The SEAT Leon is an impressive all-round family car with qualities of big-name rivals at a much more attractive price. It's been around for a while now, with the original generation launching in 2000, while the latest generation has been going since 2013 and a 2017 facelift added some new features. With a sharp design inside and out, great practicality and sporty handling, it shares similarities with the Golf, the most popular family offering from Volkswagen Group, to which SEAT belongs. Available in both 3-door and 5-door hatchback guises and as an estate, the Leon offers great value for money and should not be overlooked.
The body of the Leon is based on the Golf, but the front is given a more flamboyant Spanish flavour. This sharper, bolder look aims to appeal to a younger driver than that of its German cousin, and it's certainly a stand-out appearance. The angular headlights and smart grille give it a distinctive look, and it's available in a variety of eye-catching colours. If you go for a post-facelift version you get updates to the bumper, grille, LED headlamps, foglamps and indicators. Not many family cars can claim to be as recognisable as the Leon.
As you'd expect from a VW Group car, the interior is well-designed, with solid build quality, soft-touch buttons and a logical dash layout. The driver's seat and steering wheel are highly adjustable, meaning you can easily find your perfect driving position. You get a touchscreen, reducing the number of buttons required, and this comes with excellent multimedia. The cabin is spacious and comfortable plus visibility is very good. The touchscreen is improved in post-facelift models and has a 5-inch or 8-inch screen depending on what trim level you go for.
The sporty driving experience is one of the Leon's stand-out features. There's very little body roll so you can whizz round corners at speed, and the steering is well-weighted. It performs well at higher speeds too, with the long wheelbase and reduced centre of gravity providing a nicely gripped, controlled feel. In short, it's great fun to drive. You also get an impressive level of driving personalisation with the Leon, thanks to the four driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. The latter of these is an innovative feature that allows you to combine your favourite aspects of each mode into your own tailored driving experience, which you can then activate at the touch of a button. If you're looking for even more driving fun you can go for the Cupra R, which is a punchy yet composed hot hatch.
The Leon's great driveability doesn't compromise its practicality though. There's more than enough room for four adults to sit in comfort while families will comfortably be able to fit three kids in the back. The boot is a good size too and you can increase your storage capacity significantly if needed by folding the rear seats down. Extra space is provided by the cubby holes, door pockets and glovebox. Despite the Leon's roomy interior though, it's still a compact size and you'll have no trouble parking it in tight spaces. If practicality is particularly important to you, there's also an estate version, the Leon ST, which adds an extra 200 litres of boot space over the hatchback.
Engines and transmissions
The Leon's engine range delivers good performance across the board. They're all nippy enough to reach 62mph in less than 10 seconds, with the most impressive being the 1.4-litre EcoTSI petrol model, able to reach 62mph in just 8 seconds. Two of the EcoTSI's cylinders shut down when cruising, enabling you to both accelerate more quickly and save fuel at the same time. If you want more power you can go for the 2.0-litre TSI Cupra, which has an impressive output of 300hp. Diesel options include 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDIs, while both manual and automatic transmissions are available with both fuel types.
The SEAT Leon is a great option for those who want a family car offering a bit more than just practicality. It stands out from its rivals with its distinctive appearance and sporty handling whilst not neglecting the essentials of comfort and boot space. Being based on the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Golf and the Audi A3, Its got solid build quality and reliability, and for a significantly lower price tag. This makes the Leon a fantastic car for young parents who want the school run and weekend food shop to be enjoyable experiences.