Used SEAT Leon review

Introduced in 2000, the SEAT Leon is like a Volkswagen Golf in a party frock.

Introduced in 2000, the SEAT Leon is like a Volkswagen Golf in a party frock. Underneath the skin it uses the same platform, engines and suspension components as the VW, but from the outside it looks far more purposeful and distinctive. Yet the SEAT doesn't have the Golf's legendary image, nor is it blessed with the same all-encompassing product range - there are only six choices of powerplant on offer, along with a mere three trim levels. Availability isn't brilliant, either, and there are just a handful of cars to be found outside the main dealer network. But a good Leon is definitely worth seeking out, as it offers great value for money, exceptional build quality and a sporty nature.Checklist * Transmission whines are common on Leons, although they don't appear to cause problems. But do be wary of weak syncromesh when changing down from third to second gear. * Door sills tend to trap rain water due to over-generous waxing on the factory production line. However, poking a pipe cleaner through the drain holes should solve the problem. * Some owners have experienced problems with their radios. All Leons are currently still under warranty, so the unit should be replaced free of charge by the dealer. Also, the speakers aren't particularly brilliant on low-range cars and are prone to blowing. * A lethargic throttle response is a characteristic on the 1.6-litre machines - but while this is frustrating, it doesn't mean that there's a problem. * Backwards visibility isn't great because of the thick rear pillars, so look out for parking damage on the bumper and rear quarter panels.Glass's View The Leon is a well kept secret in the used world. It's a clever choice as family transport as it's cheaper than the equivalent Golf, Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus, yet offers equal quality and ability. The only trouble is finding the right car - they are rare outside franchised dealers, which offer the widest selection. The few that are in the small ads or at independents represent better value, but usually have higher mileage.My Leon... It's two years since Jeffrey Ashmore took delivery of his Leon 1.8 20v Sport, but in that time he has covered a relatively modest 7,000 miles. Jeffrey, 54, uses a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin as a daily driver, and keeps the Leon primarily as fun transport and a second car in which to do domestic chores. The forklift truck driver from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, is on his fourth SEAT, having previously owned an Arosa and two Ibizas. "I decided I wanted the Leon as soon as I saw it," he told us. "I liked the Toledo, but really wanted a hatchback, so the Leon offered me the best of both worlds." Jeffrey loves the performance, which he believes is matched by the sporty appearance. "It looks really clean and fresh," he said. "I normally change my car every year, but I've kept this one for two because I'm that keen on it." However, the ownership experience hasn't been trouble-free. Jeffrey had to wait six months to get a car with a sunroof because the Spanish factory was besieged with orders, while the fuses occasionally pop out when he drives over speed bumps, causing electrical failure.

 

Verdict

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with any of the models in the SEAT Leon range, but in our opinion you may as well head straight to the top. The 1.8 20v Cupra offers blinding performance, is generously equipped and represents superb value for money when new, so used ones make even more sense. Running costs are sensible as well, although young drivers may discover insurance is a little steep.

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