It’s now 15 years since the original Seat
Leon went into production as the first family hatchback since the Spanish company was taken over by the Volkswagen Group.
I remember that original Leon with some affection. A colleague had it as a company car and, on some occasions, I would be handed the keys. It was a pleasure to drive with its combination of style and practicality, with a hint of Latin sporty panache.
A year ago the all-new third generation Leon was launched as a five-door hatchback – it could hardly look more different from that original that I remember so well.
Where the first Leon was quite rounded and curvaceous, the new Seat Leon is so sharp that anyone with a paper-cut phobia is likely to stand well clear.
Seat said at the time of the five-door hatchback launch, that the new Leon would spawn a family of models. This summer the first additional model appeared – the Seat Leon SC, a three door hatchback with a coupé style. It is a reasonable assumption that the SC monicker is meant to signify sports coupe.
Although it carries forward the style of the five-door, the new SC is substantially different.
The wheelbase is 35mm shorter than the five-door (but longer than the previous Leon) the roof line is fractionally lower to give it a more sporty look and the tailgate is 19 degrees more sloped to give it a more rakish coupé look. Finally the rear wheel arches bulge a bit more, to add to the muscular, sporting appearance.
Under the body is the Volkswagen group’s MQB modular platform which underpins so many of the Volkwagen Group’s latest offerings. One of its particular virtues, in the models I have driven, is refinement.
Accommodation is good. Inevitably there is a bit less room in the back, but then that is exactly why Seat offer the five-door Leon – to suit those who need more passenger space.
The interior is well designed, with the no-nonsense Volkswagen approach having been given a dash of Seat individuality. It’s well equipped, with a full-colour touch screen and steering wheel controls. FR models add a control to adjust the steering effort for city driving, but I found the steering fine for city use in the standard setting.
The boot will swallow 380 litres of luggage with the rear seats up, 1,150 litres with them folded down.
As you would expect with any new mainstream car, good economy and low emissions have been a top priority. You can just imagine how hard the development team worked to ensure that the Seat Leon SC 1.6 TDI would come in under 100g/km. They succeeded and, at 99 g/km this model achieves Band A for UK road meaning your tax disc is free.
I drove several models of the new Seat Leon SC, but the first one created a lasting impression. It was the range-topping Seat Leon FR 2.0 TDI.
What impressed most was the combination of performance and refinement. The engine is very willing and spins freely up to the 5,000 rpm red line. You don’t feel, as you do on some diesels, like you are having to constantly coax more performance from it. Just touch the accelerator and it responds.
I know I am over-sensitive to the sonorous drone of a diesel engine. At least, I assume I must be, because no-one else seems to complain about it as much as I do!
The good news is that it was only when doing a lot of low gear work on country roads that I could detect the faint drone of the diesel. Once the revs rise, the engine note sounds remarkably sporty and pleasant.
On good surfaces, the ride is excellent but can be a little busy on poorer roads, with the body always on the move.
The official combined mpg for the Seat Leon FR 2.0 TDI is 67.3 mpg. But as a real-world figure for both city and country motoring I thought my 41 mpg was pretty good.
I then switched to the Seat Leon 1.8 TSI . It’s a testament to the quality of the 2.0 TDI that it didn’t feel hugely more responsive than the diesel.
But the engine note is very different. It sounds more urgent, with a sporting rasp to the exhaust note. Especially if you put it into sport setting on the 7-DSG speed gearbox.
If your budget is smaller, the good news is that the Seat Leon SC 1.4 TFSI does not feel like the poor man’s choice.
It has similar levels of refinement and performance at a keener price and I reckon my real-life 37 mpg for a mixture of city and country driving is pretty creditable.
All the FR models have the ability to set driver profiles to Normal, Sport (which adjusts the engine, gearbox, steering and climate system to sport and changes ambient lighting to red), Eco or Personal. The latter allows you to store your own personalised preferences.
For the technophiles, one of the headlines for the Leon SC is that you can specify LED headlights with the £500 technology pack. They have six LEDs for low beam, plus an additional three for the high beams.
As well as using 50% less power than Xenon lights, the LEDs have a colour profile that is very close to daylight, which is ideal for our vision.SpecificationsSeat Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI
CO2 emissions 109 g/km
VED band B
Combined mpg 67.3
0-62 mph 7.4 secs
Top speed 142 mph
£22,020Seat Leon SC FR 1.8 TSI
CO2 emissions 132 g/km DSG, 137 g/km manual
VED band E
Combined mpg 49.6 DSG, 47.1 manual
0-62 mph 7.1 secs DSG, 7.4 secs manual
Top speed 139 mph
£20,110 (£21,750 with DSG gearbox)Seat Leon SC FR 1.4 TSI
CO2 emissions 119 g/km
Combined mpg 54.3
0-62 8.2 secs
Top speed 131 mph