What is it?
It may be the cheapest model in the range, and a keenly priced base version at that, but this third-generation Leon can crack 62mph in 10 seconds dead, return a claimed 57.6mpg and cruise motorways as quietly as cars costing £10,000 more.
What is it like?
A wheelbase stretch, a 90kg cut from its kerb weight, cleaner aerodynamics, more rear headroom and a bigger boot are useful advances, too, as is a new, better-looking cabin that’s fashioned from higher-grade materials. The only downside is that our S-trim car looks monochromatically dour even against a still-lacklustre SE trim.
But this mild disappointment is hardly a deal breaker, especially when you discover that even this starter model provides air-con and Bluetooth as standard, along with a colour multimedia screen, seven airbags and remote stereo controls. Add optional alloy wheels and you’re away.
Leons of 150bhp or less sit on a torsion beam rear axle, and over a savagely uneven road the Leon serves impressive directional stability, good body control and a feeling of terrific robustness. Sharper bumps are absorbed less well but it rarely turns uncomfortable. The steering is light and far from feelsome, but its accuracy and consistent weighting allow easy exploitation of tidy if unremarkable handling.
Should I buy one?
All of which adds up to an appealing budget package, especially with that willing turbo 1.2 to drive behind, in a car that has been usefully improved in almost every direction.
Seat Leon 1.2 S
Price: £15,670; 0-62mph: 10.0sec; Top speed: 119mph; Economy: 57.6mpg (combined); CO2: 114g/km; Kerb weight: 1198kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1197cc, turbo, petrol; Power: 104bhp at 4500-5500rpm; Torque: 129lb ft at 1400-4000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual