All hail the king of Leon
If you'd like your family hatchback with a dash more attitude than the normal bland box, look to SEAT and its striking Leon. With the car benefiting from the best engineering that the Volkswagen Group can offer, think of it as a Golf with a sharper suit and a keener price tag.
The Leon made its name as a sporty selection and the latest line-up is powered by a series of downsized yet powerful TDI diesel and TSI petrol engines, ranging from 1.2 to 2.0 litres.
All the engines in the line-up feature direct injection and turbocharging, and have been engineered for efficiency. The 1.6 TDI generates 105PS and 250Nm of torque.
The extensively re-engineered 2.0 TDI develops 150PS and 320Nm of torque. This same unit is also offered in sporty FR form with 184PS and a potent 380Nm of torque.
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Petrol people will find their dealer more than willing to take orders for the 1.2 TSI with 105PS, a 1.4 TSI with 140PS and at the top of the petrol range, a 1.8 TSI with 180PS which utilises a combination of direct and manifold injection.
Depending on the engine, transmission options range from five and six-speed manual gearboxes or the twin-clutch six and seven-speed DSG sequential gearboxes.
The chassis of the Leon is simple in its architecture with MacPherson strut front suspension, while the rear uses torsion beam suspension for engines up to 150PS.
Go for a more powerful model and you then get a multi-link rear setup that's a bit more geared towards performance driving.
The Leon FR hot hatch features an interesting function called SEAT Drive Profile. This allows the driver to vary the characteristics of the power steering, throttle control and even the engine sound via a sound actuator using three modes: eco, comfort and sport.
There is also a facility to tailor the settings according to the driver's preference. The interior ambient LED lighting changes according to the selected setting: white in eco and comfort modes, and red in sport. No red mist please.
The Leon is built on the Volkswagen Group's Modularer Querbaukasten architecture which, in layman's terms means it's built on the same chassis as an Audi A3 and the next generation Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf.
This modular layout allows the company to alter wheelbases and track widths to suit different cars.
With the Leon the proportions look rather peachy, with a slight shift of the visual weight of the cabin over the rear wheels compared to the last car. With more bonnet and deeply sculpted sides, the Leon now looks a lot sharper and more aggressive, with real edge to the detailing around its lights and grille.
The third generation SEAT Leon looks a very promising package indeed. Better looking than before, classier inside and out, with super-efficient engines and the retention of its sporting appeal, it's exactly the car the Spanish brand needs to resurrect its fortunes in this sector. With the old Leon, this was a car that you'd recommend with caveats. Something like : 'It's a good car but the interior's a weak point. You need to avoid the agricultural 1.9 TDI diesel engine. And the driver technology is a bit behind the times'. None of that now. This time round, SEAT has surgically excised each of these reasons for passing the Leon over. We're excited. If you're looking to buy a family hatchback with a bit of a spark to it, you should be too.