The third-generation Seat Leon has greater strategic importance for Seat than either of its older namesakes. Not so long ago, Volkswagen’s Spanish outpost made plenty of larger and more expensive models than its conventional Golf-sized family hatchback, such as Alteas, Altea XLs, bustle-back Toledos and the like.
Now, after the introduction of the Mii city car and the new Toledo in particular, the company’s portfolio is both simpler and cheaper. A stronger portfolio means a change in customer relationships, too, and Seat expected the Leon to overtake the outgoing Ibiza as its best-selling model over the next few years to become a flagship car for the brand. Although that balance has been redressed somewhat by the emergence of the new, class-leading Seat Ibiza.
Cutting the old Seat Leon ties
The Leon's increased significance to Seat has wrought extra distinctiveness and obvious new qualities from the car. Compared with the previous Leon hatchback, the current one is appealingly sharp-suited, richer and more practical, more technologically sophisticated, lighter, more powerful and more efficient.
Such a transformation is a major undertaking and a major success for a car company affected more than most by the Eurozone’s financial meltdown. This is also the first Leon to be available in a range of bodystyles: as a regular five-door hatch, a three-door ‘SC’ coupé, a longer five-door ‘ST’ estate or as the more-rugged X-Perience.
Part of the Leon’s advancement is attributable to the platform that underpins it. This is the first Seat to benefit from the Volkswagen Group’s ‘Modularer Querbaukasten’ or MQB platform, the pioneering mechanical component set that makes for unprecedented cost-saving commonality between this car and the Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia.
It isalso being used to form the basis of the VW Group’s next generation of superminis, compact 4x4s and saloons, which has seen the Ateca and Arona built on the same foundations. That’s how the MQB underpinnings have made the Leon’s business case stronger, but it has also had an influence on the new car’s kerb weight and its major dimensions. Weight ranges from 1198kg to 1345kg in the standard hatchback, depending on engine and specification, and from 1189kg to 1350kg in the SC.
A more space-efficient under-bonnet layout has allowed 58mm to be added to the wheelbase at the same time as 52mm being taken out of overall length. The three-door SC shrinks by a further 32mm. In theory, those space-saving measures make for more passenger room as well as better ride and handling.