New 2017 SEAT Leon facelift brings big tech upgrades

SEAT is focusing on technology with the 2017 SEAT Leon updates but visual tweaks and a new engine also arrive

SEAT is on the offensive. Hot on the heels of the Ateca landing in UK showrooms, the Spanish manufacturer has introduced an updated version of the Leon. The hatchback now features new engines, added safety tech and minor visual updates, with the Golf rival going on sale in the UK in February. Prices will be announced closer to the car’s launch but should hover around the current car’s £17,400 starting price. 

The updates spread across the entire Leon range with the five-door hatch and ST estate arriving first, followed by the three-door SC, rugged X-Perience and range-topping Cupra models.

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As we’ve come to expect from mid-life updates visual change are minor. Dr Matthias Rabe, vice president for research and design told Auto Express: “If you look to the design you might say there is not a big change, and you’d be right. We really concentrated on the technology and we wanted to modify the car with small steps.” 

A reshaped front bumper now features a grille that has been stretched by 40mm, while three new exterior colours and alloy wheel designs are now available. Inside, SEAT has taken greater steps to improve the quality of the Leon. New door cards, seat upholsteries, electric handbrake and ambient lighting have all been added, while SEAT has also introduced a new flagship XCELLENCE trim level that sits parallel to sporty FR models but focuses more on luxury.

Changes continue under the bonnet, with SEAT introducing a new 115bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo for the first time. It’s the same engine that’s available in the Audi A3 and VW Golf; all cars use the same MQB chassis technology. Another new arrival is a 115bhp version of the 1.6-litre diesel. Like before gearbox options include five- and six-speed manuals, along with a DSG auto. 

New SEAT Ateca Cupra spotted

As for the Cupra variants, no official announcement has been made with regards to performance updates but SEAT has said it will arrive next year ‘complete with its own surprises’. That could means a small bump in power from the 2.0-litre turbo to bring the Cupra inline with the 296bhp Golf R. 

From launch the updated Leon will be offered in five trims: S, SE Dynamic, SE Technology, FR and XCELLENCE. With the exception of entry-level models, all Leon’s now come with a larger eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with fewer buttons that replaces the smaller 6.5-inch unit.

The Leon also now benefits from a raft of tech first seen on the Ateca, with wireless phone charging, Traffic sign Recognition and Traffic Jam Assist now available, which is able to bring the car to a complete stop before continuing automatically when the traffic begins to flow. Smartphone tech such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are already available on the current model.  

Q&A with SEAT Vice President for R&D, Dr Matthais Rabe

Will the SEAT Leon always remain the key pillar in SEAT’s product lineup?

“We are quite sure the Leon will have the majority of the volume, it will be the backbone and will remain the most important model line to SEAT.”

SEAT looks to be a little behind with EV development is that the case? 

"I can tell you that we are looking very careful into the future. We already had a test fleet of electric cars, but the point is today a hybrid car for SEAT would be too expensive, probably adding more than €10,000 for the customer. Therefore we have plans for electric cars and it will not just be one, there will be more to follow plus a hybrid, but not within the next two years."

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