which has the same power
output. And don't forget that diesel fuel now costs more at the pumps.
injection petrol engine
rightly regarded as one
of the best engines
myself, I would opt for the 1.2-litre TSI 103bhp turbocharged direct injection
petrol engine it's available in other VW group ranges and is rightly
regarded as one of the best engines available today.
It kicks out 129lb ft of torque from only 1,400rpm so is fantastically responsive,
accelerating from low speeds without hesitation, and it has a slick six-speed
manual gearbox (or a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch auto which is even more fuel-
The 1.2's top speed is 119mph and zero to 62mph takes 10 seconds faster
than the 1.6 diesel. With CO2 emissions of 114g/km (112g/km for the auto), road
tax will be £0 for the First Year and then £30 for the second year onwards.
Company car tax is 13%. Officially, this car will return 57.6mpg but my test
drive resulted in 37.5mpg, so in this area it lost out to the diesel unit but
on longer runs it will do better.
Today we must adjust our view as to just how well smaller capacity petrol engines
actually go because small doesn't necessarily mean low power and sluggish performance.
The development of turbochargers used in conjunction with direct fuel injection
and variable valve and injection timing now gives a 'small' 1.2-litre the performance
we would once have expected from a 1.8 or 2.0-litre petrol engine. All with
low CO2 emissions and fuel economy that's getting close to that of a diesel.
The big payoff is that these new petrol engines are cheaper to buy than diesel
units, and petrol is cheaper than diesel. Sometimes these days it clearly pays
to think small!
Other reasons to buy include the sharp and sporty styling, improved interior
space, better build quality, lighter weight with better agility, improved and
more comfortable ride quality and, of course, that gem of a new-generation petrol
engine. David Miles
SEAT Leon SE 1.2 TSI 5-dr
Maximum speed: 119mph | 0-62mph: 10 seconds | Overall test MPG: 37.5mpg
Power: 103bhp | Torque: 129lb ft | CO2 114g/km