Seat's third-generation Leon is attractive and capable, but it can't quite match the best this class can offer
First DriveThe introduction of a new petrol engine reinforces the idea that the facelifted Seat Leon is the best cheap family hatchback around
First DriveHigh-spec new Titanium FR trim is temptingly good value, particularly on the semi-enthusiastic 1.4 EcoTSI petrol
What is it?
Ken Livingstone might be out of kilter with the rest of us - he’s just pulled a shocking handbrake turn on plans to let low-polluters like this Leon Ecomotive into London for free - but European manufacturers are still striving to get frugal, low carbon models onto the market. Ultra frugal models are good for our wallets and their brand image
This Leon is Seat’s second environmental model since the 99g/km CO2 Ibiza Ecomotive launched last year, and it follows a familiar emissions-slashing formula.
Starting with the basic 1.9-litre diesel Leon (with its 135g/km CO2 emissions and 55mpg average) Seat’s engineers optimised the ECU and adjusted the gear ratios to make third, fourth and fifth gear longer. That saved 7g/km CO2. Next they reduced weight by fitting lighter steel wheels rather than alloys. Another 5g/km saved. Lastly low rolling resistance tyres were added, cutting a further 4g/km CO2.
That leaves 119g/km CO2, squeezing the Leon Ecomotive into cheap company car and road tax brackets and offering a 62.8mpg combined fuel economy.
What’s it like?
Initially we scoffed at that fuel consumption figure, but then managed an impressive real-world 60mpg on our test drive. And the Ecomotive's hardly a stripped out model, it's still got air-conditioning, electric windows and a six-speaker stereo.
It’s also faster than the standard 104bhp Leon - managing 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds rather than 11 - because it’s lighter.
The downside is the way it drives. Longer gears mean the Ecomotive delivers power smoothly but unenthusiastically and its now unhappy to settle into fifth at speeds below 60mph. Pitch up to a corner quickly and the low-resistance tyres struggle for grip, too.
Then there’s the price - around £14,500 – a £1000 premium over the similarly equipped, 1.9-litre diesel Leon Reference.
Should I buy one?
You'd have to do a lot of miles to make up that difference in fuel cost, especially now these sub-120 grammers won't be congestion charge free. So £1000 to save 16g/km CO2 might be a premium worth paying for the seriously eco-concious, but only for a piece of the moral highground.