Best small family car: New Car Awards 2014

The SEAT Leon is the 2014 Auto Express Small Family Car of the Year, with the Mazda 3 and Volkswagen Golf commended

SEAT’s success in last year’s awards was clearly no flash in the pan, because the SEAT Leon has scooped our compact family car crown once again. Over the past 12 months, this sleek hatch has seen off a host of talented newcomers to maintain its grip on the top spot. So why is it still our number one?

For starters, it looks great, with the versatile five-door, rakish SC and spacious ST estate each featuring the same distinctive blend of curves and creases. It’s just as good inside, where the combination of slick design and superb build quality helps create an upmarket ambience.

Best hatchbacks

It’s spacious, too. There’s easily enough room for five adults, while the 380-litre boot matches the class leaders’. And as with all the best family hatches, the interior is packed with handy and helpful features.

The Leon’s good looks and smart cabin are backed up by a driving experience that effortlessly blends agility, comfort and refinement. It doesn’t matter whether you go for the entry-level S or firebreathing Cupra, the SEAT is fun to drive, while the wide range of petrol and diesel engines offers energetic performance.

Best of the bunch is the smooth and eager 1.2 TSI, which delivers hefty punch despite its small size. Of course, all this would count for nothing if the SEAT wasn’t easy on your wallet. Happily, the Leon stays true to the brand’s great-value roots with its attractive prices and low running costs. The frugal Ecomotive model claims an incredible 85.7mpg and emits only 87g/km, while the 1.2-litre TSI returns nearly 60mpg. Put simply, the excellent Leon is a car you can buy with your heart and your head.

Our choice:

SEAT Leon 1.2 TSI SE (£17,235)

It’s hard to fault the Leon’s engine line-up, but the punchy and frugal 1.2-litre TSI petrol stands out. SE spec comes with all the kit you’ll need, while the free Technology Pack upgrade brings sat-nav and LED lights.

Commended small family cars

Mazda 3 Fastback

With the four-door Mazda 3 Fastback, Mazda’s bucked the family car trend for hatches. The desirable 3’s sleek looks, low running costs and a big boot prove there’s still life in the traditional saloon format. It’s great to drive, too, while the SkyActiv diesels are smooth and frugal.

Volkswagen Golf

The classy Volkswagen Golf still sets the standard for quality and refinement, plus it’s good to drive and well equipped. Roomy cabin will accommodate most growing families, while there’s an engine to suit all tastes. Only the brilliance of the Leon keeps the VW off top spot.

Recommended

SEAT Leon hatchback and estate get new engine options for 2021
SEAT Leon - front
SEAT Leon

SEAT Leon hatchback and estate get new engine options for 2021

The SEAT Leon range has been bolstered for 2021 with the addition of new petrol and diesel engine choices
6 Apr 2021
SEAT Leon review
SEAT Leon front
SEAT Leon

SEAT Leon review

The SEAT Leon offers the tech and driving experience of the VW Golf, but for a lower price
5 Jan 2021
New SEAT Leon e-Hybrid 2020 review
SEAT Leon

New SEAT Leon e-Hybrid 2020 review

The new SEAT Leon e-Hybrid brings plug-in power to the hatchback's range for the first time
6 Nov 2020
SEAT Leon vs Volkswagen Golf vs Ford Focus
Family hatchbacks

SEAT Leon vs Volkswagen Golf vs Ford Focus

The Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon are all long established hatchbacks - we find out which is best among the latest crop
11 Jul 2020

Most Popular

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
New Toyota Land Cruiser 300 revealed with six-cylinder petrol and diesel power
Toyota Land Cruiser - front
Toyota Land Cruiser

New Toyota Land Cruiser 300 revealed with six-cylinder petrol and diesel power

Six-cylinder engine line-up and clever new suspension tech for the new large Toyota Land Cruiser, but it’s not destined for the UK
9 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
New Genesis G80 2021 review
Genesis G80
Genesis G80

New Genesis G80 2021 review

Is the new Genesis G80 a worthy competitor in the executive saloon segment?
9 Jun 2021
New Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet 2021 review
Mercedes E 300 Cabriolet - front
Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet

New Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet 2021 review

The soft-top Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet gets the same updates as the saloon and estate variants
10 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
New 2021 BMW X4 facelift arrives with new look inside and out
BMW X4 - front tracking
BMW X4

New 2021 BMW X4 facelift arrives with new look inside and out

The updated BMW X4 line-up gets a new look and now comes with hot petrol and diesel options
8 Jun 2021
New 2021 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe breaks cover
BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe - front
BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe

New 2021 BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe breaks cover

The new second-generation BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe adds four-door coupe style to the 4 Series range
8 Jun 2021
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021
New Vauxhall Grandland SUV unveiled with fresh design and tech boost
Vauxhall Grandland - front action
Vauxhall Grandland X

New Vauxhall Grandland SUV unveiled with fresh design and tech boost

The heavily facelifted Vauxhall Grandland family SUV gets Visor design cues and plug-in hybrid power
8 Jun 2021