SEAT Leon 1.4 TSI Stylance

Hi-tech new engine adds another string to Spanish star’s bow.

The sporty arm of the VW Group is renowned for its hot FR and Cupra models, but SEAT is no one trick pony. And to prove it, the stylish Leon is now available with the company’s clever turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine under its heavily contoured bonnet.

It sounds racy, but the advanced powerplant is actually tuned to deliver low CO2 emissions and strong fuel economy, rather than outright pace.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the SEAT Leon

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Without the huge alloy wheels or aggressive bodykit found on hotter versions, you might expect the Leon to look bland in mid-spec Stylance trim.

But you’d be wrong. Its sleek profile is very attractive. You also get to enjoy detailing treats such as hidden rear door handles, plus a chunky SEAT logo on the tailgate which doubles as the boot release.

It’s the same story inside. The swooping dashboard is more interesting than the simple layout inside the Lancer, and its chequer-board texture looks and feels much more luxurious. Rear space is comparable with its rival’s, but the narrow windows give the Leon cabin a much more cosy feel.

Unfortunately, that extends to the luggage area, because the tight-fitting tailgate restricts the maximum capacity to 1,166 litres. The boot opening is also smaller, with a large lip to lift items over.

To find the biggest difference between the two cars, though, you’ll have to hit the road. Where the Mitsubishi does its best work at the top of the rev range, the flexible 1.4 TSI responds quickly and smoothly at seemingly any engine speed. And at the test track, that meant the Leon was quicker from 50-70mph in sixth gear than the Lancer was in fifth.

Thanks to its extra ratio, the SEAT engine is also a more relaxed companion on the motorway – although our noise meter provided identical cabin readings for the two cars at cruising speeds.

In keeping with the brand’s sporty image, the Leon has a firmer suspension set-up. This is good news for body control and steering, which are respectively much sharper and more responsive than in the Lancer. But there is a price to pay in terms of comfort. The SEAT doesn’t cope with small surface imperfections as well as the softer Mitsubishi – although this isn’t enough to make the Leon uncomfortable.

During the course of our test, the 1.4-litre car returned 33.2mpg economy, compared to 28.6mpg for the Lancer. It’s also considerably cleaner. CO2 emissions of 155g/km place the SEAT two road tax groups lower, while company buyers will be better off choosing the Spanish model, even though it costs more to buy.

The case for the SEAT is strengthened by its extensive options list, because it gives customers much more scope for personalisation. And with climate control rather than air-con fitted as standard, along with ESP stability control, the Leon easily justifies its £724 price premium.

Details

Price: £14,425Model tested: SEAT Leon 1.4 TSI StylanceChart position: 1WHY: Sporty Leon now comes with the 1.4 TSI engine – and it could be the pick of the range.

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