Where more appropriate to test a new car than on its own home ground? – Which is why SEAT flew motoring journalists out to Spain for a couple of days with their latest Leon.
Traffic-free and beautifully engineered winding roads, with a backdrop of low mountains bathed in soft winter sunshine provided a perfect stage for this lithe and nimble third generation of the second-best seller in the company’s range.
But make no mistake; this one perfectly suits British and Irish driving conditions too.
All new from the ground up, the five door hatchback we droved is the first offering in a model family that will eventually also encompass three-door SC and ST estate versions.
This one has a shorter wheelbase than the old car yet provides increased passenger space and greater luggage capacity,
1.2, 1.4 and 1.5 litre petrol engine variants are supplemented by a 1.6 litre diesel and two different 2.0 diesel versions, a choice that provides appeal to a wide range of potential buyers.
Audi VW Group Ecomotive Technology provides exceptionally low emissions and exemplary fuel economy, The .16 Tide version, for instance, boasts 99g per km and 74.3 mpg while the range-topping 2.0 Tide FR can sprint to 62 mph in just 7.5 seconds yet returns 112g per km and 65.7 mpg when driven more judiciously.
A generous spec sheet lists such standard kit as air-conditioning, remote central locking, SEAT’s Easy Connect five-inch touch-screen media system, Bluetooth phone preparation, plus media streaming, SD card slot, AUX-In and USB ports and steering wheel controls. An upgrade features a 5,8-inch screen and a proximity sensor.
Standard on FR trim models, SEAT drive profile provides four-way adjustment of steering and throttle feel – between eco, normal, sport and individual modes, with changes in instrument backlighting, from white through to red, confirming to the driver which mode is in operation.
The Leon family’s suspension trim varies dependent on the chosen power plant and trim level. All versions get McPherson strut type front suspension; the less powerful versions have a rear torsion beam set-up to save weight and keep down costs without impacting ride comfort; more powerful Leons get independent rear suspension.
Prices start from £15,670 on the road. SEAT UK sold a total 210,000 of the previous two Leon incarnations. With the brand’s profile improving all the time, this new version looks set to do even better.