Evolving a design language that can be applied to all your models is one thing, but by creating three distinct ranges – Leon, Altea and Altea XL – and making them all look like different sized versions of the same thing is, we feel, a bit excessive from Seat.
Don’t misunderstand us, we think the Leon is a fine-looking car. But we wonder whether people are going to believe in its sporting credentials when it looks so much like its sisters, both of which are variations on the MPV theme.
Leons, however hot, are only available with five doors, although with the rear door handles sunk into the rear three-quarter windows it has an almost coupé-like profile. Cupra R models take this further with tinted rear windows and polished black pillars to help the impression of an unbroken window line.
Other styling details unique to the Cupra R are the 19-inch alloys, black door mirror casings, different bodywork front and rear and twin centre rear exhausts. This is sufficient to give the Cupra a sense of purpose and make the connection to Seat’s successful motorsport campaign, but it’s still not enough to distance it from the similarly shaped Altea MPV.
The Leon’s sloping A-pillars, thick C-pillars and narrow rear window make for less-than-adequate all-round visibility.
The key engineering tweak Seat brought along with the mid-life changes to the Leon was the introduction of a kind of electronic limited-slip differential for the performance models, similar to the systems used in the Alfa Romeo Mito and Golf GTI.
XDS works together with the ESP (now standard across the range), and uses electronics to brake either of the driven wheels if it loses traction, while diverting the engine’s torque to the other driven wheel, giving a similar effect to a mechanical limited-slip differential.