Good-look­ing Leon with a touch of verve

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - SEAT LEON

Keith Ward SEAT of Spain is cel­e­brat­ing 60 years as a car­maker, orig­i­nally col­lab­o­rat­ing with Fiat, but now part of Volk­swa­gen.

The Leon is fast emerg­ing from the shadow of its VW Group sta­ble­mates which share its ba­sic plat­form – the Golf, Audi A3 and lat­est Skoda Oc­tavia. It is the Leon which con­tin­ues to pick up me­dia and con­sumer awards and at the wheel it is not dif­fi­cult to see why. It played a part in SEAT UK sell­ing nearly 8,500 cars in Septem­ber this year – more than in any other month in the Span­ish sub­sidiary’s 28year his­tory on th­ese shores.

It fol­lows a record full year in 2012, fig­ures surely ow­ing some­thing also to the brand’s vig­or­ous mar­ket­ing deals and com­pet­i­tive pric­ing, which tends to un­der­cut that of its VW sib­lings. An ST es­tate ver­sion of the Leon has re­cently joined the three-door SC and the five-door hatch sam­pled here. For the five- door, a choice of three petrol and three diesel en­gines and three lev­els of trim pitch prices be­tween £15,670 and £22,375. Ours was the mid-rated but punchy 150 PS, 2.0-litre diesel, tar­geted to ac­count for three out of 10 cus­tomers. Top FR trim adds such as ex­clu­sive badg­ing, LED tail lights, twin chrome ex­haust, 17-inch al­loys, tinted rear win­dows, sports seats with red-stitched up­hol­stery and steer­ing wheel to match, alu­minium door sills, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, sports sus­pen­sion, up­graded eight-speaker au­dio with DAB-equipped ra­dio (which still does not work in a third of the UK) and front and rear park­ing sen­sors. In ad­di­tion, our sam­ple came with op­tions in­clud­ing Nav­i­ga­tion, LED head­lights, even big­ger 18-inch al­loys, skinny spare wheel, au­to­matic wipers and lights, heated front seats and head­lamp wash­ers, rais­ing the price from £21,265 to £22,410.

The Leon FR looks good in­side and out, marred slightly by a hand­brake lever off-set along­side the pas­sen­ger seat. On the road it feels high on driver ap­peal. Sus­pen­sion, steer­ing and throt­tle re­sponse can be al­tered via the FR “drive pro­file” to suit your mood and driv­ing style. There’s a nice enough verve to the 150 PS unit, yet it re­turned over 50 mpg in our hands and its low CO2 rat­ing is tax friendly – a free VED disc the first year, then only £20 an­nu­ally af­ter that. Those want­ing ex­tra power can step up to the 184 PS diesel. A fixed rear bench seat is de­signed for three, but the mid­dle pas­sen­ger has to strad­dle a cen­tral floor tun­nel.

The boot is com­mend­ably wider and deeper than av­er­age for its class, but the rear seat­backs drop for­ward to form a slop­ing, rather than flat, ex­ten­sion to the floor, with an awk­ward step in it.

The hard rear par­cel shelf does not raise high enough on its sus­penders with the hatch open, so it can catch your fore­head when you reach in to load your shop­ping.

How­ever, the grow­ing army of SEAT fans will find the Leon’s pros far out­weigh­ing the cons. Due for de­liv­ery in Jan­uary 2014 a new Leon Eco­mo­tive ver­sion emit­ting only 87 g/km, so VED-free, from a 1.6 diesel with spe­cial gear­ing. From £19,360.

POP­U­LAR CHOICE: The SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS five-door hatch­back.

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