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The new Leon shares much with the Golf and Audi A3 – SEAT has created a sharp new look around these promising beginnings

SEAT Leon 1.6 TDI SE 105PS

What is it?

SEAT comes from the same VAG stable as VW, Audi and Skoda. And the new SEAT Leon shares its ‘MQB’ underpinnings with the new Golf and the Audi A3, not to mention the Skoda Octavia.

It’s a good start.

Build quality is absolutely on a par with its German cousins

But, in tune with the Spanish producer’s new brand catchphrase ‘enjoyneering’, the SEAT cuts a much sharper design statement than its German cousins.

An angular trapezoid design signature is most prominent in the new all-LED headlights, which boast improved night vision and bulb life with reduced power use to improve overall fuel consumption figures.

The combination of fuel economy and performance from the lightened platform makes the 1.6 diesel the anticipated biggest seller in the UK, especially to business buyers, with 54% of the overall sales. And of the 1.6 diesels it’s the mid-range 1.6 TDI SE that’s expected to be the most popular company car buy, accounting for about a third of total Leon sales.


Performance is bright, and the high milers among you will like the 74.3mpg

What’s hot?

  • Performance is bright with a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.7 seconds and 119mph top speed from the modestly powered 105PS turbo-diesel.
  • With a claimed combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg, a CO2 rating strategically sub-100g/km and a company car tax rate of just 13%, the 1.6 makes good commercial sense.
  • The range walk-up from S to SE claims a £430 customer saving on the actual cost of the extra kit you get, rising to just under £1000 trading up from SE to the range-topping FR specification.
    SEAT Leon
    Loads of kit – even the basic S spec has Bluetooth and aircon
  • Build quality is absolutely on a par with its German cousins, enhanced by SEAT’s trapezoid styling cues and excellently designed ergonomic seats. 
  • Handling is light and lively thanks to the MQB’s weight-saving new modular chassis allowing lots of feedback through nicely weighted steering. 
  • SEAT gearboxes are always much quicker in action than the German marques and the one fitted to the Leon will not disappoint.
  • Standard equipment is impressive with the entry level S boasting Bluetooth and aircon as standard while the range-topping FR gets 17-inch alloys, LED rear lights and Drive Profile offering three driving modes for engine, gearbox and steering settings plus an owner programmable individual setting for real anoraks.
  • Looks good value against its VW relative with a starting OTR price under-cutting the German by more than £1500 at £17,370.


What’s not?

  • In real-world brisk driving I only saw an average of 44.3mpg on back-to-back tests with a 150PS 2.0-litre TDI that managed 45.8mpg, proving that the smaller engine has to put in more effort to keep up the pace.
    SEAT Leon
    Design detail looks good close up, but don’t expect them to make the Leon stand out
  • Design signatures only really work close-up – park the Leon in among other hatchbacks and it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
  • I found the fancy 5.8-inch colour touch-screen with proximity sensors quite annoying in the way it reacted to the driver’s hand movements not linked to the screen.
  • While the 1.6 TDI is over £400 cheaper than the 140PS 1.4 TSI petrol, it’s sluggish by comparison and just 10mpg better on fuel in like-for-like testing.
  • The 1.6TDI is trumped in power, economy, CO2 emissions and performance by the admittedly more expensive 120PS Honda Civic 1.6i-DTEC.
  • SEAT has still to be seen in the same light as the ‘premium’ badges from its German stable-mates.


The new Leon continues the inexorable shift upmarket that characterises recent SEATs – build quality, spec and ‘driveability’ all excellent

Business Car Manager Road Test Verdict

A classy refreshment of an excellent car packed with features and excellent value for money.

It’s fair to emphasise that the brand will appeal more to the ‘drivers’ who will appreciate its sporty flair, especially with that light action gearbox and the potential of tailoring the drive to suit an individual’s driving style in the FR version.

But they’ll also be able to ‘buy their cake’; the new Leon doesn’t quite meet the new 95g/km benchmark for emissions but even after the rate goes up to 15% for the 2013/14 tax year you’ll still only have to pay £46 a month for a basic rate tax payer. That takes some beating for a car that’s this good to drive.

Yet it will still labour under the ‘niche’ market label in a business car comparison with the more up-market appeal of both Audi and VW.

We drove the rather more sporty SEAT Leon 2.0-litre TDI FR last November. Click here to see the full review.


The Low Down…

Doors and body style5-door hatch
Engine/gearbox 1.6-litre turbodiesel/manual
CO2 Emissions 99g/km
Economy 74.3mpg
Power/torque 105PS/250Nm
0-62mph/top speed 10.7secs/119mph
Insurance group N/A

…and what it costs

P11D Value £18,435
Monthly business rental (ex VAT) From £221
Road tax (VED) Band A
Company Car Tax Bands 2012/13 to 2014/15 15%, 15%, 17%
Benefit in kind 2012/13 to 2014/15 £2765, £2765, £3134
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (20%) N/A
Annual/Monthly fuel benefit (40%) N/A
Annual/monthly company car tax (20%) £553/£46
Annual/monthly company car tax (40%) £1106/£92
Figures correct at time of posting 
For latest figuresUse our company car tax calculator
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