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8 JULY 2019
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SEAT has what some might call an obsession in naming its cars after Spanish municipalities (with the exception of Mii – a rebadged Volkswagen Up equally peculiarly titled). Arona we dealt with in May (See the road test) and now review Leon, called after a city in Northern Spain, south west of Santander.
The Leon has been around since 1999 and is in its third reincarnation. It uses the Volkswagen Groups MQB platform, all the cars sharing the same front axle, pedal box and engine positioning, despite varying wheelbase, track and external dimensions. These include the Audi Q2 (BTN 10 September 2018), Skoda Karoq (BTN 8 April), and the Arona.
Overall size comparison with the sister car is interesting. Arona: 4,138mm x 1,780mm x 1,552mm. Leon 4,281mm x 1,816mm x 1,431mm. The standard Leon is just that little bit longer, wider, but also sits lower on the road making it look a sleeker car. From a price point of view Leon starts at £18,265 (the test vehicle came in at £19,295) and the Arona from £17,150. The Leon is described as a family hatchback whilst the Arona is marketed as a mini SUV.
We found the Arona for all its virtues lacking in zip. Not so with the Leon, beating the 10sec mark for 60mph (9.8sec) and an alleged top speed of 121mph, cruising at the legal limit quiet and effortless. Expect around 50mpg. Cars have come a long way over the last few years in terms of high-speed silence and only tyre roar and harsh acceleration contribute any racket. The six-speed manual gearbox is standard VW, concise and accurate. The cruise control works easily, locking in nicely and when temporarily deactivated returning to the original setting with ease.
All is not perfect. No rear view camera with this model. Front and rear sensors are part of the standard package but with a car challenging in a very competitive part of the market a backwards looking camera should be on all models. Likewise electrically foldable exterior mirrors with a parking position and the passenger side mirror also offering the lowering function should be standard. Too easy to bump another car’s similar mirror, and hit something on a narrow opening. It does come with 17in alloy wheels which well helped to soak up the humps and bumps of today’s British roads.
Dark tinted rear windows are standard too as is a central information screen and navigation system plus a high resolution colour driver’s display. Both the driver and passenger have seat height adjustment and there is an electric parking brake including what is termed “Autohold”, which functions well once you get the hang of it.
Where it does score is with the driving, happily rivalling the best cars in its class. It blends style, practicality and excellent dynamics. It is one of the liveliest hatchbacks for sale in the UK today offering good value for money and competing with the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Ceed, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Toyota Corolla and Vauxhall Astra. And if the standard five-door hatchback isn't practical enough for you, then the SEAT Leon ST estate is available. What it really does is take the best bits from the Volkswagen Golf putting together a sportier and more stylish package. If this version is not spritely enough for you there is the sporty FR and range-topping Cupra hot hatch variants.
Inside the car, the ambient lighting LEDs’ intensity can be regulated as the driver wishes from the 8in screen. The multimedia system works similarly to an iPad and includes new functions such as wireless charging for mobile phones, a GPS signal amplifier for areas with low satellite coverage. Improvements over the previous model have been carried out in each detail, including a better, more precise traffic sign recognition system.
The Connectivity Box in the central console of the SEAT Leon is easy to reach and enables wireless smartphone charging and, thanks to automatic coupling with the roof antenna, ensures better reception. It incorporates two USB ports for parallel connection of MirrorLink-capable smartphones and external music players. SEAT Full Link is the branded connectivity world for users of virtually all smartphones. Alongside MirrorLink, Full Link also incorporates the functions of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Having to drive totally different cars on a regular basis can be both enjoyable and infuriating. As soon as one learns of the foibles of a particular model, or indeed manufacturer, it is whisked away. The SEAT Leon was easy. It is very practical and has that sporty edge to make the week’s loan really enjoyable.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Ride and Comfort 8
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