From £14,7007
Super-frugal Leon offers headline-grabbing fuel economy and CO2 emissions, but at the cost of refinement and ride quality

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

What is it?

The most efficient version of the Seat Leon ever produced. It's based on the current 1.6-litre TDI diesel model, with power increased to 108bhp over the 104bhp of the standard car, but the same 184lb ft of torque.

Changes to this super-frugal version include suspension that has been lowered by 15mm over the normal Leon, to help cut drag by ten per cent, and a unique grille. The new Leon also benefits from a kerb weight that's some 90kg lighter than the older Leon Ecomotive.

Other fuel-saving measures include special low rolling resistance tyres and an extra gear, with this model featuring a six-speed manual transmission in place of the regular 1.6-litre TDI's five-speed 'box.

All those changes help this Leon to achieve headline-grabbing economy figures of up to 85.6mpg on a combined cycle, and emissions of 87g/km of CO2. That means the Ecomotive costs nothing to tax and is an appealing proposition to company car drivers.

Among the Leon's competition is the VW Golf Bluemotion, which returns 88.3mpg and 85g/km of CO2 – but it costs more than the £19,660 Leon, at £20,055.

What's it like?

Quite frugal. While we didn't quite manage to reach Seat's claimed 85.6mpg on a combined cycle we did see over 50mpg following our test, and we have no doubt you'd start to see the difference on repeat longer motorway journeys.

The Leon's 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine pulls well from low down, but it's a noisy engine and at speed it's noticeably intrusive - a matter not helped by there also being plenty of wind and tyre noise.

One issue is as a result of the Ecomotive's very long gear ratios. It's not difficult to bog the engine down, especially when moving off or accelerating on an incline.

While the Leon handles well about town thanks to quick and accurate steering - which is admittedly devoid of any real feedback - the ride quality of this frugal hatchback suffers due to its lowered suspension.

Pleasingly very little has been altered in the Leon's cabin. That means it benefits from an ergonomic layout and decent build quality. It might not be the flashiest interior out there, but it's functional and comfortable for both drivers and passengers.

The Leon Ecomotive comes with a decent level of standard equipment including cruise control, air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and Seat's touch-screen infotainment system. All of that is further boosted by a free Technology Pack upgrade which adds LED headlights, a DAB radio and sat-nav.

Should I buy one?

Probably not – because in reality the sacrifices made for the Ecomotive's extra 11.3mpg over the standard 1.6-litre TDI Leon come at a high price.

Refinement really takes a hit at speed, as does ride quality about town, and in order to benefit from the Leon's extra frugality you either have to cover plenty of motorway miles or have very sharp eco-driving skills.

We're not sure whether the £990 premium for the Ecomotive model over the standard car is really good value either, especially when the standard model can already return a claimed 74.3mpg on a combined cycle, alongside CO2 emissions of 99g/km.

For private buyers, that's likely where the argument will end, and for our money we'd stick with the 1.6 TDI diesel.

Company car drivers, who might additionally benefit from the Ecomotive's extra range, will pay just fractionally less per month than the standard car on a 20 per cent rate.

Small differences, then, and ultimately a question of how much refinement you're willing to trade in for a potentially minimal improvement in economy.

Seat Leon Ecomotive

Price £19,660; 0-62mph 10.4sec; Top speed 122mph; Economy 85.6mpg; CO2 87g/km; Kerb weight 1260kg; Engine 1598cc, four-cylinder, diesel; Power 108bhp at 3200rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
12

29 April 2014
Sounds like a pointless car.

Ignoring the refinement penalties, the increased cost of purchase offsets any economy benefit

29 April 2014
Typical of a modern eco-special now, intolerable to drive and poor real world fuel economy. Frankly 50mpg is awful - it's 40% down on the official figures! I wonder if the standard 1.6 TDI could actually produce *better* figures for some drivers? Not to mention being a better car to drive.

The new EU testing regime can't come quick enough.

29 April 2014
autocar wrote:

Quite frugal. While we didn't quite manage to reach Seat's claimed 85.6mpg on a combined cycle we did see over 50mpg following our test,

That's not that impressive. I get that out of my C4 no problems, without any of the eco gubbins or stop/start. Even my mate's Passat estate 1.6tdi gets that on a regular basis

29 April 2014
Darren wrote the whole article on this eco special from Seat without once mentioning the class-leading Peugeot 308 that is not only cheaper to buy even its estate version is cleaner than Leon.

29 April 2014
I think they must treat the cars throttle like an on/off switch on these tests like they nicked off with mummies car for the first time at 17.

I had an old mk2 ecomotive for a week as a courtesy car and over the same journeys I averaged 63mpg over the same journey I got 49mpg out of my 2.0PD TDI DSG Sport. That was driving completely normally and not eco in anyway which still short of the official wasnt bad for a genuine 63 (at the pumps not trip). The gearing wasnt great, used to stall if you tried pulling away in 2nd when rolling.

The wife has a C4 Picasso now which is meant to do into the 70s. She mainly drives it from one side of town to the other during the week (hardly getting up to temp) but is still averaging 49mpg. Without trying on longer mixed journeys you can get 60mpg and ive even managed into the 70s on a long mixed journey (though really really trying).

God knows what they do on their tests to get these crap figures.

29 April 2014
If the figures were taken from the same drive as those pictures its easy to see why the MPG is as low as it is. Driving in heavy rain and on wet roads always has an affect on the economy.

29 April 2014
bobbyanderson wrote:

If the figures were taken from the same drive as those pictures its easy to see why the MPG is as low as it is. Driving in heavy rain and on wet roads always has an affect on the economy.

The pictures are of a 99g/km model......

29 April 2014
I wouldn't call 'over 50mpg' quite frugal at all. But, part of me wonders how much Autocar's road testers are to blame. Whilst I doubt 85mpg is achievable, with a little care I would expect mid 60s or higher especially as a 2012 A3 I had with the 104bhp version of this engine gave 55mpg with no effort, and 70mpg if I tried.

29 April 2014
You would expect fuel economy to be better than achieved on this
test ? given six gears, 1260 kg and 170 + lb/ft. Although overly long gearing will reduce economy in real world driving.

29 April 2014
A friend of mine has the Golf Bluemotion. He averages over 60mpg and aims at 65mpg in time. Not bad. But at 65mpg, still some 20 miles off the claimed mpg.
Whereas a colleague - a great advocate of diesel - has a Peugeot 208 1.4L and averages just over 65mpg. Another is touching 60mpg with a Renault Megane.
It all depends on the driver's skill. The Autocar testers however probably drive like my partner and are happy to get just over half the claimed mpg figures.

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