Seat Leon (2013-present): Review, Problems and Specs

The latest SEAT Leon is a dramatic styling departure from its rounded predecessor, relying more on angles and sharp creases to attract visual attention. It’s easily the sportiest looking and most flamboyant VW Golf-sized vehicle to be underpinned by the MQB platform.

Reviews so far say it’s a good all rounder that has many of the qualities we’ve come to expect from VW Group cars: good interior, strong range of engines and the promise of decent reliability.

The Leon is special among Golf-sized VW group cars as it’s the only one that in three-door form is offered with a shorter wheelbase. The Leon SC looks very coupe-like, and you don’t even have to opt for the full Cupra model to get sporty driving kicks, as the 180 hp turbo gasoline engine is more than apt to make it fun.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • Sharp styling
  • Interior ergonomics
  • Crisp handling
  • Wide range of engines
  • Keen pricing

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • Only high-spec models get independent rear suspension
  • Engines are less refined than in the equivalent VW

Stay Away From
  • pre-2015 1.2 TSI engine
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • some issues with 1.2 TSI engine in pre-2015 cars
Car Details
Powertrain

The LEON can be had with pretty much the same power plants as its VW group stablemates. All but the slightly problematic 1.2-liter TSI are recommendable, and either gearbox option is a good way to go.

The range of engines caters for everybody from the serial penny pincher who focuses mainly on economy to the boy racer who likes to take corners at tire-screeching speeds, as well as everybody in between.

You really can’t go wrong with any unit on offer, just so long as you know what kind of power / economy balance will suit you best.


Handling

There’s hardly any difference between the Leon and the VW Golf or Skoda Octavia in terms of the way they drive. Handling and road holding are improved, just like in the case of the aforementioned models, if you specify the optional independent rear suspension; this also has a positive impact on ride comfort.

The Leon is safe, has accurate steering and a great driving position. Unless you go for the sportier FR+ or Cupra models, though, you won’t really be able to call it fun to drive; it’s a middle-of-the-road proposition in this respect, beaten by the likes of Ford’s Focus or the Mazda3.


Safety

The Leon was awarded five stars by Euro NCAP, although it was tested back in 2012 when the requirements to achieve top marks were lower. Even so, the fact that its adult occupant rating is a high 94 percent, and that for children is an equally impressive 92 percent should still offer piece of mind.

Comfort

The latest Leon is larger inside than its predecessor with the use of the MQB platform from VW. All cars with at least 150 hp get independent suspension at the back, while all lesser powered versions feature cheaper a semi-rigid setup.


Quality

The Leon is clearly a VW group product, more so than its predecessor in terms of fit and finish. It looks and feels more grown up inside, and while it’s noticeably less plush-feeling than its VW counterpart, the gap is not as big as with the previous generations.

Overall, any Leon, regardless of spec and trim feels like a quality product; a good value-for-money proposition.


Practicality

Since SEAT offers the Leon in three distinct body styles, it can be as practical as you need it to be. Obviously, the person looking for a load lugger can opt for the ST estate, while those who only need to transport themselves and the occasional passenger, the SC three-door is best.

The ST can accommodate up to 587 liters in its trunk with the rear seats up, and up to 1,470 liters with them folded. The SC and regular five-door hatch each have 380 liters.

Carrying capacity aside, all current Leons have decent practicality and some say they even beat VW’s own effort in term of ergonomics. For instance, the infotainment screen is placed higher and better than in either the Golf or Octavia.


Infotainment

Buyers of the Leon get a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system which is basically standard VW fare, but with SEAT logo pasted over. The base screen is okay, but it’s really the larger optional 6.5-inch unit that you want - like in other VW products, it senses your hand approaching the screen and shows relevant menus even before you touch it.

Efficiency

You can buy variants of Leon that are purely efficiency-minded, like the 1.6 TDI Ecomotive, which can be had with either a six-speed manual or DSG self-shifter. Manual versions return a claimed average of 3.6 l/100km, while the automatic promises 4.1 l/100km; putting the same powertrain combos in the ST will add another around 0.2 l/100km to the figure.


Equipment

Standard kit for any Leon is decent, but lags somewhat behind what some rivals (especially Japanese) are offering. It includes powered front windows, powered and heated mirrors, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, the five-inch infotainment that also comes with buttons on the steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, manual air con and steel wheels.

You can spec your Leon up, though, with alloys up to 18 inches, snazzy LED headlamps and tail lamps, two zone climate control and even a drive mode selector that allows the user to switch between comfort and sport.

Cupra variants gain mechanical upgrades too, like limited-slip diffs, beefed up brakes and suspension setups, on top of very subtle exterior and interior changes. A Leon Cupra can have up to 290 hp, yet you wouldn’t really tell just by looking at its understated interior, even if it’s complete with SEAT’s sporty bits bolted on.


Acquisition

The Leon should definitely be on your compact family car radar. It can be had in three distinct body styles with three distinct characters, so it thus addresses a very wide audience: from fleet managers looking for frugal runabouts for their reps, to enthusiasts seeking a very talented but not-so-in-your-face hot hatchback; you can even get a crossover variant based on the ST, if you’re into raised estates with extra plastic body cladding.

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