Seat has officially revealed its all-new Leon family hatchback – and it’s packed full of technology including the ability to communicate with traffic lights in real time.
The fourth-generation VW Golf and Ford Focus rival comes equipped with “Car2X” connectivity allows it to receive data including traffic light status or info on motorway incidents.
The new model is bigger than before, has a new range of engines including hybrid options, a re-designed cabin and automated safety systems.
But it’s the Leon’s state-of-the-art communications technology that is the most interesting feature of this week’s launch - in particular the rollout of advanced vehicle-to-infrastructure technology in a popular model.
The Leon is the first mainstream production model to be fitted with Car2X, which uses the cloud to connect to infrastructure that has been appropriately enabled.
The feature has already been installed in some big cities, including Barcelona, where Seat tested the Leon.
Ford and Jaguar have tested similar systems in the UK, but the technology has not been rolled out to production vehicles.
The system is aimed at giving drivers information that works by the traffic light sending information to the Leon about whether a light will be red, green or yellow when the car arrives. It will also tell the motorist how long they will need to wait for them to change.
The car will also receive info about traffic jams and motorway incidents, so drivers can change their route.
The car is also semi-autonomous in that it can adjust cruising speed if it senses things like bends or roundabouts are imminent.
The Leon is a critical car for Seat and has been at the cornerstone of its range since 1999, selling more than 2.2 million cars globally.
The Leon is the Spanish manufacturer’s first fully connected vehicle, with “seamless” Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connections, remote access via smartphone and automated safety systems.
Speaking at the launch, Seat’s Wayne Griffiths said: “We have now created the best Leon ever. The new Leon has been designed keeping the “created in Barcelona” spirit and at the same time being the safest, most connected and with the widest range of engines the brand has ever seen.
“We believe we have all the ingredients to make of the new Leon a great choice.”
The fourth-generation model gets a sleek new look, and is almost 90mm longer than before, with 50mm of that increase in wheelbase length, allowing for better cabin space, particularly in the rear.
A suite of new powertrains are available including petrol (TSI), diesel (TDI), mild-hybrid (eTSI), and plug-in hybrid (eHybrid).
The eHybrid features a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine electric motor, 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack and six-speed DSG transmission.
Seat says can be fully charged from 0% in less than 3.5 hours and that it will drive for
38 miles on electric power alone – perfect for cities where air quality regulations are stricter.
Trim levels for both hatchbacks and estate versions stay largely the same, including performance-orientated FR and FR Sport models at the top of the range.
The latest Seat safety systems will make the car very safe. These include predictive Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Emergency Assist 3.0 to protect the vehicle and its occupants while driving or stationary.
Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses feeds from GPS data delivered from the navigation system and input from the front-mounted camera and Traffic Sign Recognition, allowing it to proactively amend the cruise speed depending on the road layout ahead – bends, roundabouts, junctions, changes in speed limits and built-up areas.
Seat says this “reduces the requirement for driver input and mitigates against sudden speed changes and manoeuvres”.
Drivers can’t snooze or fiddle with their phones, though: if the vehicle senses that the driver has taken both hands off the wheel for more than 15 seconds, they will receive audible and visual warnings. A braking jolt can be given.
If the driver continues to fail to respond, the Emergency Assist 3.0 system can bring the Leon to a complete stop.
Production of the new Leon has now started in Spain, with the first cars likely to appear on UK forecourts around the beginning of March.
Expect a small premium on the current price of from around £18,750 because of all those extra new features