Ecomotive 1.6 TDI SE 5-door
2012, car manufacturers must
have 130g/km exhaust emissions as
an average for their entire model
ranges in Europe. As cleaner petrol
and diesel engines continue to
appear, SEATs low 99g/km Leon
Ecomotive could clean up big time...
THE VOLKSWAGEN GROUP RECENTLY INTRODUCED a 1.6-litre TDI turbodiesel engine
which emits just 99g/km. Not only is it a new generation 'clean'
engine, its low CO2 figure currently means no road tax costs, Congestion Charge
exemption and company cars users get away with paying just 13% in Benefit-in-Kind
As the Chancellor looks for ways to balance Britain's Budget, only the Government's
bean-counters know how long it will be before the nil or low taxation level
goalposts move. Obviously it cannot really be sensible for any car, however
clean it is, not to incur a nominal fee for road tax. I am no supporter of increased
motoring taxes but a bit of logical strategy on charges would help. To charge
nothing for VED doesn't even cover the cost of the printed tax disc or the administration
Another nonsense is the zero cost for the London Congestion charge scheme so
long as CO2 emissions are below 100g/km. Why? It's a Congestion Charge; the
car is taking space on the road. By all means levy the rate according to how
clean a vehicle is but why not charge for the road space it takes up
clean or dirty, it still causes congestion?
over; back to business. A few weeks ago I was applauding Audi for their A3 1.6
TDI three-door hatchback because of its 'headline' low 99g/km emissions and
13% BIK company car tax. However, having just three doors in a family-sized
hatchback does have its own drawbacks and although the five-door A3 Sportback
does offer the same engine option, CO2 levels stray to 109g/km although even
then it's still VED-free in the first year of registration (thereafter £20 per
annum) and BIK tax is still 13%.
fuel economy of the Leon
Ecomotive is officially
sensibly, my test car only
returned a dismal
Now VW family member SEAT has introduced the same 1.6 TDI engine into their
Leon Ecomotive five-door family hatchback and its CO2 emissions are also that
all-important 99g/km. British Gas have just ordered 500 Leon Ecomotives with
this engine as fleet managers from major companies and the utilities sector
are targeted to reduce the tax burden incurred by company vehicles.
Volkswagen has also just introduced three- and five-door versions of their Golf
with this same 99g/km 1.6 TDI engine, and fellow family member Skoda is sure
to follow soon.
The latest SEAT Leon range of family five-door hatchbacks is 4,315mm in length
with seating for five. Luggage space ranges from 341 litres with the rear seats
in use and a capacious 1,166 litres with them folded. In addition to the Ecomotive
models, this new line-up comes with the choice of 1.2, 1.4 and 2.0-litre petrol
and 1.6, 1.9 and 2.0-litre TDI engines. These are complemented by a wide range
of specification levels with prices from £14,060 up to £25,205 for the 'hot'
261bhp petrol-engined 2.0-litre TSI 265 Cupra R.
There are two 1.6 TDI Ecomotive 99g/km versions: S, priced at £16,745, and SE
which costs £18,045. Both feature Start/Stop technology, Brake Energy Recovery
and an aero pack which smoothes out airflow resistance. These models cost £315
more than non-Ecomotive 1.6 TDI S and SE versions that use the same engines
but with higher emissions of 109g/km even though they too have Start/Stop and
Brake Energy Recovery.
The Combined Cycle fuel economy of the Leon 1.6 TDI Ecomotive with its four-cylinder
104bhp turbodiesel engine and 5-speed manual transmission is officially 74.3mpg
but my test car only returned a dismal 53.2mpg and that was driving in
a normal and reasonable manner, observing the speed limits and with a responsible
the same way, in fact, as I drove the A3 1.6 TDI which returned 64.7mpg.
technology, Brake Energy
Recovery and an aero
pack which smoothes out
The added weight of having two extra doors must make the difference as far as
real-life motoring goes but as long as the official Homologation and Type Approval
certification (which determines the CO2 rating and published fuel economy figures)
says 99g/km and 74.3mpg, then those are the taxable figures.
The performance figures for the Leon Ecomotive are a top speed of 118mph with
0-62mph taking 11.5 seconds. The Audi A3 was more or less the same at 121mph
and 11.4 seconds. By the way, the A3, in its three-door form with the same engine,
costs £18,315 against the five-door Leon's £16,840 (or £18,140 for the SE).
Another interesting difference between the Audi A3 and Leon 'eco' models is
that the Audi coped better with its high fifth gear ratio. Again, I suspect,
due to the extra weight and possible even higher final drive ratio, the Leon
Ecomotive needed to be driven in fourth gear for much of the time on country
roads. In fifth gear it just couldn't cope with speeds under 50mph and for a
turbodiesel engine with 184lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm, it's not really good
enough for real-life driving conditions.
Being a SEAT the 'sporty' brand where Touring Car racing successes have
dominated the public's perception of the product the Leon Ecomotive has
a very firm ride and it is even firmer because of the low rolling resistance
tyres which generally operate with a higher air pressure than normal tyres.
Despite the lower grip tyres, the Leon's road holding was as sharp as ever and
the steering offered good feedback.
The Leon is a very roomy five-door hatchback which will please as family or
business transport although it is not a comfortable car to travel in because
of the very firm suspension. However, for creature-comforts the Ecomotive versions
are pretty well equipped. The cheapest S version spec includes alloy wheels,
traction and electronic handling controls, air conditioning, electrically-operated
front windows, electric door mirrors, Start/Stop and energy capture, a good
sound system with six speakers, a trip computer and gear shift indicator.
model additions include dual-zone A/C, electric rear windows, eight speakers,
cruise control, folding door mirrors and enhanced interior trim.
the lower grip
tyres, the Ecomotives
road holding was as
sharp as ever and
the steering offered good
SEAT is now changing its message to future customers: it seems less about being
sporty and more about greenness as other models, from the Ibiza up, get Ecomotive
The business and fleet customers look likely to become prime target sectors
for all manufacturers as retail buyers are predicted to withdraw from the volume
sectors of the new car market once the increased VAT comes into force. So, quite
rightly, SEAT is ready to chase the 'green pound'.
Sound reasons to consider the low-emitting Leon Ecomotive include its practical
size, good looks and sharp handling. It's also well equipped and potentially
the right car at the right time so far as tax reductions or exemptions are concerned.
But there are downsides: real-life driving couldn't achieve the published mpg
figure, the very high gearing spoiled the driving experience, there's a very
firm ride, wide windscreen pillars limit visibility and the boot is awkwardly
shaped. David Miles
SEAT Leon Ecomotive 1.6 TDI SE 5-door | £18,140
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 11.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 53.2mpg
Power: 104bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 99g/km