This facelifted third generation SEAT Leon is a Focus-sized model that now offers smarter styling, improved media connectivity, extra safety provision and some fresh new engine options. If you'd been overlooking it, this Spanish contender might now be worth a second glance.
Under the bonnet, things are much as before, though there has been a change at the foot of the petrol range where a 1.0-litre TSI three-cylinder 115PS unit slots in above the existing 1.2-litre TSI 110PS four-cylinder powerplant. Other petrol engine options include a 1.4-litre TSI unit with 125PS and a 1.4 EcoTSI variant with 150PS efficient Cylinder-on-Demand technology. As before, Cupra versions get the 2.0 TSI petrol engine from the Golf GTI, but in an uprated form developing up to 300PS. Most Leon buyers though, will want a diesel. Here again at the foot of the range there's a fresh option, a 115PS version of the VW Group's familiar 1.6-litre TDI unit. Above that sit the usual 2.0-litre TDI units, offered with either 150 or 184PS. When it comes to gearboxes, the range includes five or six-speed manual options, all well as double-clutch DSG auto 'boxes with six or seven-speeds.
To drive, this improved Leon will respond much like its predecessor. SEATs always tend to feel a bit sportier than the Volkswagens they're based upon and this one should be no different. Indeed, the pokier variants further up the range really relish a good flogging. This car is based on the same MQB platform that undergirds VW's Golf, Audi's A3 and Skoda's Octavia and produces enough torsional stiffness to allow this model to combine a supple ride with firm body control. Go for a variant with more than 150PS and it'll also come with multilink rear suspension for a better ride and handling balance: it's a pity that more Leon variants don't get this.
As before, Leon buyers choose from either a five-door hatch, an 'ST' estate model or an 'SC' three-door coupe. In all three cases, SEAT says that visual style was one of the key reasons why people bought the original version of this car, so it wasn't necessary with this facelifted version to change the aesthetics too much. A few tweaks though, have been made. At the front and rear, there are revised bumpers and bodywork with sharper, more assertive lines, plus there's a smarter chromed front grille.
Inside, the ambient lighting LEDs' intensity can be regulated as the driver wishes from the newly redesigned eight-inch central infotainment screen. This monitor eliminates the need for many of the buttons and dials that were scattered around the fascia on the previous model. From this monitor, the LED ambient lighting of the cabin can be dimmed or intensified, giving the interior a classy feel. Otherwise, things are much as they were before, which means that passenger space is very class-competitive and there's a decently sized 380-litre boot in the hatch model. If you need more space than that, the ST estate offers 587-litres.
This Leon remains a strong but often overlooked contender in the family hatchback segment and it's been usefully improved in this facelifted guise. Buyers will appreciate the smarter safety and improved media connectivity and the 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine is a unit that many diesel buyers ought to have looked at first.
As for the wider Leon range, well whether there really is 'Latin spirit in every one' is another question of course. In the case of sportier versions like the FR models, we'd be tempted to say yes. Overall, on a pure value-versus-quality basis, this Leon has long been the pick of the Volkswagen Group offerings in this sector. And that also makes it one of the key segment benchmarks outside the Wolfsburg family of brands. Which in turn, makes it a very good car indeed.Click here to find out more about our SEAT Leon range