SEAT Leon Ecomotive
Model/Engine size: 1.6 TDI CR
Fuel economy combined: 74.3 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 7/10
The new SEAT Leon Ecomotive is the latest 99 g/km CO2 family hatchback to join the party, so why should you choose the Leon over its competitors?
In this sector we have the Audi A3 1.6 TDI, Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion, Volvo C30 1.6D DRIVe Start/Stop (not available with five doors) and the Ford Focus ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi Start-Stop – all of which emit 99 g/km CO2, which equates to 74.3 mpg for the official combined mpg figure in most cases. The SEAT, Audi and Golf are all Volkswagen Group products.
The A3 costs from £18,315, the Golf is £18,130, the Volvo is £17,690, and the Focus is a whopping £20,445. In comparison the SEAT is £16,840, so it offers the best value in this group.
We know that the Audi stands for a premium brand image, the Golf is incredibly refined, the Volvo is perceived to be ultra-safe, and the Focus has excellent driving dynamics.
So where does the SEAT sit in all this? SEAT likes to be perceived as a sporty brand that offers good value. But beneath the marketing speak lies a Volkswagen platform, so buying a SEAT basically means that you’re buying a Volkswagen, but with a different badge and image.
SEAT traditionally attracts younger buyers – in fact SEAT has the youngest average age of new car buyers for any manufacturer.
The Leon certainly looks sportier than the more square Golf, but the sporty design doesn’t carry through to the interior, where the dashboard is a little disappointing. It has the feel of an ageing Passat, in other words a little dull and short of the design refinement and quality of the current Golf.
A key factor in getting the emissions down to 99 g/km is the introduction of start/stop on the Leon. This is a technique being adopted by increasing numbers of manufacturers in order to stop emissions when the car is stationery, and, no surprises, it’s the same system that appears in the Golf – along with the brake energy recovery system.
The Leon also gets the new 1.6-litre common rail diesel engine rather than the old 1.9-litre pumpe-duse unit in the previous generation VW Group products, and the new engine is a much more refined item, and it still produces the same power output of 104 bhp.
The Leon also comes with low rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamic tweaks to the bodywork, such as blanking off the grille.
Real progress is shown by the fact that the new Leon Ecomotive has the same emissions as the previous generation, and smaller, Ibiza. (The Ibiza Ecomotive will soon have its emissions dropping to a Polo Bluemotion level of around 91 g/km).
While driving around London, the start/stop system didn’t stop at all, despite the car being stationery for huge chunks of time in the capital’s traffic. The engine will only cut out if various systems of the car aren’t being used, so lots of buttons were pressed to switch off various power-using equipment, but there was still no joy with the engine cutting out. Eventually it was spotted that one switch had escaped notice – the front window demister; even though the fan was on minimum and the air conditioning was off, this prevented the system working; as soon as this demister was switched off, the start/stop system immediately did its bit.
The Leon was perfectly acceptable to drive around London, but not particularly exciting. However we’d previously had the chance to test the car around a racetrack, and it was here when the car’s chassis, tweaked by SEAT’s engineers compared to its Volkswagen base, showed itself in a more favourable and entertaining light, and this also proved that the engine was sufficiently responsive.
Average fuel consumption for this Leon in an urban area should be 60.1 mpg. One of SEAT’s PR team assured us that he averaged 51 mpg on the test route, which, although predictably short of the official figure, is still not bad for a car of this size in dreadful London traffic. The Leon has a long fifth gear, so economy should be good on a motorway run.
The Leon gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10. It could score more points by being a little more refined, a little more exciting to drive, with better interior design.
If you like the idea of a sporty Spanish number but you don’t think you can fit all the family into a Leon, then why not consider the Altea Ecomotive which comes with the same powertrain as the Leon. It’s a bit like a Golf Plus versus the Golf – the Altea (the silver car in the photos) has bit of extra space, especially in the headroom department – ideal for people who wear hats.
If there’s still not enough boot space with the Altea, then there’s the Altea XL- effectively an estate version – which also comes in Ecomotive guise.
The Altea, in standard or XL size, comes with 20 g/km higher emissions than the Leon, at 119 g/km, due in part to fewer aerodynamic tweaks; 20 g/km sounds like a considerable increase for a car that’s almost the same size and shape, however 119 g/km CO2, which equates to 62.8 mpg, is still not bad for this sector.
The slightly bizzare thing is that the larger Altea is actually cheaper than the smaller Leon. The Leon costs £16,840, whereas the Altea is £16,725. The Altea XL comes in higher, at £17,425.
All three cars come in S and SE specification.
The SEAT Leon Ecomotive offers a good-sized, sporty-looking car with low emissions, good fuel economy, and for a competitive price. It offers another choice for buyers who want a 99 g/km CO2 five-seat, five-door car, and something a bit different. As SEATs have a great deal in common with other members of the Volkswagen family, there should be no worries about quality.
If more space is required, although a trade-off is an extra 20 g/km of CO2 emissions, then the (slightly cheaper) Altea Ecomotive may fit the bill. For people who want even more space, then the Altea XL Ecomotive may provide the answer.
And remember, the younger you are, the more the SEAT range is likely to appeal. If you’re a little older, then you may appreciate the similarly priced and extremely refined new Golf Bluemotion, along with its solid image.
Finally, just in case you’re reading this and considering a 99 g/km CO2 car for a business fleet, but don’t think that a SEAT is the right choice for a company car, British Gas has recently bought 500 Leon Ecomotives, proving that SEATs aren’t just for young private buyers.
Fuel economy extra urban: 83.1 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 60.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 99 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – first year £0
Weight: 1325 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 13%
Price: £16,745 (From £14,060 to £25,205)
Insurance group: 5
Power: 104 bhp
Max speed: 118 mph
0-62 mph: 11.5 seconds