13 May 2005

Seat’s sexy new Leon made its first public appearance at the Barcelona Motor Show last week. The standard car, with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines, arrives this September, but the hot FR and Cupra versions that account for 44 per cent of sales in Britain won’t follow until next year.

When it arrives, the Cupra will meet the forthcoming 240bhp Vauxhall Astra VXR head-on, with a boost from the current Cupra’s 222bhp to around 240bhp. The styling was previewed by the Leon Prototype concept car revealed at March’s Geneva Motor Show.

The Leon is the third and final of a triumvirate of radically styled Seats, which started with the the Altea midi-MPV and continued with the slightly bigger Toledo. The sleeker Leon will only be built in five-door form, although Seat design centre’s British boss Steve Lewis and his team have moved the rear door handle into the bodywork in an attempt to emphasise the car’s sportiness.

At 4135 long, the new car is 131mm longer than the outgoing Leon, while width is up 26mm and height 19mm at 1768 and 1458mm respectively, all of which makes for improved interior space. Safety kit includes six airbags as standard, with another two optional, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, and ESP stability control.

The four engines coming from launch are 101bhp 1.6 and 148bhp 2.0-litre petrols, and 104bhp 1.9 and 136bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesels, all from within the VW group. The warm FR will get the Golf GTi’s 2.0-litre 197bhp turbo and an as-yet unspecified diesel when it arrives early next year. The full-on Leon Cupra will be powered by a 240bhp version of the FR’s petrol engine, and should ride on 18-inch wheels, while the standard cars will have 16s.

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