SEAT Leon (2012-2020) review
The SEAT Leon is one of the best family hatchbacks on sale, blending style, practicality and excellent dynamics
The SEAT Leon has been on sale since 2012, while it benefitted from a mid-life facelift towards the end of 2016. It's still one of our favourite family hatchbacks, happily rivalling the best cars in its class. It is based on the venerable Volkswagen Golf but manages to wrap up all the best bits from that car, in a sportier and more stylish package. A new generation Leon is due in the UK from Spring, 2020.
It's stylish, great to drive, has the latest in Volkswagen Group technology and is very good value for money. Even regular variants have a touch of handling flair that is further enhanced in sporty FR and range-topping Cupra hot hatch variants. SEAT hasn’t forgotten practicality though, plus there's a more practical ST estate version, too.
If you're after a family hatchback with a sporty edge, then the SEAT Leon could be for you. There are racy FR and hot hatch Cupra versions, but even the standard Leon is one of the liveliest hatchbacks for sale in the UK today. It's something that SEAT fans have been used to for many years, as the Mk1 original arrived in 1999 to mark a new era for the Spanish firm as a sporty family car brand.
Car group tests
This sporty edge puts the Leon head-to-head with some tough competition. Cars with a definite sporty character in the class include the Ford Focus and Mazda 3, while the VW Golf and Skoda Octavia use similar running gear to the SEAT, and some versions are equally fun to drive. The Leon even competes with the BMW 1 Series for driving fun, and that's a model that is inherently more enjoyable to drive thanks to its rear-wheel-drive layout.
But that's not all, because the SEAT Leon is a great all-rounder, so it can also compete against the rest of the hatchback competition, including the Vauxhall Astra, Hyundai i30, Kia Ceed, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Renault Megane and Peugeot 308. And if the standard five-door hatchback isn't practical enough for you, then the SEAT Leon ST estate is available.
The current SEAT Leon is the third generation, and it was launched in 2012. Since then it had an update in 2016 to keep it competitive, although you'd need to be a hardcore SEAT fan to notice the differences. Under the skin, the Leon is based on the VW Group's MQB platform, which enables a lighter weight and a chassis set-up that delivers the car's sharp handling.
Models available kick off with the SE, which starts from just under £19,000, while the rest of the range comprises SE Dynamic, FR, FR Black Edition, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux. At the top of the range is the Cupra and Cupra Lux models, offered in both hatchback and estate car guises. The estate body style also includes a Cupra R version.
Power comes from VW's latest turbocharged engines, with the base 1.0 TSI petrol three-cylinder offering 115PS. The larger 1.5 TSI Evo four-cylinder unit, with either 130PS or 150PS is able to shut off cylinders to save fuel and delivers only slightly worse economy than the 1.0-litre. The 2.0 TSi is available with 290PS in the hatch, or 300PS if you opt for the estate body style.
For diesel power, there are VW's 1.6 (115PS) and 2.0 TDI (150PS) units. All cars get a six-speed manual, except for the 1.6 TDI, which has a five-speed manual, while a seven-speed DSG auto is offered as an option with all engines bar the 1.0 TSI and 1.5 TSI 130PS version. Auto transmission is standard with the 2.0 TSI and TDI engines.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe SEAT Leon is one of the best family hatchbacks on sale, blending style, practicality and excellent dynamics
- 2Engines, performance and driveHi-tech range of engines, paired with a superb chassis that's sporty and sophisticated - the Leon Cupra is a real star
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsFuel-efficient engines are offered across the range. TDI diesels are the best but the TSI petrol line also impresses
- 4Interior, design and technologyInterior is a big step up over previous Leons, featuring mature design and a cutting-edge range of in-car technology
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceRoomy and reasonably practical cabin is almost as usable as a Volkswagen Golf's - high praise indeed
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe well-built Leon is proving reliable and Euro NCAP has rewarded its active safety features with a five-star rating