Currently reading: Nearly new buying guide: Seat Leon
The likeable Leon is a practical hatch with a sporting bent

The Seat Leon is the fourth piece in the Volkswagen Group family hatch jigsaw, the one with Spanish eyes. It’s the partygoer, although whether you believe it rocks the night away or simply has an early night like its three siblings depends on how seriously you take Seat’s brand positioning. 

It certainly looks the part, with its sharp creases and flowing lines. Inside, though, it’s a bit more subdued, and the quality of some out-of-the-way trim is average. Fortunately, it comes alive with a broad range of mainstream petrol and diesel engines, while beyond these are sporty 2.0-litre engines producing up to 306bhp and found in the Leon Cupra

The Seat Leon arrived in 2013 atop parent company Volkswagen’s new MQB platform and bristling with driver aids and technology. The headlights were full-LED, at least on higher-spec trims – a first in the family hatch class. The three-door Seat Leon SC was also offered, but here we’re concerned with the more practical five-door. 

Click here to buy your next used Leon from Autocar

Today, prices start at around £4000 for a 2014-reg Seat Leon 1.6 TDI with 100,000 miles in entry-level S trim. The 103bhp motor is a workmanlike affair but the mid-power 148bhp Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 150 is more satisfying. An 84,000-mile 2015-reg is £7400. For more poke, there’s the 181bhp Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 184. We found a 2014-reg FR Tech Pack with 117,000 miles for £5995. 

Leon fr 2017 5600

Among the petrols, a 2014-reg Seat Leon 104bhp 1.2 TSI 105 with 80,000 miles is £4250. This engine is adequate for scooting around town but more demanding drivers should aim for the larger Seat Leon 1.4 TSIs with 122bhp and 148bhp outputs. The latter is a more appealing all-rounder than the 148bhp 2.0 TDI and our top choice. 

S trim’s drab 15in steel wheels do little for the Leon’s party animal image so go for friskier SE (leather-covered steering wheel, 16in alloys and hill hold but standard suspension). FR offers a sportier feel. In addition to sports seats and sports suspension it has Drive Profile, offering steering and throttle modes. 


Read our review

Car review

Seat's third-generation Leon is attractive and capable, but it can't quite reach the benchmark set by the imperious Volkswagen Golf

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The Seat Leon facelift came in 2017, bringing a sharper look, restyled lights and more technology. Seat’s Easy Connect system is standard but you have to go to SE Technology to get an 8.0in screen with DAB radio and satnav, or SE Dynamic Technology to get rear parking sensors, which seems mean. Frustrating, too, because the Leon’s stylish lines come at the expense of rearward visibility. A reversing camera is an option, so look out for cars with one. 

Leon fr 2017 5604

Meanwhile, the 1.2 TSI was replaced by a three-cylinder, 113bhp 1.0 TSI 115. It’s a sweet unit and one of our favourites. The VW Group’s new and impressive 1.5 EVO engines in 128bhp and 148bhp outputs replaced the 1.4s, while the powerful 178bhp 1.8 TSI was replaced by the 187bhp 2.0 TSI 190 with a DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard. Paired with Xcellence Technology trim, it’s a million miles from that 1.6 TDI S.

BUYER BEWARE Transmission If it's an automatic check the seven-speed DSG' box changes quietly and smoothly. Tellingly, in Russia and China warranty cover for this unit was extended to five years. It requires fresh fluid and filters every 40,000 miles.

Body Check for condensation in the tail lights (faulty seals are to blame). 

Interior Expect a few trim rattles and buzzes.

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Infotainment During your extended test drive check the sat nav avoids freezing, a known problem.

Electrical Where fitted, there are reports of premature failure of the main MOLL-brand battery. 

Need to know

Leons with less than 148bhp have a semi-rigid rear axle that gives a slightly springy ride; more powerful models such as the Cupra have a fully independent set-up. 

A new Leon, the Mk4, arrives later this year, bearing Seat’s new corporate face. It shares the current car’s MQB platform technology but has a slightly longer wheelbase to give a roomier cabin. There will be no three-door version. Keep your eyes peeled for strong pre-reg deals on run-out examples of the outgoing model. 

Seat’s approved used scheme offers a 12-month warranty and what it calls a ‘full service history check’. Crucially, the latter only claims to verify any Seat dealer servicing and is not a guarantee of full service history.

Our pick 

Leon 1.4 TSI 150 FR Technology: The 148bhp engine is refined, responsive and economical. Add FR Technology’s 17in alloys, LED headlights, bodykit and sports seats and you have a good-value proposition. A 2017-reg with 24,000 miles is £11,500.

Top spec pick

Xcellence Technology: Live it up with lashings of chrome, ambient lighting, leather trim, keyless entry and ignition and convenience packs. A 2017 1.4 TSI 125 XT with 23k miles is £11,400

Wild card

Leon 1.8 TSI 180 FR: The 180 sits plumb in the middle, offering strong in-gear performance and refined cruising, although it can sound strained at higher revs. A 2016 example with 21,000 miles is £12,500.

Leon fr 2017 5601

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Ones we found

2013 Seat Leon 1.2 TSI SE, 57,000 miles, £4200 

2015 Seat Leon 1.6 TDI SE, 86,000 miles, £5995 

2016 Seat Leon 1.4 Eco TSI 150 FR, 65,000 miles, £8040 

2018 Seat Leon 1.2 TSI SE DT, 8000 miles, £10,944

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ettamclean 9 November 2019

Looks so good

Looks so good