What is it?
This is the latest version of Seat’s Leon equipped with its ‘Ecomotive Technology’.
Under the skin, this means VW Group’s 104bhp direct-injection, common-rail 1.6-litre TDI unit replaces the equally powerful 1.9-litre TDI engine, while stop-start technology features on a Seat for the first time. The other Ecomotive Technology addition is an energy recovery system, which recovers energy lost from the alternator under braking.
The model tested here is the Seat Leon Ecomotive Technology, which has combined fuel economy of 56mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km. But a full Ecomotive version will also be available from launch in the spring.
This adds aerodynamic changes to add to the mechanical ones, improves fuel economy to 74.3mpg and cuts CO2 emissions cut to 99g/km. It qualifies for free road tax in the UK and emits 20g/km less CO2 than the Leon Ecomotive it replaces.
What’s it like?
Refined. The Leon benefits from the 1.6 TDI engine and it’s just as smooth as we remember it from the Volkswagen Golf. The car pulls away strongly and a healthy 184lb ft of torque is available from 1500rpm to 2500rpm, which gives it impressive in-gear acceleration. The engine is quiet and almost inaudible when travelling at any speed, while the claimed fuel economy figure is well within reach if driven with efficiency in mind.
The Ecomotive Technology also benefits from longer gear ratios, which don’t blunt the performance. Despite only having five speeds, you’re never left reaching for a sixth cog at motorway speeds as the engine will happily sit quietly at around 2000rpm.
The stop-start system is quick to act and is never slow to get the engine going again. A gearchange indicator has also been added and, unlike some systems, it’s unintrusive, blending into the smart digital readout between the dials. It’s often slightly premature with its advice, however, suggesting higher gears too early and making progress feel more laboured than it should be.
Less impressive is the tyre noise, which was an issue on Spanish roads, particularly motorways. It’s likely to be amplified further in the UK and could be even more of a problem if you go for the full Ecomotive version, which comes with low-resistance tyres.
Dynamically the Leon is a competent performer. The car’s basic MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension remains untouched and makes for a composed ride. It can be firm at times, but it’s without the harshness of the more extreme Cupra versions. There is minimal body roll and the steering is nicely weighted, providing excellent feedback on the road conditions.
The interior doesn’t excite but it’s hard to fault its layout and the quality of its materials. A good driving position easy to find thanks to high degrees of adjustability in the steering wheel and seats. However, one niggle inside our left-hand-drive test car was the position of the pedals. They were slightly offset to the right, which led to the footwell feeling cramped, especially around the accelerator.