From £14,700
Leon scores with practicality and pricing, if not the sporting looks that wooed previous buyers.

Our Verdict

Seat Leon 5dr hatch

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

26 August 2005

Look familiar? If so, that’s perhaps because this is the third car based on design themes established by Seat’s Salsa concept car, the first two being the Altea and Toledo. But unlike the compact-MPV (Altea) and compact-MPV-plus-boot (Toledo), the new Leon you see here is a regular C-sector hatchback, directly replacing its predecessor of the same name.The previous generation Leon was a rather sporty-looking hatch and sales reflected it - forty percent were hot versions. This car doesn’t look quite so dynamic and, while there’ll be fast new Leons too, with up to 237bhp, they don’t arrive until next year. Even the 183bhp 2.0 TFSI isn’t due until the autumn, so for now, the range kicks off with the cooking versions - 1.6 and 2.0 FSI petrols (101 and 138bhp), and 1.9- and 2.0-litre (104 and 148bhp) turbodiesels.There are hints of sporting intent in the cabin, however. The tactile steering wheel is small and sculpted, the central of three dials is the rev-counter, while the centre console, which houses slightly fiddly heater controls, is angled slightly towards the driver. Fit and finish is largely very good, although few plastics have soft-feel finish.Ergonomically, the Leon is sound. Its driver’s seat and steering wheel are both widely adjustable, allowing anything from low-slung sportiness to an MPV-ish perch. Roominess is also respectable; the front is airy and there’s adequate head- and legroom in the rear. The boot’s long and deep, too.Dynamically, it’s also good. The Leon steers accurately and responsively, corners with less roll than you might expect, offers plentiful grip and rides reasonably well. Road and wind noise are suppressed but there’s apparent engine noise, most notably from the 1.6 and 1.9 TDI; the 2.0 FSI petrol and 2.0 TDI are both more refined. They also get six-speed gearboxes too, rather than the five-speeders of the others, and can be had with six-speed Tiptronic auto (2.0 FSI) or DSG (2.0 TDI).So, the Leon’s an accomplished and spacious car, and reasonably priced too, from £11,295, which is good news for the sixty percent who bought cooking models last time. And even if the Altea-esque styling is off-putting for those awaiting the fast versions, there are hints that they could turn out to be dynamically very decent.

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