A recent holiday allowed me to test a car I have been curious about for a while now. SEAT, positioned as the sportier arm of the Volkswagen Group, to me has long held a more interesting prospect than the staid Volkswagen models and the ubiquitous value-driven Skoda cars. The latest design language on the SEAT range is sharp and angular with clean lines. The Leon is SEAT’s medium family option and the ST model adds the practicality of a Sports Tourer body without sacrificing the hatchback’s good looks.
This model came with the 150bhp 2.0 litre TDI engine mated to the VAG DSG automatic gearbox. The power unit gives plenty of low and mid-range torque, with good solid practical performance which allows for swift progress and decent overtaking shove. It’s not going to set the world on fire but for the target audience of this car, the engine is perfect. The DSG box is slick, with quick changes and sports mode holds onto the gears longer, revs higher and livens up the drivetrain considerably. The one downside, as has been documented widely, is that when this gearbox is deployed with the auto-start stop that’s used in this car, quick acceleration from a stop is sometimes difficult. This is particularly acute when pulling out at roundabouts. It takes a couple of tenths of a second to fire up the engine, and pull away. This may not sound like much but when going for a gap from a standing start, the delay feels much longer.
Out on the road, the Leon rides and handles well, with what i’d consider better than average body roll. The dash is clean, logical and the white/red colour scheme on dash illumination looks crisp and sporty at night. The infotainment system is intuitive although the Sat Nav is clunky and less intuitive than modern mobile phone navigation apps. In general, the interior is typically functional of the VAG models, and more low rent than the likes of VW and Audi which is to be expected at this price point. The steering wheel is ergonomically fine with a good rim thickness. Boot space and leg room are excellent and should prove popular with the target market. Overall i enjoyed using the Leon ST and would certainly consider purchasing it with my own money.
Verdict: Leon provides a sharply styled alternative to the usual family hatchbacks and compact estates. Its excellent drivetrain and lightly sporty handling characteristics make it a really attractive proposition for families needing practicality.
The Good: Engine, gearbox, cool dash illumination
The Bad: Frustrating Sat Nav
The Ugly: That momentary panic as roundabout traffic threatens to broadside you while the auto start-stop wakes itself up