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Company Car choice: SEAT Leon 1.6-litre TDI SE road test

  • Packed with standard equipment
  • Identical platform to the Audi A3 
  • P11d value of £18,435, tax from £40

Written by Simon McBride Published: 27 November 2012 Updated: 14 April 2014

The third generation SEAT Leon is a brilliant package: it does its talking on the road and it also makes financial sense for business drivers. This is the best model the Spanish manufacturer has ever built – it is a step up in class and sophistication.  

Built on the shared MQB Volkswagen Group platform that underpins the third-generation Audi A3 and the seventh-generation VW Golf, the signs look good.

The figures look really appealing for business drivers. For a 20% tax payer it will cost you £40 a month to run this version of the Leon while a 40% tax payer will splash out £80 a month. When comparing this to rivals that looks like a really good deal.

We had the 103bhp 1.6-litre TDI mated to a five-speed gearbox on test. It will reach 62mph from a standing start in 10.7s and has a top speed of 119mph. When nipping in and out of traffic you will have to work the ‘box to complete manoeuvres quickly and safely.

The Leon handles the twisty stuff fairly well. The car feels fairly good to drive, however a Ford Focus feels much more fun when driving enthusiastically on B roads. There is little body lean but the driver never seems to get enough feedback through the steering wheel and you never really feel at one with the car. The ride is a little bit firm so it is best to for the 16-inch alloys.

Our car comes with the XDS electronic differential. This system comes as standard kit on the SE variant. It improves traction when cornering by applying braking force to the inside wheel while turning at speed. This gives you the maximum grip making your drive much more enjoyable.

Jump in and you’ll see that this third generation Leon is much better furnished than any of its predecessors. Standard kit includes SEAT Easy Connect – which is a five-inch colour touchscreen including Bluetooth, SD card reader and USB/AUX-in jacks. That should keep you entertained while on the move.

The cabin is driver focused while the switchgear is more upmarket than before. The plastic feels softer but also seems durable. The rev counter and speedometer have a blue tinge running through them – this gives a tasteful amount of colour to what could have been a selection of bland dials. The seats are comfortable and are fairly well-bolstered although the sides could do with a little more support.

On a practical level the Leon has been enhanced. The engineers have given the Leon a longer wheelbase (+58mm) over the previous generation. This has boosted legroom by 14mm while the boot capacity has increased by 39 litres to a capacity of 380 litres.

There is an Achilles heel, though. When comparing to the Audi A3 and the VW Golf the Leon is just not as refined. Diesel clatter can be heard at idle and pulling away. The angular wing mirrors may look good but their shape means that they catch the wind and create a lot of noise when at motorway speed.

The SEAT Leon has matured into a well-rounded hatchback. It may not have the prestige of a VW or an Audi, however it is an attractive option and is sure to woo business drivers looking to save money but still wanting to drive a VW Group-built car.  

Also consider:

Vauxhall Astra

One of the most popular engines on the Astra line-up is the 1.3-litre CDTi ecoFLEX, boasting good average fuel economy and relatively low emissions.

Toyota Auris

An uninspiring design it may be but the statistics tell you it makes good financial sense. It’s not going to wow your colleagues when you pull into the car park.  

Honda Civic

The overall award winner in the 2012 Parkers Cost of Motoring Awards was the Civic 1.4 i-VTEC SE 5dr. This was on the basis that if offered more than any other in terms of value, practicality and equipment.