The SEAT Leon isn’t just a car for all seasons - it’s one for all drivers, too. This reliable and fun mid-sized hatchback comes with enough engine and body-shape variations to suit almost everyone - whether you’re looking at the larger estate version as a family runabout or tempted by the hot performance of the Leon Cupra.
Hatchbacks have long been the preferred choice for British buyers wanting maximum practicality in a compact footprint. And many of them have evolved in the same, familiar direction – so much so that the competition isn’t just close, entrants are often hard to distinguish from one another.
The Seat Leon could never be accused of such everyday styling. There’s Latin flair in its panels, so much so that even older variants still pack much excitement in the design department. Later cars have grown more angular and sharper, with narrow LED day running lights, alloys and spoilers all there to heat up the car’s looks.
There’s Latin flair in the Leon's panels, so much so that even older variants still pack much excitement in the design department.
What's it like to drive?
At its heart, the Seat Leon is pretty much a Volkswagen Golf, because Seat is owned by the Volkswagen Group. Anyone with experience of a Golf will already have a pretty good idea of how the Leon feels to drive. Like the Golf, the steering is light and responsive. Where it wins out over the Golf is in its tighter turning circle. This makes manoeuvres in town a positive pleasure, and can also come in handy if you ever find yourself needing to turn round in a tight country lane.
There are plenty of engine options and all provide decent pulling power – even the entry level 1.0 litre petrol version.
Where it wins out is in its tighter turning circle; this makes manoeuvres in town a positive pleasure.
No clearer is the Leon’s relation to the Golf than inside. The Spanish car shares an infotainment system with its Volkswagen Group sibling, and much of the controls and switchgear are also borrowed from the German car, albeit with sportier fonts and numbers to spice up the layout. A Leon is a functional, comfortable place to sit.
Seats are well-equipped, too, and they have generous headroom to give the cabin a spacious feel. The rear seats make it perfect for four and still quite comfortable for five – as long as you’re pretty familiar with your travel buddies. If you’re thinking about the Leon SC coupe version – essentially a hatch with a sleeker roofline – the lower roof and slightly shorter length make everything feel a little more compact.
In terms of standard equipment, you’ll find you get a lot more punch for your pounds than some of its rivals. Features like rear parking sensors and an electronic handbrake are included on all but the most basic model.
Depending on the variant you choose, there’s either a 6.5 or eight-inch multimedia screen that is conveniently angled towards the driver. The larger version has a two-button control that can be fiddly to use. After a little practice, you’ll get used to it.
The Leon is generally very practical. The boot space in the standard hatchback model is comparable with what you’ll get in a Ford Focus or a Vauxhall Astra. It’s not quite as generous as a Golf. There’s plenty of space for everything from camping trips to big shops, and the 60/40 rear seat split makes the space very flexible.
The one small negative point is that the raised boot lip can make loading and unloading a little trickier than it needs to be – you’ll need to work those thigh muscles a bit more. For the driver and front seat passenger, models with the electronic handbrake offer extra storage space between the seats for your in-car essentials.
There’s plenty of space for everything from camping trips to big shops, and the 60/40 rear seat split makes the space very flexible.
Running costs and reliability
With Volkswagen engines powering the Leon, you’ll get decent fuel economy. If you’re going to be ploughing up and down the motorway, the 1.6-litre TDi diesel engine will be your best bet as it will give you an officially quoted average of 57.6 mpg. In petrol engines, the 1.0-litre TSi will give you a very respectable 50.4 mpg. Larger engines come with a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes, with the latter offering the slightly greater fuel economy.
Reliability won’t be an issue either. Any recalls that there have been on the Leon have been minor, and most pre-owned models should have had them sorted out under warranty.
What we love
The real strength of the Leon range is, well, the actual range. There are versions to suit virtually every kind of driver, but the car still manages to have a distinct personality all of its own. SEAT has focused on what’s important to create a mid-sized car that will tick most of the boxes for practicality, economy and build quality.
There are versions to suit virtually every kind of driver, but the car still manages to have a distinct personality all of its own.
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Like a great paella, the Leon is packed with tasty morsels - distinctive looks, solid performance, reliability and good fuel economy. These all go into making the Seat Leon one of the best mid-sized cars on the market. Lower prices than some other makes are another big selling point.
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