SEAT Leon SC 1.4 TSI

23 May, 2013 9:45am Mat Watson

We get behind the wheel of the new three-door SEAT Leon SC 1.4 TSI on UK roads for the first time


The SEAT Leon SC is a very likeable car, and only the most pedantic drivers will be able to find fault with it. Although it trails the equivalent Golf ever so slightly in areas such as quality and refinement, it more than makes up for this with a significantly lower price and a whole lot more emotion.

The new SEAT Leon SC 1.4 TSI FR costs almost £3,000 less than the equivalent VW Golf, and when we drove it in Spain recently, we couldn’t find much wrong with it. But this is the first time we’ve tried the car in the UK, and there’s still one thing we need to know: how does it cope with our appalling roads?

This question is particularly relevant to our FR test car, which comes with 15mm lower, firmer suspension. Add the slightly shorter wheelbase over the five-door Leon, and the three-door Leon SC certainly doesn’t glide over poor surfaces like the equivalent Golf. But it’s still very comfortable.

Less sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension is partly to blame – the 138bhp Golf gets fully independent multi-link rear suspension, but only SEATs with 180bhp-plus have this upgrade.

Thankfully, the SC FR handles well on a twisty road even without the more advanced suspension, although you don’t have quite as much fun as in a BMW 1 Series.

The 138bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine is great; it’s happy to be revved, with enough mid-range punch not to need revving too hard. It’s surprisingly efficient, too, so there’s not much point in getting one of the noisier diesels unless you’re doing lots of miles.

Buyers using their Leon SC for long motorway drives are sure to be impressed by the refinement. Class leaders like the Golf don’t suffer so much wind and road noise, but it’s not far behind, and you can say the same about the interior quality. While it doesn’t feel as posh as a VW, it’s way ahead of the old Leon, with solid switches and soft-touch plastics.

The SC looks stylish, and our FR has a new bodykit, chrome exhausts and 17-inch alloys. We still think the Vauxhall Astra GTC is more stylish, although SEAT has created a sporty shape without affecting practicality too much.

The five-door offers more rear legroom, but the SC has just as much headroom, plus the 380-litre boot is identical. In all honesty, though, when the five-door only costs £300 more – and looks just as good – why wouldn’t you just pay the extra?

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I like the New Seat Leon SC 1.4 TSI FR

How can it lag behind the golf? It's better looking, has golf engines, golf electrics & golf chassis. This is badge snobbery. Call it a flamin Audi and they'd give it 5 stars

Had a look and and a 'seat' in this at Seat's home motorshow in Barcelona last week. A very appealing car. It shows how clinical and boring the VW Golf really is - which I also checked out. Forget the overpriced/overrated Golf and stodgy 'old mans' Octavia, this is the mid size car you want from the VW Group.

100% agree. Considering how highly the Golf is praised and how (the Leon) is basically a better looking, sportier Golf, I'd say that Leon is very far underrated! However, those who choose to buy one are getting a lot of car for their money. Kudos to them!

If class leader golf suffers less wind and road noise it verges on statistical error. If you search for most press tests they get the same readings. Plus VW got the multi-link rear suspension on the golf 1.4 TSi 140 but not on the leon and octavia. Distinction?

How come nobody comments on how boring the new leon looks, especially the 3-door version? Smaller wheelbase (thanks! Now less interior space...). Almost fall-asleep previous focus ST pre facelift front combined with probably even worse than the ibiza 3-door behind. I expected much better. Both from the ibz concept and from seat claims. The interior is dreadfull. I also expected seat to get away from the eccentric interior of the previous model, fine. Get more buyers. But this is downright boring to death.

"We still think the Vauxhall Astra GTC is more stylish"

Blimey! Are you feeling alright, AE?

Exactly! Even the summary agrees with you! "Although it trails the equivalent Golf ever so slightly in areas such as
quality and refinement, it more than makes up for this with a
significantly lower price and a whole lot more emotion."

The key phrase being "...more than makes up for this . . ". i.e overall the Leon is better. So why does the Golf get 5 stars and the Leon only 4?

I thought Leon with 150Bhp+ got multi link at the rear not 180?? I'm sure the 150bhp diesel has the better suspension.
I would take the Leon over the Golf and Audi all day long as a used buy as they depreciated that little bit faster and make a bargain. New I wouldn't bother unless as with earlier models the Cupra leaves the others behind in the performance stakes.

vs BiTurbo Vaux.... hehe

To be fair some models of the Leon do get a 5* rating. The new modular platform allows models to be adapted to the prospective buyers they are going for. The 3 door SC has a shorter wheelbase to improve handling and make it look more sporty than the 5 door. Considering the sporting pretensions losing a star is a bit harsh for a slightly less comfortable ride (though still very good) and slightly less rear legroom (though still very good) but I do think omitting a multi link rear suspension with this engine is a mistake. They should have kept that for the 1.2tsi only in my view for people who want something that looks the part but don't particularly care for performance or handling. This engine is quick enough to justify it.

I'm surprised so many of you think this is so good looking. Looks more boring than the Golf IMO and the front end looks like a 2005 Ford Focus.

In fact, every time I see the thumbnail picture on this site, I always think 'why have they got a picture of my neighbour's old Focus?'

Key specs

  • Price: £19,085
  • Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl turbo, 138bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 8.2 secs
  • Top speed: 131mph
  • Economy: 54.3mpg
  • CO2: 119g/km
  • Equipment: 17-inch alloys, sports suspension, colour touchscreen
  • On sale: July