Compact family Car of the Year 2015: SEAT Leon

The SEAT Leon is the 2015 Auto Express Compact Family Car of the Year, with the MINI 5dr and Skoda Octavia commended

It’s a hat-trick of wins for SEAT, as this is the third time in a row that its Leon hatchback has taken our Best Compact Family Car award. We praised it last year for its sleek looks, versatility and advanced chassis, and 12 months on, the Leon’s ability is still enough tosee off its rivals in this hotly contested class.

The mix of sharp, defined creases and solid surfaces looks great, and it combines this air of style with useful practicality inside. The interior feels sporty and youthful, but build quality is excellent. It’s spacious, too – the Leon can carry five adults with ease and the cabin makes everyday family life that bit easier. Three bodystyles – the three-door SC, five-door hatch and ST estate – offer plenty of versatility.

The same is true of the engine range, as there’s everything from economical turbo petrols and diesels to punchy, high-output units. Environmentally conscious buyers can opt for the 85.6mpg Ecomotive 1.6 TDI, while at the other end of the scale is the hot Cupra, with its 2.0-litre turbo offering up to 276bhp. No matter which model you go for, all the engines are frugal yet willing performers, meaning the Leon is fun to drive and should be easy on your bank balance.

Advanced optional safety kit provides peace of mind if you’re going to be strapping your family in, and a usable 380-litre boot gives the five-door version luggage room to match that of the class leaders.

Our choice

Leon 1.2 TSI SE 5dr (£17,700)

There’s no bad engine in the Leon’s line-up, but we’d opt for the 1.2 TSI, as it’s the best of a very good bunch and delivers strong performance despite its small capacity. Five doors add extra practicality, while SE trim comes with lots of premium features.

Commended

MINI 5-door - tracking

MINI 5dr

Adding a second pair of doors to the iconic MINI hatchback greatly improves versatility, but it doesn’t spoil any of that classy, fun-to-drive and stylish character that we love about the three-door model. Its 278-litre boot can’t match the Leon’s capacity, but the MINI’s a charismatic compact family car.

2013 Skoda Octavia front cornering

Skoda Octavia

Sharing its platform with the Leon, Skoda’s Octavia family hatch is even more practical thanks to its spacious cabin and a cavernous 590-litre load bay. It’s marginally more expensive than the SEAT spec-for-spec, but you do get plenty of standard kit. A similar interior and low running costs make it a very close rival.

Auto Express New Car Awards 2015 

For complete, in-depth coverage of the New Car Awards 2015, buy your collector's edition copy of the Auto Express magazine now...  

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