SEAT is supposed to combine German attention to detail with Spanish flair, it sounds like a great match but equally it could end up being a watered-down version of both. The latest Leon is an interesting case in point. The mark 2 model stood out from the crowd by adopting an MPV silhouette, but that has now been ditched, so have the German bean-counters been reining in the fun?
One upside of the more conservative styling is that you can now get an estate version. The shock styling might have gone, but in its place is one of the better-looking estate cars in this sector. SEAT’s relationship with VW is most apparent inside where the functional but uninspiring dashboard could be from any VW product.
There are plenty of advantages to being part of Europe’s biggest car group, and having access to high tech engines is one of them. The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine uses direct injection and is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox making full use of the engine’s extensive repertoire. The most impressive trick is delivered by ACT which allows the engine to run on 2 cylinders at light loads to save fuel and return to 4 cylinders in less than 40 milliseconds when more power is needed.
You’re probably thinking of buying an estate because you want extra boot space so you’ll be glad to hear that the Leon can swallow a useful 587 litres with the seats up, but it also has a trick up its sleeve as you can drop the boot floor to liberate up to 687 litres. If that still isn’t enough, dropping the seats reveals 1470 litres.
The Leon isn’t as extrovert as it used to be, but it has an advanced and fuel-efficient engine, sensible performance, a big boot, and robust engineering behind it. However surely the most compelling argument in favour of the SEAT is the price, it offers great value for money.