A good-value Golf hatchback in Spanish garb
- Fuel efficient with low emissions
- Strong performance from all engines
- Plenty of standard equipment
- Fine levels of interior quality
- Angular mirrors increase wind noise
- No sporty trim for less powerful models
- No shortcut buttons on touchscreen media system
- Suspension on the firm side
The third-generation SEAT Leon hatchback is based on the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Golf, as well as the Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia. It comes with a firmer suspension arrangement to reinforce SEAT’s sportier aspirations for its car, and as such is probably the best choice from the Volkswagen Group's family hatchback selection if you're a keen driver.
As well as these in-house alternatives, the SEAT Leon faces stiff competition from the omnipresent Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, as well as the likes of the Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Ceed and Peugeot 308 among many others in this fiercely-fought segment.
Of these options, the car the closest to the SEAT in terms of styling, performance and cost is probably the Ford Focus. This car has been overhauled in 2018, with all-new styling, tech and models, but a new SEAT Leon is expected to appear on the market in 2019, after the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf goes on sale, also in 2019.
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SEAT Leon configurations, tech and equipment updated in 2017
SEAT made the front of the car a little bolder for 2017 with a remodelled bumper and grille, plus revised LED headlights, foglamps and indicators.
Inside the old multimedia system was replaced by an improved unit, with a 5.0- or 8.0-inch screen depending on the trim level. The larger device saw its button count fall to just two, forcing drivers to prod the screen or use the voice control functions to change settings.
The rest of the centre console was shuffled around and an electronic parking brake added, freeing up space for a larger cubby and optional wireless charging pad.
SEAT Leon 5 door hatchback review: safety, engine and specs details
The engine range was also updated – a more powerful version of the 1.6-litre TDI diesel was added and a 115hp 1.0-litre TSI petrol unit that had previously been available in Europe made its way to the UK.
Furthermore, a new upmarket Xcellence Technology trim was added at the top of the range.
SEAT Leon FR and Cupra models
The most powerful Cupra sports models, meanwhile, gained additional power – rising to 300hp – providing rapid acceleration. This car has been developed continuously during the Leon's life, and it is the fastest car SEAT has ever built.
Along with that 300hp power figure is a healthy 380Nm of torque, with this particular model being driven via the front wheels (all-wheel drive is only available on the ST estate) and a six-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox. Consider it a lower-priced alternative to the Volkswagen Golf R.
The SEAT Leon FR is more of a sporting trim level than an out-and-out performance model like the Cupra. Available in higher-powered petrol and diesel forms, the FR combines sporting looks and low running costs, and is a big seller in the range.
SEAT Leon petrol and diesel engine line-up
Taking full advantage of the Volkswagen Group’s cache of engines, the SEAT Leon boasts a wide range of petrol and diesel units.
The 1.0-litre TSI kicks off the six-strong turbocharged petrol range, supplemented by a 1.2-litre motor and a 1.4-litre in two states of tune, plus a 1.8-litre and the sportiest 2.0-litre Cupra versions.
There are three diesels, including the entry-level 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre boasting two power outputs. The former comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, the larger engines have six gears, while all are available with an optional seven-speed DSG automatic.
SEAT Leon passenger and luggage space
The third-generation Leon offers more practicality with a 39-litre larger boot, make a total luggage capacity of 380 litres. The wheelbase is also slightly longer to give more room for rear-seat passengers.
The SEAT Leon is also cheaper than many of its rivals, boasts plenty of standard equipment and comes with a range of fuel efficient, low CO2-emitting engines. Finance rates for the Leon also compare favourably against rivals, with low monthly payments on SEAT’s PCP offer.
The Parkers Verdict
With sharp and sporting styling, upgraded engines and a plusher interior, the SEAT Leon remains a very appealing medium hatchback. Prices are competitive – whether you’re considering purchasing through PCP finance or paying cash where you’ll find large discounts available online.
Throw in a reasonable list of standard kit and a sportier drive than many in this class, and the Leon is one of the best family hatchbacks you can get.