This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest SEAT Leon Hatchback review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

The entry-level engine in the Leon range is the 1.6-litre unit with 102bhp, however despite its modest power output it still musters decent performance and makes the Leon fun to drive. In 2008 a 1.4 TSI engine was launched that, thanks to a turbocharger, produces 125bhp. It’s a superb engine and the pace it delivers belies its small size. The final petrol is a 2.0-litre FSI unit with 150bhp which is smooth and refined but doesn’t feel as enthusiastic as the 1.4 TSI.

In terms of diesels the entry-level engine is the 1.9 TDI with 105bhp – this engine is used in various Volkswagen and SEAT models and although it’s peppy enough it lacks refinement and is quite noisy. The original Ecomotive version of the Leon came with this engine and thanks to engine tweaks, weight saving measures and longer gearing it emits just 119g/km of CO2 (compared to 135g/km in the standard car) while averaging 63mpg.

The other diesel is a 2.0 TDI with 140bhp and this offers the best blend of performance and economy – although like the smaller unit it is quite noisy, especially at high revs. In March 2010 the dated 1.9 TDI was replaced by a much smoother and quieter 1.6 TDI. This is the engine that now powers the upgraded low-emissions Ecomotive model. It accelerates from 0-62mph in a respectable 11.7 seconds and rarely feels sluggish with decent in-gear acceleration, despite longer gear ratios.

The big change is CO2 emissions, which drop to just 99g/km making it free to tax. This is helped by an engine start/stop system which cuts the engine when the car is stationary – such as in traffic – and then automatically starts it again when needed. Economy is impressive too with an average of 74mpg. To confuse things slightly, there is also an Ecomotive Technology model which uses the same engine but emits 109g/km of CO2.

The difference is that, unlike the Ecomotive, there is no limit on optional extras that can be added.

SEAT prides itself on producing sporty and keen handling cars and this is evident in the Leon. The first thing most potential buyers will notice is that the ride is quite firm – especially compared to the Volkswagen Golf on which it’s based, but the trade off is a more focussed feel through corners with little body roll. The steering is nicely weighted too which adds to the reassuring and safe feel.

The 1.6 petrol, 1.9 TDI and Ecomotive models come with five-speed gearboxes, while the larger engines have six-speed manuals as standard – however all the transmissions are slick and positive adding to the driving pleasure. The DSG automatic is excellent. It uses two clutches to deliver super fast changes and provides quicker acceleration than the manual equivalent.

In 2009 the Leon was tweaked to provide a more comfortable ride, but it remains as good in corners and is actually easier to drive quickly yet smoothly.