Things have changed since we last drove the SEAT Leon ST, with the introduction of the new Honda Civic Tourer to the class. But now with our first UK drive of the Leon, is it still our favourite family estate?
Ignore the Spanish plates on the left-hand-drive car in our pictures – we’ve managed to get our hands on an ST in the UK before the right-hand-drive versions are actually available. Aside from where the steering wheel is, this 1.6 TDI SE model is identical to the one you’ll receive in January if you’ve already placed an order.
This is the most efficient engine in the line-up – with fuel economy of 74.3mpg – but it also happens to be the least powerful. That’s not as bad as it sounds, though, because this 104bhp engine more than capable of dealing with the ST’s additional 45kg of weight over the hatch, even when it’s loaded up with passengers.
Officially, acceleration from 0-62mph takes 11.1 seconds but it’s the in-gear torque that keeps the Leon ST feeling like it always has power in reserve.
If we had any complaints about the 1.6 TDI it would be its slightly rough note under acceleration but provided you’ve got the radio turned on you can soon forget about it. Once you’re up to motorway speeds you can’t even hear the engine anyway – in fact, you can’t hear much because the cabin is so well insulated from wind and road noise.
Clearly, though, you’re buying a Leon ST for its practical touches and this car has plenty of those. Sure, the 587-litre boot isn't as big as the 624-litre space in the Civic Tourer and nor is it as spacious as the VW Golf or Skoda Octavia Estates. But, it’s plenty big enough and our SE model gets an ‘easy rear seat-back release’, which folds down the rear seats with the use of just one hand, freeing up 1,470 litres of space in the process.
If you need to load in something up to 2.5m long then you can always fold down the passenger seat, too.
In fact, there’s plenty to praise about the Leon’s interior, which features plenty of soft-touch plastics, a few interesting design details and a colour touchscreen infotainment system.
The ST’s angular lines and sweeping roofline are a hint at the subtly sporty way that it drives. The steering is nice and quick, there’s plenty of grip from the front wheels and the body stays nice and stable through quick direction changes.
It’s no sports car but if you want your family runabout to have a bit of fun to it then the Leon ST is a good choice.
What makes it our favourite car in this class, though, is the fact that it’ll be about £2,000 less than a Golf Estate and roughly the same amount cheaper than a Civic Tourer and you still get cruise control, air-con and 16-inch alloys. What’s more, if you order now SEAT will throw in a Technology Pack – normally £1,075 – which includes sat-nav and full-LED headlights.