(PRWEB UK) 8 November 2012
SEAT car review by DAVID WILKINS
Hot on the heels of the latest versions of the Audi A3 and VW Golf, the new SEAT Leon is the third car based on the Volkswagen group's new modular MQB body architecture.
But where the A3 and the Golf hide their advanced innards beneath conservative same-again styling, the Leon gets a fresh, crisp new look that must count as one of the most attractive SEAT designs so far.
The Leon's engines and much of its technology are shared with the Audi and the Volkswagen, but the SEAT has a lower entry-price – a highly competitive £15,670 on the road - and gets a few nifty details that aren't shared with its sister cars, such as the very striking optional LED-only headlamps.
There's plenty to attract the taxation-conscious company car buyer looking for a bit of affordable style, with a 99g/km, 74.3 mpg 1.6 diesel, an entry-level 1.2 TSI turbocharged petrol giving 114g/km and 57.6 mpg, and the car featured here, the powerful but economical 184 PS £22,375 high-performance FR diesel that tops the range.
The new Leon is already hitting the roads in some European countries but arrives in the UK in March 2013 in time for the next registration change. Order books are open now. The first cars are all five-door hatchbacks but SEAT is hoping to put on a lot of sales with a planned three-door SC coupé model and a five-door ST estate.
•The weight-saving group MQB architecture means this Leon is about 90 kg lighter – roughly the equivalent of one large or two small passengers.
•Thanks to a stretched wheelbase, the new car is also bigger inside, although the body is shorter overall; luggage space increases by 40 litres to 380 litres
•Petrol options – they're all turbocharged TSI power units - include a 105 PS 1.2 (114g/km, 57.6 mpg), a 140 PS 1.4 (119g/km, 54.3 mpg) and a 180 PS 1.8 (138g/km, 47.1 mpg).
•Diesels include a 105 PS 1.6 (99g/km, 74.3 mpg) and 2.0 delivering either 150 (106g/km, 68.9 mpg) or 184 PS (112g/km, 65.7 mpg)
•Self-shifting DSG auto gearboxes are available with most engines
- Equipment levels are fairly generous – the base S model gets aircon, heated mirrors, Bluetooth, a colour touch-screen infotainment set-up with CD player, and important safety features such as stability control, emergency brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring and a full complement of airbags - including a driver's knee airbag.
- The mid-range SE adds 16-inch alloys, front fogs, cruise control, rear electric windows, leather steering wheel and gear knob, and the XDS electronic differential lock system
- The sporty top-of the range FR also gets 17-inch alloys, LED rear lamps, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, sports seats and SEAT drive profile – that allows drivers to set the car up for sporty, eco or normal driving, or to tweak individual aspects of the cars according to preference.
- On the road, the range-topping 184 PS FR diesel impresses not only with its power and torque, but also its character – SEAT has managed to give it an unusually sporty engine note that makes it sound more like a performance petrol such as the Golf GTI
- Most of the Leon engine options offer impressive performance/economy trade-offs, with the most powerful FR delivering 112g/km and 65.7 mpg at the same time as turning in a 0-62 mph time of 7.5 seconds
- As in the case of the A3 and Golf, the lower weight and improved chassis possibilities offered by the MQB platform make for much more agile handling than before
- The cabin of the new SEAT Leon is also a step up from that of the old car - materials have been improved and SEAT has used an unusual trapezoidal motif to make details such as the interior door handles look a lot more interesting. The FR model's front sport seats are comfortable and offer plenty of shape - as well as a lot of side support for fast cornering.
•Objectively, there's not much to criticise on the new Leon – just minor stuff such as the slightly harder plastics used in the lower half of the otherwise vastly improved cabin, and the absence of one or two engine options offered in the A3 and Golf – for example, there's no mention in the initial Leon listings of the fuel-saving cylinder-deactivation technology showcased by the VW and Audi.
•The main obstacle to the Leon's success is likely to be the SEAT badge on its nose, which, incidentally, has been subtly revamped for this important new car. SEATs haven't traditionally been a business buy, although that's been changing in recent years with the comparative success of the company car appealing Exeo and increased corporate sales efforts. The new Leon will help a lot.
Business Car Manager road test verdict
The new Leon is crucial to SEAT's future. The company is currently fielding its strongest ever range, but the Mii, Alhambra and Toledo are produced by other companies in the Volkswagen empire and don't offer SEAT much scope to do its own thing; SEAT stands or falls by the success of its core Ibiza and Leon models. It produces these in its own factory and they lead the way in terms of defining what SEAT is all about.
Fortunately for SEAT, the new Leon really hits the mark. After struggling to develop a distinctive SEAT identity with the unusually styled Altea and last-generation Toledo, the company has finally, with the current Ibiza, and now the new Leon, found a look that works. And the Volkswagen group engines and new MQB architecture work just as well in the Leon as they do in the more expensive VW Golf and Audi A3.
The most powerful FR diesel offers plenty of performance but combines it with low fuel consumption and emissions – and gets off fairly lightly as a result on the business car tax front.
Some company car buyers will prefer to stick with the solid image of the other big-selling Volkswagen group brands - but the new Leon seems set to draw increasing numbers of business motorists into SEAT showrooms, especially with performance slanted company cars such as this Leon reviewed here.
SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDI (184 PS) – the low down
P11D Value £22,320
Monthly business rental (ex VAT) £348 (3yrs/30,000 miles)
Company car tax band 2012/13 to 2014/15 16% 17% 18%
BIK tax £3,571 £3,794 £4,018
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power/torque 184 PS/ 380 Nm
0-62mph/Max speed 7.5 seconds/142mph
Economy 65.7 mpg
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