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The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

he Seat Leon – the best Volk­swa­gen Golf you can buy,” quipped a col­league. He might have a point. It’s no se­cret that the lat­est Leon uses the same “MQB” plat­form as the Audi A3, Skoda Oc­tavia and the Golf. To many eyes the well-pro­por­tioned Leon is the most hand­some of the lot, es­pe­cially in three-door SC form.

Be­neath the skin, th­ese cars have many in­ter­change­able parts, in­clud­ing en­gines, sus­pen­sion and trans­mis­sion, elec­tron­ics and safety sys­tems.

The 1.4-litre petrol en­gine in this Leon isn’t the more so­phis­ti­cated ACT or COD ver­sion (which de­ac­ti­vates two cylin­ders at speed to save fuel) that’s used in the A3 and Golf, al­though that will be in­tro­duced to the range next year. This less ad­vanced unit is a fine en­gine none­the­less – a touch flat at low revs, but lively once the tur­bocharger gets into its stride.

It sounds good, too, but is pleas­antly muted at speed, which makes you more aware of the dis­ap­point­ingly high level of road noise – some­thing that’s also an is­sue in the Oc­tavia and Golf.

The ride is firm, but the han­dling is good and the steer­ing is re­spon­sive. In all, the Leon feels light, yet com­posed at speed; an ap­peal­ing com­pro­mise be­tween agility and com­fort.

The most dra­matic im­prove­ment in this Leon is in the cabin. There’s now lots of Ger­manic soft-touch plas­tic and a much more so­phis­ti­cated am­bi­ence. The only let-down is the lower part of the cen­tre con­sole, which looks as though it hasn’t been fin­ished yet.

Value for money is tra­di­tion­ally one of Seat’s key strengths, so this is where I tell you the equiv­a­lent Audi or VW costs thou­sands more, right? Not ex­actly. Yes, the Golf 1.4 ACT GT costs £22,795 but, if you’re will­ing to sac­ri­fice a bit of kit and power, the Golf 1.4 TSI 122 is avail­able for about the same price as this Leon. It’s only a small stretch to the A3 1.4 ACT 140 SE, which costs from £20,430.

Which means the A3 costs less than the Golf. And it has by far the nicest cabin of the lot. So al­though the Leon is a very good car, it could well be that my col­league was wrong. The best VW Golf you can buy is prob­a­bly an Audi A3. LW

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