Along with the Altea and Toledo ranges, the Leon has also been suitably transformed, adopting the new family face of its stablemates. While the marque has been criticised for making all of its cars look very similar, of the three it is the Leon which seems to work the best visually.
The car sits low on the road and its lower sill line and wide stance lend it a muscular look.
The redesign is not as radical as that of the Civic, but it should still raise eyebrows amongst those who are accustomed to the more conventional appearance of its predecessor.
Broadly, SEAT says the new car is designed to look like a coupe (steep angled windscreen, teardrop headlights and a ‘Dynamic Line’ that begins at the front wheel arches and finishes at the rear wheels), with enough interior space for four adults and a reasonable amount of luggage to travel in comfort and safety.
The new Leon is offered with a choice of five engines, three petrol and two diesel, and five trims – Essence, Reference, Reference Sport, Stylance and Sport.
Our test car is the Sport, which comes with all the equipment of the Stylance but with the addition of five-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels, firmer suspension and a more sporty interior, for which read extra flashes of bright red detailing and more hugging front seats.
In this trim the Leon is available with most powerful petrol and diesel engines – the 2.0-litre T-FSI petrol with 182bhp and a 2.0-litre TDI with 137bhp.
The 2.0-litre TDI is a familiar Volkswagen unit which also sees service in the Golf, Passat as well as several Audis. It offers 236lb-ft of torque, a top speed of 125mph and 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds.
Carbon dioxide emissions are 154g/km, putting it into the 20% benefit-in-kind tax band and resulting in a company car tax bill of £60 a month for a 22% taxpayer.
As well as being fairly frugal, the 2.0-litre engine also gives strong performance and is quieter and a little calmer through the gears than the 1.9-litre TDI in the old Leon.
The new model is larger than the previous incarnation in every respect with the length showing the greatest increase at 13cm.
Interior space has also grown in every department, although the steeply-angled windscreen makes the interior seem quite claustrophobic, particularly compared to the light and airy feel of a Ford Focus.
The interior is also quite austere, despite the Sport being the highest spec. There’s too much dark plastic in the cabin and the narrow window lines don’t help either.
The quality of the materials also feels a step down from the previous Leon, with a flimsy feel about the buttons and a considerable amount of hard plastic, particularly on the centre console, rather than the soft feel you will find in some of its competitors.
Like the rest of the interior, the capacity of the boot is up one litre to 341. With the rear seats down, the capacity is 1,166 litres.
On the safety front, the Leon is the first SEAT to be fitted with up to eight airbags, six as standard, with the full complement available through optional rear side airbags.
The Leon has an four star NCAP front/side impact rating and three star pedestrian rating.
There are also a number of active safety features. The ESP system includes an electronic differential lock to boost traction, emergency brake assist and overboost, which provides maximum braking power even when the discs are hot.
There’s also a system which cleans the brake discs when the windscreen wipers are switched on, ensuring that stopping power in wet conditions remains at the optimum level.
The manufacturer’s view
‘The Leon is the most consistently sporty car in its class. Every model, from the 1.6 Essence through to the 2.0 TDI Sport with DSG, looks sleek outside, feels sporty and coupe-like inside, and is fun to drive. The car also has among the best RVs in the sector, low rental costs, efficient engines and impressive quality and reliability. With the Leon, both drivers and company finance guys will be left very happy.’
Andy Webb, head of fleet and business sales, SEAT UK
What we expect
THE Leon, particularly in 2.0-litre TDI guise, is an all-rounder offering plenty of practicality for the company car driver. It also looks good and has a decent amount of power that should make getting into the Leon at the start of the working day a pleasure for some time to come. In other words, everything you would expect from the Volkswagen Golf, a car which shares the Leon’s underpinnings, but without the ubiquity.
Model: SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI Sport
Price (OTR): £16,495 (£18,970 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 154
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £60 a month
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 50.4
Test mpg: 38.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,450/40%
HSBC contract hire rate: £373
Expenditure to date: Nil
Equipment and options
Total options: £2,475
Standard price (OTR): £16,495
Price as tested: £18,970