Look at the photographs below and you’ll probably think it resembles its Altea mini-people carrier stablemate which has been squashed by an elephant, but in reality it has a much more dynamic presence.
There’s a real aggression to it, thanks to the wheelarch blisters and wheel-at-each-corner stance, which bodes well for the forthcoming hot Cupra and FR versions which are due to arrive in the UK in 2006.
But for now the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 138bhp is the hottest Leon money can buy. It uses the familiar Volkswagen Group pumpe duse diesel engine allied to a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
In top-of-the-range Sport trim the Leon costs just under £16,500, pitching it head-to-head with some serious lower-medium sector rivals, in particular the funky and edgy new Honda Civic.
The Leon doesn’t have the visual impact of the Honda, and at first glance its new family face is very similar to the Altea and Toledo.
While the front look is familiar, the rear styling is more individual, with two slatted light clusters angling in towards the ‘S’ motif which dominates the rear tailgate.
There’s also a neat design touch with the rear door handles incorporated into the window surround to give the Leon more of a coupe look.
Inside, there are some fabulously supportive front seats which blend body-hugging tightness with long distance comfort.
The multi-adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat which can be adjusted in a myriad of ways add up to a great driving position.
This is something which all of the new generation SEATs have in common, and everyone who drives our long-term Altea comments on how good the seats are.
The dashboard of the Leon is less impressive. Although quality is high, with a reassuringly chunky feel to all the controls and panels, the slabby grey centre console looks out of place and gives a sparse feel. At least the Leon is good to drive. Anyone familiar with the Volkswagen Golf or Skoda Octavia will feel right at home in the SEAT.
The 2.0 TDI engine is very strong and refined, with huge reserves of torque available from very low in the rev range. There’s also a slick six-speed manual gearbox which has a more mechanical feel than in the Golf.
The ride is also different from the Golf, with a firmer set-up in the SEAT.
This gives the Leon a planted feel on the road, although on broken surfaces it does jar your back.
Despite being a generic Volkswagen Group product, SEAT has managed to engineer some of its own DNA into the Leon.
SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI Sport
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £16,322
CO2 emissions (g/km): 154
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 20%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 50.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,150/38%
Depreciation 16.99 pence per mile x 60,000: £10,194
Maintenance 2.62 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,572
Fuel 8.52 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,112
Wholelife cost 28.13 pence per mile x 60,000: £16,878
Typical contract hire rate: £360
At a glance
We don’t like:
Three rivals to consider
SEAT’S new Leon is well priced, with the top-spec Sport version being the cheapest car on test. It undercuts the mid-range Ford Focus Zetec, Honda Civic Sport and Renault Megane Privilege. It is also the joint most powerful car here, offering 138bhp – the same output as the Honda Civic. The Ford Focus is very slightly behind with 136bhp while the Renault’s 1.9-litre dCi engine offers 130bhp.
THE Honda is projected to be the cheapest car in servicing, maintenance and repair costs over three years/60,000 miles, although all four are very closely matched.
Fleets running a Civic should expect garage bills of £1,422 over this period – £48 less than the Focus which is second. The Renault is third on £1,524 while the SEAT finishes last on £1,572. All four cars come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, except the Honda which extends this to 90,000 miles cover.
THE new Civic with its 2.2-litre i-CTDi engine is the most fuel-efficient model on test, with Honda claiming it will return an average of 53.3mpg on the combined cycle.
This results in a fuel bill of £4,830 over three years/60,000 miles. The Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi finishes second, returning a claimed 51.4mpg for a fuel bill of just over £5,000.
The Megane 1.9 dCi 130 and Leon 2.0 TDI both return a claimed average fuel economy figure of 50.4mpg, resulting in a fuel cost of £5,112 – £100 more than the Focus in second.
WITH the lowest front-end price and the highest residual value forecast of the cars in this test, it is no surprise than the SEAT comes out on top.
CAP estimates that the Leon in 2.0 TDI Sport guise will retain 38% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, leaving a cash lost figure of £10,172. Second goes to the new Civic – another model which is well priced and has a strong RV of 37%. The Ford and Renault offer RVs of 30% and 27% respectively.
WITH class-leading costs in the SMR and fuel sections, and a low front-end price and high residual value forecast, the Honda wins this comparison. It comes in at just under 28 pence per mile to run over three years/60,000 miles. Fractionally behind on 28.13ppm is the SEAT Leon, which also benefits from a competitive new price and the strongest RV prediction. The Ford just edges over the 30ppm mark, while the Renault is last.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
THE Honda Civic offers drivers the cheapest company car tax bills, with a monthly benefit-in-kind bill of £54 a month for a 22% taxpayer. The next cheapest for BIK tax is the Renault Megane, which will cost the same taxpayer £57 a month. Third place goes to the Ford Focus on £58, while the SEAT Leon is the most expensive, costing £60 a month. The top three cars attract an annual Vehicle Excise Duty bill of £115, while the Altea is a band higher, costing £135.
THIS contest comes down to two cars – the SEAT Leon and Honda Civic. Both cars are well ahead of their rivals on running costs and both are also much newer models giving more car park cred. The Civic’s radical new styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, while the Leon is more conventional. The fact the Civic offers slightly lower BIK bills gives it the narrowest of victories.