Seat Leon 1.4TSI Sport 17 | 08 | 2010Scotcars rating

    Fun to drive and full of character ... the Seat Leon gives Ford and VW cause to worry

    SO, YOU'RE IN the market for a family hatchback but you’re uninspired by what’s on offer from the big three — the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf. There’s nothing wrong with the mainstream models, but they’re not really what you’re after: you want something affordable, stylish and individual. Time then to checkout Seat’s second-generation Leon.

    Seat models — unlike the majority of those from the rest of the manufacturers which fall under the umbrella of parent company, the Volkswagen Group — have a reputation for being different; that’s different in the nicest, possible way.

    Take the new Leon. The question Seat bosses and designers want you to ask yourself when you see it for the first time is, is it a coupé or a family hatchback? Obviously it’s the latter, but the casual observer could easily be swayed the other way as a result of the visual styling cues which hint towards a sporty coupe. 

    There's the low roofline with cockpit-like narrow windows and, of course, there's that rear doorhandle secreted in the C-pillar to make it look like it's a sporty three-door. This mildly facelifted model boasts new lights, smaller badges and larger rear window for improved visibility.

    The range includes a raft of petrol and engine variants ranging from £15,115 to £25,05, but we’re concentrating on the 1.4TSI Sport which comes in at £17,060. Now don’t be put off just because it has the word ‘Sport’ in the title. This isn’t a blood-curdling, wailing banshee of a car with a rocklike suspension which will immediately displace the fillings in your teeth. No, no: believe me, this is a car which is perfect for meandering through the quietest of country roads and villages.

    It's a clever all-rounder

    At the heart of it’s attraction is its turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine which produces 125bhp — it feels like more — and drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is 122mph and it will reach 62mph in 9.8 seconds, so it’s no slouch. It will also return around 45mpg. So far then, so good.

    And the Leon, which has a tendency to tick an awful lot of sensible boxes, also manages to be something of a clever all-rounder. The cabin is a pleasant place to be and the driver enjoys a full-adjustable seating position. There’s ample space in the back, accessed by those ‘hidden’ rear doors, with plenty of head- and knee-room.

    The whole rear bench splits asymmetrically to make best use of the boot if you're not full of passengers and while the boot isn’t exactly huge, it is easily accessible and it has a useful netted pocket on the side for those things that would otherwise spin off into obscurity at the first sign of a sharp corner.

    The Leon’s safety kit is comprehensive too. All models are fitted with anti-lock brakes, stability control, plus front, side and curtain airbags and the car has achieved a four-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. There’s no question, assuming you don't want a diesel or a really high performance version, this is the best Seat Leon you can buy. Fun to drive and full of character, it’s just great.

    This isn’t a blood-curdling, wailing banshee of a car with a rocklike suspension

    Prepare to kick yourself

    Cleverly, unlike so many cars which tend to focus too heavily towards one specific area, the Leon manages to strike an excellent balance between comfort and driving enjoyment. As I said, it’s perfect for daily pottering but, when you ever get the urge for the occasional — and, very importantly, legal — blast, then the little 1.4TSI is the one for you.

    It’s a car which just always lets you know that it wants to please you. Sure it’ll snake and brake its way through town traffic in a brilliantly manoeuvrable way, but give it a sniff of a weaving back road in the countryside — I've a favourite up behind the Carse of Gowrie between Dundee and Perth — and you’ll think the Leon’s morphed into another car.

    Well-equipped with a quality satnav system, leather on the gearshift and steering wheel, air-conditioning, huge sunroof and super audio system, the Sport also gets sports suspension, sports seats and 17in alloys, amongst other goodies. Go on, dare to be different; try the new Leon. You’ll kick yourself if you don’t.

    Jim McGill

    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £17,060 / £17,995
    Engine / Power: 1398cc / 123bhp
    How fast?: 0-60 mph 9.8secs, Max 122mph
    How big/heavy?: H1458mm W1970mm L4315mm / 1200kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: Combined 43.5mpg / CO2 148g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: 15 /
    Alternatives: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf

    User Comments

    Login or register to post comments.
    Send to friend
    Click here to add message:

Car Review Finder