Family estates can be as dull as a loaf of sliced white, but this bargain bustin’ Seat Leon packs some serious intent beneath its yeasty, muscular wheel arches.
It’s not just good-looking, either, it’s also sharp, well-rounded and efficient, and this wagon bests the hatch for practicality and spaciousness for very little extra outlay on the used car forecourts.
The base engine is a 1.0-litre petrol, badged 1.0 TSI 110, and don’t rule it out. It pulls well enough from low revs and doesn’t struggle to keep up with faster-moving traffic. That said, you’ll likely appreciate the extra punch of the 128bhp 1.5-litre petrol, badged 1.5 TSI 130 – it’s a lovely engine. There’s also a 148bhp version of the same 1.5-litre engine, badged 1.5 TSI 150, and a 187bhp 2.0-litre, badged 2.0 TSI 190. Mild-hybrid versions of the 1.0 and 1.5 TSI are also available, but there are no diesel options.
At the top of the range there’s an eco-friendly plug-in hybrid (PHEV), creatively named the e-Hybrid. It uses a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor that bumps up power to an impressive 201bhp.
Trim-wise, you can pick between relatively modest SE or SE Dynamic trims, the more extrovert styling and sportier driving manners of the FR versions or the more luxury-focused Xcellence.
Entry-level SE trim is surprisingly well-equipped. You get 16in alloys, air conditioning, keyless start and cruise control as standard. Step up to SE Dynamic and, in addition to various infotainment upgrades, buyers will also enjoy front parking sensors, larger 17in alloy wheels and tinted rear windows.
FR trim plays to the Leon’s strengths, with its standard sports suspension making it great fun through the bends. You get more goodies than you do with SE Dynamic trim, including an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers and climate control.
Finally, Xcellence comes with an extensive list of bells and whistles. It gets 17in alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, a rear-view camera and keyless start and entry.
On the road, the Leon offers fun driving dynamics and keen handling. Despite that it won’t rattle your fillings out and is compliant over large undulations, such as speed bumps. In hybrid form or FR trim, however, it isn’t quite so absorbent over rough town streets or pockmarked A-roads. Inside, the driving position is good, with pedals that line up neatly with the seat and steering wheel, and a driver’s seat that’s comfy on long journeys and supportive through corners. The fact that all trims come with adjustable lumbar support also helps.
Interior quality is great, with squidgy, dense-feeling plastic on the top of the dashboard and above the armrests on the doors. The buttons on the steering wheel are nicely weighted and don’t feel at all cheap.
Space for front and rear passengers is plentiful and boot volume is slightly above par compared with rivals, although it’s worth noting that the e-Hybrid’s boot is smaller than that of the non-electrified Leons.
Need to know
SE trim gets an 8.3in touchscreen, DAB, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a seven-speaker stereo and two USB-C ports; higher trims add a bigger screen, sat-nav and voice recognition. Prices begin around £19k for an SE or SE Dynamic 1.0 TSI 110 or 1.5 TSI 130. The 1.5 TSI 150 and with higher trim levels are closer to £22k. PHEVs are upwards of £25k. The 1.0 TSI 110 averages 51.4mpg, the 1.5 TSI 130 claims 49.6mpg and the more powerful 1.5 TSI 150 is said to achieve 48.7mpg. The e-Hybrid PHEV, meanwhile, comes with a claimed average of 235.4mpg.
Recalls: There have been a few recalls so far. In some cars, the high-voltage system fuse has been produced with an insufficient amount of extinguishing sand. In earlier Leons, the front seat belts may not be properly anchored. Certain vehicles within a range of specified VINs have engine covers that could detach from their fixing depending on use (such as ‘very sporty’ driving or poor road conditions). Check with your local Seat dealer that all of the remedial work has been carried out.
Reliability: The current Leon Estate was too new to feature in our sister magazine What Car?’s most recent reliability survey, but its predecessor did. In petrol guise, it managed 10th place out of 24 cars in the family car class. The diesel came 11th. Seat as a brand performed averagely well, finishing 17th out of 30 manufacturers.
SE Dynamic: SE Dynamic is our trim of choice. SE already comes well equipped, but Dynamic’s bigger wheels, infotainment upgrades and front parking sensors can be enjoyed for not a great deal more money.
1.5 TSI 130: This terrific performer almost renders the TSI 150 redundant. The latter car’s slight boost in performance isn’t worth the extra.
2.0 TSI 190 XCellence: Top level trim with all the goodies plus that 187bhp punch giving 0-62mph in 7.4sec. All that with a 620-litre boot and a claimed 42.2mpg.